If there’s one thing homeowners across the United States have in common, it’s the gripe they have about their property taxes. Most homeowners feel as if they pay too much, but not many of them do anything about it.
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Did you know that you have the right to appeal your property tax assessment? While the process sounds complicated, there are simple tools you can use to win the battle. In other words, you can get your property taxes lowered if you use the following steps.
CHECK THE ACCURACY OF YOUR HOME’S DESCRIPTION
Your first step in the process is to read your assessment letter. How much is the county assessing your home for? If you don’t agree with this figure, it’s time to do some homework. You’ll need evidence to back up your statement that the assessed value is too high.
The first thing you should do is review the description the assessor has for your home. Make sure the description is accurate. For example, if the assessor labeled your home as sitting on 2 acres of land but you are only on ½ of an acre, that’s a big difference. Pay close attention to the number of rooms and square footage they have noted as well. If these numbers are wrong, get in touch with the assessor’s office right away. You’ll need to provide proof that their description is incorrect.
CHECK OUT YOUR NEIGHBORS
Now it’s time to be nosy. You need to know what your neighbors pay for property taxes. Start the process by getting comparable from a local appraiser or real estate agent. You may be able to find comparable sales on your own by looking on sites like Zillow, but if you want accurate information, it’s best to talk to a professional.
Ask the appraiser or real estate agent for at least three comparable sales. Make sure they are fairly similar to your home and then look them up on your assessor’s website. See how their assessed value compares to your home’s assessed value. Is it higher or lower than your value?
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If the value is higher, you may not have much to appeal. If it’s lower, though, yet your home is either similar in features or has less than this home, you have a leg to stand on when appealing the assessed value.
TALK WITH THE ASSESSOR
Once you have your evidence, it’s time to start the appeal process. Many counties provide a form that you must complete if you want to appeal an assessment. They also provide specific deadlines or even specific dates you must appeal your value on. Pay close attention to these dates as there are hardly any grace periods. If you miss it, you have to wait again until next year.
Some assessors welcome phone calls regarding the home’s assessed value. If this is the case, you can speak your case over the phone. Make sure you tell the assessor what proof you have to back up your claim. If it’s something like their office made a mistake, you may be able to get the change made right away.
If it’s something more challenging, you may have to file a formal complaint and face the appeals board. You can do this with or without a lawyer, but your chances of winning are higher when you have a lawyer.
The most important thing is that you have enough evidence. If you do this on your own, gather as much paperwork as you can. Print out the assessed value of the comparable sales in your area. Show adequate proof how those homes differ from yours and how your home’s assessed value should be even lower.
The key is not to give up easily. Assessors don’t want to lower your assessed value because it means less profit for the county. You will have your work cut out for you, but if you do your research, get professional help, and stay strong, you should get the result you desire.