Fair to say if you are living anywhere in the country, you are probably paying more property taxes than you should. The National Taxpayers Union estimates that approximately 60% of all US properties are overassessed.
What makes this particularly shocking is that, since 2003, prices of median homes have declined dramatically. Therefore, we would expect tax assessments to be adjusted to reflect such declines in market values – though this has generally not been the case. Therefore, many homeowners’ property taxes unfairly continue to increase despite a continued decrease in local home values.
Due to a considerable shortfall in budgets, many municipalities are, in essence, heaping extra taxes on homeowners – many of whom exercise their constitutional right for an appeal. Though appealing property tax assessments can be difficult and time-consuming – and not always successful – being well-prepared for the fight can significantly increase your chances of success.
Assess your assessment
It is important to understand how your property is assessed. Ask a local Realtor to help you compare your property with similar recently sold properties to determine its market value. Multiply that value by the assessment ratio established for your town. If your property’s market value is $100,000 and its assessment ratio is 80%, the tax levied on that property is $80,000. Some rural areas and high-class neighborhoods use another assessment method by estimating the house replacement cost by adjusting factors such as the land value.
Property Record Card
Check for errors in your assessment next. You must obtain your property’s worksheet from your local assessor’s office. This worksheet, also known as a property record card, contains information about your property, such as the number of rooms, dimensions, bathrooms, etc. Check whether all the information about your property in the worksheet is correct. If you discover any incorrect or missing information submit this information immediately to the local assessor along with a blueprint of your property. This way, you will receive an immediate reduction and become exempt from a formal appeal.
Compare the assessed value of your property with other similar properties in that area. Look at the property’s worksheet to compare other factors like square footage, age, bedrooms, bathrooms, etc. In this way, you may be in a stronger position to appeal if your property’s assessed value is higher than at least five other properties. Please list comparable properties and details like square footage, construction material grades, the same neighborhood, etc. This list should be produced when demanded by the assessor. The record of your neighborhood’s properties is available on the website of your local assessor.
In case you find only three assessed properties at a lower and three at a higher value, don’t lose hope because, in this case, you might be entitled to a reduction representing the difference between comparable properties and your property. Your house may be the only property with lousy grading, which prevents you from having a garden or a less-than-desired view of your city’s water tower.
Different localities have different rules, and your assessment should be capable of explaining how your appeal works. For this, you can provide evidence to the assessor, including a list of comparable properties, repair estimates, blueprints, and photographs for review. This way, you can informally obtain a good settlement, and the assessor may continue completing his rolls and get a fair reduction for you. On the other hand, if some settlement is not agreed upon, continue paying your taxes to avoid any future penalties on your property. Don’t worry; if the county is satisfied with your appeal, you will get a reduction or check on all future bills afterward.
Before submitting your appeal form and other related documents, ensure whether or not they comply with all the requirements stated by the county. Keep one copy of all the documents and information submitted by you for your files. In a few months, you will probably receive a reply, and if you think the reduction you’ve got is unfair, you can follow the next step. The next step is to submit your case to an independent local appealing body. This will be more advantageous because you can personally explain your case. You can use photographs, blueprints, etc., to prove that your appeal is correct. Also, submits a copy of all the assessed documents highlighting important points to every board member.
If your case at the local level fails, you can take it to the state and even the judicial level. However, bear in mind that judicial hearings will involve court fees, lawyer’s fees, and other expenses that could negate any savings you might realize from winning an appeal.
Where to search for the right help
It is better to employ expert assistance to save time and provide proper guidance. In this way, your appeal will become stronger. Another option is to submit your address and case to an online service company. For a moderate fee, such companies will highlight comparable homes in your area, their assessment information, and their sale price. If they consider your case strong enough, they will send you a report you can file with your local appeals board. If the appeals board rejects your appeal, your money is then refunded.
Should you decide instead to hire a professional appraiser, confirm whether the board to which you are appealing your case permits such a professional. Certified appraisers can be found through the Appraisal Institute or the National Association of Independent Fee Appraisers. Most charge anywhere between $250 and $500. Hire a person who is experienced in the field and is familiar with local neighborhoods in your area.