Everyone knows that the housing market has taken a bath over the past 4 years.Â Â While not everyone is willing to grasp the fact that their home is most likely worth 40% less than it was just a few years ago, it still is a fact.Â If you don’t believe me, check out Zillow.Â Zillow is an online appraisal site.Â The price that it spits out gives you an idea what the value of your house is.Â Zillow can be inaccurate, but for the most part it’s in the ballpark.
After you stop hyperventilating over the price of your home, realize there could be a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel.Â The amount that you are paying for property taxes may be too high.Â Here are a few steps to take to see if you can lower your property taxes.
CheckÂ Your Counties Appraised Value
First things first, you need to checkÂ the amount that the county has appraised your property for.Â Most counties have this information available on their website.Â If the value seems high, then you will want to get a hold of what’s called the “property record card,” which is a summary of your home.Â This will generally require contacting the assessors officeÂ and requesting a copy.
Check for Accuracy
The easiest way to win an appeal is to find an error on their appraisal.Â Check the square footage, the number of rooms, the number of bathrooms, etc…Â Any extra features can increase the value therefore increase your taxes.
Make sure to also check the description of your property.Â If there are any features that would decrease the value of your home such as regular flooding or a costly repair, you want those added.
Build Your Case
Now you need to start finding comparable houses that sold in the same time-frame that your house was assessed.Â Your case may be thrown out if your house was assessed in June of 2010 but you are bringing comparable houses that sold in June of 2011.
There are a few ways to find comparable homes.Â The assessors website may provide the information.Â You can also check the local newspapers.Â If you want a thorough report, find a local real estate agent and ask them to put together five comparable homes.Â An agent will be able to provide a nice detailed report, and they will know what houses will be closest to compare.
It also can help having your house appraised.Â This can cost anywhere from $300 – $600, but can really help your case.Â If you recently refinanced your home, or applied for a home equity you might be able to contact the lender and ask for the appraisal they used.
Schedule Your Appeal
The last and final step is to schedule your appeal.Â Most counties will have a specified time that you are allowed to appeal your property taxes.Â For example, mine is June 10th of the assessment year, and ends 90 days later.Â Check your counties web site for more specific dates in your county. The website should also include any documents that need to be filled out and sent with your appeal.Â Make sure to fill out all required documents with accuracy.Â You don’t want a simple mistake on these documents to deny your appeal.
After filing, it’s a waiting game.Â There are a few different ways that most cases will be handled.
- Your case is decided and mailed back to you with a decision
- Your case is scheduled for a public hearing, in which you will personally speak in front of a board of officials
- Your case is scheduled for a private hearing, in which you will personally speak in front of a board of officials
If your assessors office has public hearings, it may be a good idea to go to a few appeals in order to get comfortable with the process and questions that they will ask.
If you don’t feel comfortable doing all this on your own, there are many companies and firms that will do all this for you.Â Most will charge you either a flat rate fee, or a percentage of the money that they save you.
I have talked to quite a few clients that have been successful with their appeals.Â My manager just hired someone to appeal for him, and his taxes went from $16,900 a year, to just over $8,000.Â That is the biggest drop that I have seen.Â He was charged half of the savings, which was alright with him and a nice payday for whatever company he hired.
If you are denied, you usually have the right to appeal again.
It doesn’t hurt to give it a try.Â You may have to fork up some money in the beginning, but if you win it is worth it.