Due to factors outside of their control, property owners along four of the lakes in the Guadalupe Valley lakes system could see their property values take a significant dip, according to a study commissioned by the Guadalupe Appraisal District.
Patristic Brown, of Patrick Brown Real Estate Consultants, conducted the study for the appraisal district, Chief Appraiser Peter Snaddon said. The GAD asked for the analysis to determine what was the possible affect on property values related to the dewatering at Lake Dunlap last May and the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority’s corresponding suggestions in August to lower all of the lakes in the system.
“It was an analysis done by an outside appraiser we contracted with to potentially come up with some figures related to external (factors outside of homeowners’ control),” Snaddon said. “Mr. Brown was the independent appraiser that took a look at this for us. He did paired sales analyses looking at properties that were sold prior to the incidents at Dunlap as well as the August incident that presented the potential for dewatering. He took a look at what type of impact those two incidences had.”
What Brown came up with was the dewatering factors possibly having an average impact of about a 28% decrease on properties along all of the lakes for January of this year, Snaddon said.
The factors showed much higher possible affects on some properties and much smaller affects on others, the chief appraiser said. The 28% figure represents an average for the first year, Snaddon said.
According to the report subsequent years could see little to no decline, then potential increase.
The numbers also represents just one factor appraisers use in determining property values along the lakes, he said. Appraisers will look at sales activities and other factors to determine property values in the affected areas as they do everywhere, Snaddon said. He said the figures Brown came up with do not signal a definite decrease in property values or tax bills.
“It’s not a simple, ‘My value was X last year; this year it should be X minus 28,’” Snaddon said. “There’s no guarantee your value will be less this year than it was last year.”
The appraisal district will reappraise those properties and come up with fair market values models for the areas, he said. Property owners, as always, will have a chance to look at their appraised values and challenge them, Snaddon said.
With everything that has occurred since the spill gate failed at the Dunlap dam, the district could see a large number of people challenging their appraised property values, he said.
“It’s a big issue every year,” Snaddon said of informal and formal requests to challenge appraisals. “Whenever you have something like this or even natural disasters, it’s going to increase that number of reviews informally as well as formally.”
The issues arise from a spill gate failure in May that all but drained Lake Dunlap. Leadership at the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority said the gate failed partially due to its age and said that the other dams in the system are of similar age and face imminent failure.
GBRA officials devised a plan to lower all of the lakes, citing safety concerns, until two lawsuits on the issue led to the authority stalling the plans.
Residents and property owners up in arms about the idea of losing the lakes in this area formed groups and committees to come up with ways to save the lakes. Some have resorted to forming water conservation improvement districts in hopes of preventing the dewatering of the lakes.
J. Harmon is president of the Preserve Lake Dunlap Association and vice president of the Lake Dunlap WCID. Dunlap’s water control improvement district will go to voters during a May election to agree or disagree to tax themselves to raise funds for improvements on and maintenance of the dam, Harmon said.
Exactly how much the work will cost is unknown so it is still unclear how much they will be asking for, he said.
“We’re going to have a meeting in March at the New Braunfels Convention Center,” Harmon said. “We’ll share that number then.”
In December, Guadalupe County Commissioners Court approved the Friends of Lake McQueeney WCID. The district faces a November vote to make the WCID official, said Bob Spalten, FOLM president.
The appraisal district’s recent study doesn’t mean a lot in his eyes, Spalten said.
“It really doesn’t mean anything right now because the lake’s not drained,” he said. “The impact on property values is hard for anybody to determine right now because people are not selling their houses, at least that I’ve heard of. There have been some transactions, but I haven’t heard of any ‘fire sale’ transactions going on.”
Appraisers will do the job they always have, providing unbiased appraisals in an equal and uniform manner, Snaddon said. Property owners with questions can give the district a call to discuss methodologies that go into determining appraisal models, he said.
The district will begin putting appraisal notices in the mail around the first week of April, Snaddon said. He provided advice to property owners.
“When you get your notice, make sure you open it,” Snaddon said. “Make sure you review it. There will be remedies in there if there are numbers in there you feel are inaccurate.”