With the housing market having taken a serious hit in the recent past, I am sure you all know that home values have been plummeting. Well, one thing that did not plummet along with that is the property taxes most people are paying on those homes. The taxes some of us have been paying on our homes have been inaccurate (or unfair) to say the least. Several months after the housing market was in a full-fledged decline, I started seeing a good bit of coverage on this topic. And at the top of the list was what could the average homeowner do about it? About the only remedy is to dispute the property tax assessment on your home.
I saw all kinds of websites and links to people offering their help and services, often for a pretty hefty fee. My first question was…is this even worth doing? If it costs me $500 to effectively dispute the property tax assessment of my home and I end up with $500 in savings, isn’t that a waste of time?
A Do It Yourself Appeal?
So, after quite a bit of research, I found out exactly what I had to do to complete this process. Getting this information almost seemed more time consuming and difficult than the actual process. You didn’t think they’d actually make it easy, did you? This process is probably going to differ slightly from state to state but I’ll give you the quick rundown.
From The Beginning
The first thing that I found out was that it was too late to dispute the value on my home for this current tax year, which didn’t surprise me in the least. So, my next project was to find out what I had to do to dispute next year’s assessment. The first obstacle I had to dig through was everyone telling me that “it’s too early,” or “call back later,” and things like that. Again, they’re not going to make it easy.
The first thing you should do is contact your local Tax Assessor’s Office to find out the exact procedure for your locality. After that, I found out the following:
Sometime early next year, I will be getting a notice in the mail from the state with their tax assessment of my property for the year 2011. The person that I spoke to at the Tax Assessor’s Office told me that by law the state had to send the letter out, but if I wanted to really ensure that I get the letter, I could file a property tax return form up until April 1, 2010. This all sounded a little cryptic to me. If they’re required to send it out by law, then why would I need to file something to ensure that they send it out? I’ve decided to roll the dice on that one for now. We’ll wait and see how the beginning of the year goes.
After you receive your letter, if you decide that you disagree with the state’s assessed value for your home, you can file an appeal. And basically, the first step in this appeal is to write a letter to the Tax Assessor’s Office. This letter must be sent within 45 days of the receipt of your letter from the state.
And basically, you simply tell them why you disagree with their assessment. But along with why you disagree, you do need to provide some sort of concrete evidence. The person that I spoke with wasn’t too forthcoming on what this proof might be, but after a little prodding, she explained that it should involve two key things to “prove” my case.
First, you will need a current appraisal of your home. And obviously, these cost money. An average amount for an appraisal of my home would be about $400. The second piece of advice she offered was to include recent home sales in your area of homes that are “comparable” to yours in size. If your home is assessed at $200K, for example, but you can show that six other homes in your neighborhood of comparable size recently sold for $170,000, then you should have a pretty good case. Where do you get these “comparables”? Believe it or not, I found a real estate agent that ran them for me for free. I’d imagine you could do the same as well if you look around hard enough.
After this, the Assessor’s Office will get back to you. They either stand by their original assessment, or they make an adjustment. Rather than ending my research there, I continued on with my questioning (the rep at the Assessor’s Office was fairly irritated with me by now). If you still disagree with the result, you can appeal it again. You simply write them back and tell them you still don’t agree. It is at this point that they will do “further” research into your case. After this, you will be sent another letter.
Still Don’t Agree?
And if you still don’t agree, you can pack up all of your proof and schedule a personal appearance in front of your county Board of Commissioners. There you can state your case in person and a final, non-disputable judgment will be rendered.
Is It Worth It?
At the very least, this IS worth it. I couldn’t uncover many statistics on the subject, but one set of statistics that I found showed that 26% of the time people were successful in their appeals, receiving an average reduction of 13% in their home values and an average savings of 19% on their property tax bills. The biggest thing you need to weigh is the cost of getting an appraisal done on your home versus what you might potentially save. Consult and even utilize a professional if you wish, but just remember that it’s all a risk. If you spend $1,000 and end up with nothing in savings, then obviously it wasn’t such a good idea. But if you genuinely feel like you have a case that could lead to substantial savings, I say go for it.
Have you had an experience with disputing your property tax assessment? Any stories of people succeeding or being turned down in their appeals? Feel free to share your experiences with our other readers below.