Texas tax appraisers accused of violating privacy rules, served order

Board of realtors hits appraisal district with cease-and-desist

ABoR’s Cord Shiflet (Austin Board of Realtors, iStock)

Texas tax appraisers have been put on notice: The state’s real-estate industry is dead-serious about keeping home-sale costs out of public circulation.

If there was any doubt that Texas real estate professionals are serious about the state’s nondisclosure rules, the Austin Board of Realtors just put that notion to rest. On Tuesday, ACTRIS MLS — the subscription service that provides real-estate professionals listings information, including sales prices — issued a cease-and-desist order to the Hays Central Appraisal District, citing unauthorized use of ACTRIS MLS data.

Hays County is part of the Austin metropolitan statistical area and includes Kyle, Buda, San Marcos and a booming core around I-35 south of Texas’s capital city. Texas is one of 12 nondisclosure states in the U.S., meaning government entities can’t compel disclosure of sales prices. A contract commonly used by Texas real estate professionals does require disclosure of sales price to their local MLS.

“We have been made aware that an appraiser working for [the Hays County Appraisal District] may have accessed ACTRIS data in violation of the terms of service,” ABoR’s Cord Shiflet wrote in a memo to association members. “We are actively investigating the source(s) of the unauthorized data access and how MLS data may have been inappropriately used in the appraisal of Hays County properties.”

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“The unauthorized use of MLS data by county appraisal districts is an ongoing issue across the state of Texas,” Shiflet continues. In 2019, ABoR reached a settlement with CoreLogic over claims that the data provider was selling home sales data to the Travis County Appraisal District. CoreLogic is the real estate association’s MLS provider.

“We have rules that our data is to be used for doing appraisals when people buy homes,” Shiflet said in a phone interview. “They are not to be used in these mass data downloads — especially going into someone’s hands like our county assessors’ offices. We understand they want that data, but it is not theirs to have.”

“We know things are done differently here, and that might be frustrating to some people,” Shiflet said. “We simply do not disclose sold prices for public use. That is private information. Texans are very private people, and we value our privacy. We will fight very hard to make sure we retain that privacy and the trust that buyers and sellers put in us to keep that data private.”

A statewide real-estate boom has led to sharp gains in home prices and increases in appraised values that stunned many property owners. Texas voters in May approved measures to lower property valuations.

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