Consumer Advice, Realtor Advice

Appeal Your Property Tax Bill the Smart Way

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A View from the Beach

Have you found that the value of your home has decreased—but your property taxes have not? When property values increased, the assessor’s office was quick to raise your taxes, right?

So why are they reluctant to decrease your taxes? Because they need the money, too!

That’s why it’s not going to be easy. But there are usually laws in place when it comes to how property is valued and what steps you need to take to dispute the assessed value of your home and get your property taxes reduced.

1. Timing is Everything: After you receive your assessment notice OR tax bill, you have a certain length of time to appeal and state your case. If your taxes are paid through your mortgage escrow account (and you don’t get a copy), call and ask for one.

2. Learn the Rules: Is there a “percentage or dollar” limit (set by law) that your tax assessor has to follow before you can appeal? What is the length of time, after you receive your notice, to dispute your taxes? What documentation do they require from you?

3. Check for Accurate Property Descriptions: Is the square footage correct? How about the number of bedrooms, baths or lot size? This alone will get your property taxes decreased.

4. Gather Information: Call your Realtor® and find out what homes have been selling for within the last 3 or 4 months. Get at least 5 comparable sales, the sales prices and when they sold. However, forget about including short sales or foreclosures — they’ll just ignore them when it comes time for your appeal. Check and see what your neighbors are paying for taxes! Yes, it’s public information.

5. Set up the Appointment: Most assessors require you to present your case in person — and will usually set up a date and time to meet. But, be prepared to WAIT for your turn to appeal.

6. Present Your Case: Practice what you’re going to say ahead of time—clearly mark the documents you are going to present. Circle the sales prices of the other sold properties. You may even want to create a separate comparison, listing all the info on one piece of paper, with the supporting documents attached.
Even if you lose, you can “appeal your appeal”! You can file a complaint with your state’s property tax court. However, it’s easier and cheaper to find a “Property Tax Consultant” (Google it with the name of your city or county). They usually work on a “contingency” basis — where they will ask for one-half of your property tax savings (for one year) if they win.

Hang in there: There is a story about a guy who had a 9 pm appointment with the local tax review board, but did not get to plead his case until 2 am. He won a substantial decrease — because the assessor was just plain tired!

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