How to Appeal Your Property Tax Assessment

appeal property taxFew of us like paying taxes.

Especially if we feel as though we are paying more than we should.

One of the ways that some local governments have been raising revenues in recent years has been through higher property taxes.

Governments don’t have to raise the property tax rate to see a boost, though; all they have to do is change the assessment on your home.

The more your home is “worth,” the higher your property taxes.

I know I was surprised two years ago to see that my home had increased in by about $10,000 — in spite of the fact that homes in my neighborhood were selling for $20,000 less than their original owners paid for them.

If you have questions about what your home is worth, and how it’s been assessed by your city, county, or state, you can appeal the assessment, and possibly pay less in property taxes. Here’s what to do:

Know the Appeals Process

First of all, you need to know the appeals process employed by your city, county, or state government. Even though most entities follow the same basic outline, there might be a few differences in your locality. You need to check when the appeals deadline is, as well as what documentation you are required to have in order to make the appeal. Find out whether you can mail in an appeal, or whether you need to set up a specific appointment. If an appointment is needed, make it as soon as you can.

Review Your Property Assessment

Once you know how the appeals process will work, you need to check through your assessment. You should have access to the report by requesting it online or in person at the assessor’s office. Go over the report and look for inaccuracies.

In some cases, your home might be reported as having amenities it doesn’t actually have, such as more square footage, a larger yard, or being listed as having 3 bathrooms instead of 2.5 bathrooms. Note the inaccuracies that might be driving up the perceived value of your home.

Collect Information on Homes in Your Neighborhood

appeal your property taxYour next step, once you know how your assessment stands, is to collect information on the homes in your neighborhood.

Part of the assessment should be based on homes that are similar to yours.

Look up the public records to find out what homes have sold for in your neighborhood, and within a mile radius of your home.

You can find this information, and use it to determine the relative value of your home.

If a home similar (square footage, age, etc.) to yours two streets over sold for $165,000, and your home is being valued at $184,000 (happened to me), you have a case that your home’s property has been assessed too high. This is especially true if a number of similar homes within a mile of yours have sold at much lower prices.

Organize Your Documentation, and File Your Appeal

Make sure that you document everything you can, from the real specs of your home (if the assessment is inaccurate) to the values placed on similar homes in your neighborhood. If you are mailing in your appeal, make copies and keep the originals of all your documentation. Making copies is also a good idea for in-person meetings as well. In any case, organize your documentation and file your appeal. Make sure that you are polite throughout the process.

Realize that you can usually appeal the decision to a higher board. However, at some point you will have to accept the decision. But, if your home really shouldn’t have been assessed so high, you have a good chance of winning your appeal.

 

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Comments | 3 Responses

  1. says

    While the body that you are submitting your request for revision may consider the comparable sales you provide, it may be a better idea to pay a licensed appraiser $150-$200 to do some work and draw up a report. That would make it more official.

    That is one of the first things I check on purchase and refinance loans I’m working on after the appraisal comes in. Because a settlement statement (HUD-1) and an appraisal from a mortgage seems to carry a ton of weight with the body that reviews the request for revision.

  2. says

    As T.C. mentions, having an appraisal handy can help as well. We appealed our property tax one year after refinancing because we had an appraisal that showed the value of the house at $25,000 less than they were showing on our statements. We were able to get a reduction in our property taxes through our appeals process of a couple hundred if I remember correctly, although it wasn’t as much as we might have liked.

  3. Chuck Brown says

    Great article Miranda. In my area of northeastern Illinois, we have some of the highest property tax rates in the nation. Unfortunately, I think many homebuyers overlook how property taxes will affect their long-term financial outlook.

    What happened here in Kendall and Will Counties was as local EAV began to slide, tax rates went through the roof! We had a 2% increase on our tax bill in one year, mostly from the school district.

    Now, some homeowners are in a situation where the tax bill is almost as high as the mortgage payment. Buyers need to be extra vigilant about researching a community’s fiscal health to minimize risk that comes from rapidly increasing property tax rates.

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