Property taxes don't necessarily reflect falling home values because local governments may not reassess house values each year. According to the Wall Street Journal, the typical time lag is three years, which, in a falling market, means that a significant number of homeowners may be paying too much in property taxes. As a result, appeals are common and may save a property owner a substantial amount of money.
Check your reassessment notice or call your local assessor's office to determine the time allocated to appeal your assessment -- typically 10 to 45 days from the day of assessment. You cannot appeal out of time.
Review your property record card on the assessor's website. This is the property assessor's summary of your home, which he uses to determine your tax rate. Check that he has not listed an extra bedroom or bathroom, has correctly stated the square footage and has not marked as finished rooms which are not. Amenities such as converted basements and swimming pools drive up the assessed value of your home.
Note any characteristics that reduce the value of your property. Leaky roofs, damp basements and cracked brickwork all affect value, and should be notified on your property record card. If they are not, take photos or amass other evidence, such as property inspection reports.
Collect evidence of the sales prices of homes in your locality that are a good match to yours in terms of size, characteristics and amenities. This evidence, known as comparable evidence, is the best way of showing that your home is overvalued. Avoid foreclosure sales unless these are the only sales available. Get comparable properties from a local real estate agent or via your assessor's website, if it lists sale prices.
Hire a professional appraiser to value your home and attend the appeal hearing if you are short on comparable evidence or wish to make your case in person. Expect to pay an hourly fee for his time in addition to the fee paid for the appraisal.
Lodge your appeal within the time limit in the manner specified by your local assessor's office. You'll either attend an informal hearing before an appeal board or submit an appeal in writing. Bring or send your comparable evidence, your appraisal, details of the inaccuracies in your property record and your photos.
Abide by the appeal board's decision, or appeal it again if you are able. The appeal board will specify whether their decision is final or open to appeal.
- Assessors choose a specific date when gauging your home's value. Tailor your comparable evidence to that date. In other words, if your assessor set values on July 1, 2013, the appeal board will reject comparable evidence showing home sales in August and September 2013.
- Renovations and additional features may boost your property's assessed value, offsetting the perceived overvalue. Appealing an assessment does not automatically lower your taxes -- they can increases as well.
- The amount of property tax you pay depends on two factors: your home's assessed value and the property-tax rate. While you can lodge an appeal to reduce the first, there's nothing you can do about the second, which is set by your local government. Lowering your assessed value does not necessarily translate to lower property taxes. If the tax rate rises, so does your bill.
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