Look at property cards for homes of similar age and square footage with the same number of bedrooms and bathrooms. If you find that your assessed value is considerably higher than that of at least five homes the more you can document, the better , you may have a solid case for appeal. Try to find comparable properties that are as close as possible to your own -- nearly the same square footage, in the same neighborhood, and with similar grades of construction materials. You may be able to find the records on your assessor's Web site. Even if you find, say, three properties assessed at a higher value and three lower, don't throw in the towel right away.
You may be able to argue for a reduction based on certain differences between your home and comparable ones. Maybe your house is the only one with a less-than-desirable view of the city water tower, Sepp says, or you might have lousy grading that doesn't allow you to have a garden. Get all the breaks you deserve. You may be eligible to shield a portion of your property's value from the tax man. In some places, such as Florida and Washington, D. Seniors, veterans, the disabled and other groups may be able to get an additional tax exemption or to get one in states that don't offer a break to all homeowners.
Tax exemptions may be subject to income limits or linked to taxes that benefit school districts. Contact your state's department of taxation or visit its Web site to see what breaks are available to you.
How to Appeal Your Property-Tax Bill
Rules vary by locality, but your assessment letter should explain how an appeal works. Most likely, you'll send your evidence, such as listings of comparable properties, blueprints, repair estimates and photographs, to the assessor for review. You may be able to negotiate a settlement informally before the assessor completes the rolls and get a reduction right away. If you can't come to a settlement, be sure to pay your tax bill to avoid penalties or a lien on your home.
You'll get a refund in some form if the county eventually approves your appeal -- possibly a check or reduction in your bill in future years. Read all the fine print on your appeal form to make sure you're complying with the requirements, and keep copies of documents and other information you present.
Some lawyers handle property tax appeals on a contingency basis, but most homeowners can appeal on their own, Sepp says. The following steps will show you the way to success. Schedules vary, but local governments commonly send assessment notices to homeowners in the first few months of the year.
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As soon as you get yours—or even before—check the deadline for challenging the value. You may have just a few weeks. And be sure you know how your locality assesses property. When you get your property tax bill, check it for your tax rate, assessment figures and payment schedule, and make sure that you're getting the tax breaks you deserve.
Some states allow anyone who owns and lives in a primary home to shield a portion of its value from taxation, or you may be eligible for credits based on your income or status as a senior citizen, veteran or disabled person. Other jurisdictions reduce a percentage of your tax bill if you meet specific criteria. Contact your state's department of taxation or visit its Web site to see what breaks are available to you. This is the official description of your house, and if you see an outright error—indicating four bedrooms and three-and-a-half bathrooms for your two-bedroom bungalow, for example—the assessor may fix the problem on the spot, reduce the assessed value and your tax bill.
Request for Review (Appeal)
That'll save you the trouble of a formal appeal. We'd never tell you to keep up with the Joneses, but comparing your property to similar ones in your neighborhood will determine whether you have a solid case. Pull up property cards of several homes of similar age and square footage and with the same number of bedrooms and bathrooms to see how their assessments line up with yours.
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If you find that your assessed value is considerably higher than several similar homes, you may have grounds for appeal. I have made no material upgrades to warrant a higher valuation. But I believe those are outliers. I think the three 1, sq.
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My last property tax appeal during the Great Recession was approved without any difficulty. The reality at that time was that the county had been using outdated comps that reflected boom-year sales, before the housing bust. That was a no-brainer. After you file your appeal, you should be prepared to wait.
If you uncover additional evidence to bolster your case, you can provide it during this time. When you do eventually get the final decision, there are a few possible outcomes. The assessors could agree with you and revise your value down. If you get a letter of denial for your appeal, you can either let your appeal die then and there or you can go through a more formal process in which you appear before a board of your fellow taxpayers to press your case.
The board is made up of three homeowners in my county. Each board member must go through a minimum of 40 hours of training to be able to understand home values and market conditions and to hear appeals.