If you feel like you’re being pinched from all sides, you’re in good company. A lot of homeowners are realizing that they might be paying a little too much in terms of property taxes. In light of the housing slowdown, many property holders haven’t received any relief — in other words, even though they can’t sell their homes, they’re still finding that they’re paying the same property taxes year after year. Is there any relief in sight? Well, there was relief all along, but most homeowners didn’t realize it.
You can dispute the amount that you’re paying and get your property taxes lowered. This is especially the case if old property cards were used where your house was worth more than what it is now. Cooling home prices are a strong reason to make sure that you’re paying for what you owe and nothing more than that. That’s a good way to save money.
Here’s how to do it.
You want to check the accuracy of the assessment by looking at property cards. In some counties, they might try to keep you from viewing that information. However, it’s a matter of public record. Anyone can look at these records — even people that are examining your home for purchase offers. So make sure that you know what’s on the property card.
The file should include the method and data used to determine the value of the home as well as the lot size, square footage, any known upgrades, and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms.
If there are any upgrades that you left out, make sure that you update the card to reflect this information. Yes, that might change your property taxes, but you need to make sure that you don’t leave these out. If they are discovered later, you might have to end up paying higher property taxes anyway. You also need to pay attention to the material selection for your home as well. You might come to a point where your home is listed as having aluminum siding and brick exteriors, but you have vinyl and stucco. The additions that you make to the house are the ones that count — if the additions happened before you got the house, then you need to also address this — those are beyond your control.
The math can differ when it comes to the assessment. Some assessors base it on the recent sales data from comparable homes, while others estimate the cost to rebuild the house from scratch. You just need to make sure that you know exactly how it’s calculated. It’s tempting to just assume that you don’t have to dig that deep into the math, but you really do. If you don’t know what’s going on, how can you go about fixing anything?
If you’re going to go the DIY route for this, you need to make sure that you look at all of the data that you’ve gathered. Take an honest look at it — can you really prove that your property was assessed at a higher level than the legal standard or at a higher value than the level of comparable homes? If you can, then you need to write your argument clearly and in a straightforward manner on the paper.
Remember that assessors are still people, and you need to treat them with respect. You do not want to insult an assessor or make them feel bad. You need to just focus on what you’re trying to accomplish, and that’s going to definitely be getting your property taxes lowered. An appeal made with honesty and without fire and brimstone attacks is an appeal that is going to go a lot farther than one that’s based on a lot of yelling and screaming — in print, of course. Stress that you don’t question the assessor’s sincerity — focus on the facts, and you should be in the clear.
Of course, all of the best appeals in the world will do nothing if you don’t mail them on time. You usually only get 60 days from the time your annual tax assessment was mailed. Use certified mail (return receipt requested, of course). This will give you an office date of delivery. This way if you get ignored you actually can prove that it’s not your error — it’s actually theirs for not responding to you properly.
You will need to wait for a response — it will either be handled completely through the mail, or you’ll be going to a hearing. This is where you make your case before a local board of officials. Again, it might sound scary but it’s really not that bad — just make sure that you get things covered in a timely fashion — get going!