Few 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.
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Collect Information on Homes in Your Neighborhood
Your 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.