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Today I’d like to help save you $1500-$2000 every year. We’re not talking about chump change here. If you own your home or any property there is a good chance you’ll qualify.
Did you look at your property tax bill this past year? Did your property taxes go down? There is a good chance your home may be worth less than the local tax assessor believes and that could mean a smaller property tax bill.
According to the National Taxpayers Union, an advocacy group focused on lowering taxes, as much as 60 percent of taxable property in the United States is over-assessed. The result is higher than expected property tax bills. Middle- and lower-income taxpayers are among the most often over-assessed. Yet typically fewer than 5 percent of taxpayers challenge their property tax assessments.
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Are You Paying Too Much in Property Taxes?
Property taxes are an opportunity to save big money so take a close look at your property tax bill. When your home value falls, a small consolation can come in the form of a property tax cut. But how do you know if you’re paying too much in property taxes?
To determine if you are paying too much in property taxes pay special attention to the assessed value of your home. Property taxes are typically based on some assessed value of your property.
The formula by which your home is assessed varies wildly from market to market. Some areas calculate your home’s assessed value based on a home’s actual market value, while others use a percentage of a property’s worth. You can visit your local property tax collector’s website or local property tax assessor’s office to find out how homes are assessed and taxed in your area.
If you receive your property tax bill and see that your home’s assessed value is lower than what you paid for it do not assume you are paying the right amount in property taxes. You could still be paying too much.
When you receive your property tax bill take note of any errors in the details of your property. Does the bill list the wrong number of bedrooms or square footage? Errors like these can be a sign that your home is being assessed incorrectly.
If you just bought your home and the assessed value is higher than what you paid for it then you may be paying more in property taxes than you should.
Another tell-tale sign you are paying too much in property taxes is if other comparable homes in your area are selling for less than your home’s assessed value. This is the one of the most common reasons homeowner’s pay too much in property taxes. If a property assessor uses comparable homes that aren’t similar to your home then you probably have a case for appeal. You can use sites like www.zillow.com or www.blockshopper.com to see what houses in your neighborhood have sold for.
If you live in a neighborhood with varying home sizes and styles this could very well happen to you. Only homes with the same number of bedrooms, approximately the same square footage, and built around the same year as your home should be used as a comparable home.
What To Do If You Believe Your Are Paying Too Much
Appealing the assessed value of your home and related property tax is not hard. Still so few people actually appeal them. Many taxpayers do not appeal because they don’t understand the process, or because they’re afraid they’ll lose their case and incur penalties. That’s too bad because the appeal isn’t as difficult as most homeowners think. I’ve heard it likened to appealing a traffic ticket or representing yourself in small claims court. In fact most real estate lawyers and other pros admit that appealing your home’s assessed value is something you can easily do on your own.
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The first thing to do is to build a case for why you should be paying less in property taxes. You do this by gathering evidence and checking for mistakes in the assessment. Make sure your property assessment doesn’t say your property includes a shed when it doesn’t or doesn’t list your property as having four bedrooms when you only have three.
Mistakes happen more often than not. Almost always the person assessing the value of your home will never have set foot on your property. They generally use a written description of your home to compare it to other homes in the area. They could be using inaccurate data or have a false description of your home.
You can also file an appeal based on poor comparisons. You must be able to show why the comps the assessor used are all wrong. You can find information on comparable homes at the assessor’s office or property value websites like zillow.com or trulia.com. Most of the time you need there to be at least a ten percent difference between your home and the home your comparing it to, to have a good chance of winning your case. Most likely you will need five to ten comparables to bolster your chances of winning.
If you decide you don’t want to appeal your tax assessment yourself then hire a real estate or tax attorney. The good news is that most pros will charge you on a contingency basis. Meaning if they lose your case, it costs you nothing. A typical contingency fee is a third up to half the amount you save in taxes the first year.
Other resources to consider using are real estate agents. They can easily look up comparable homes because they have access to MLS, the multiple listing service. If you just bought your home the real estate agent who sold you the home should do this for you because it only takes them a few minutes to do the research.
You can also pay for a professional appraisal of your home to help you gather evidence for your case. This will typically cost you a few hundred dollars so don’t go this route if you believe your property taxes are only slightly higher than what they should be.
Once you have gathered all the evidence and determined you have a case the first course of action is to send a letter detailing your findings. Make sure to include any and all information you’ve collected and present it in a straightforward, easy to understand manner.
Another option is to call your local tax assessor’s office and try to arrange an informal, one-on-one meeting. This option seems scary to a lot of people because they like it to giving a speech in front of an audience but that’s really not the case. Sometimes pointing out errors and facts in a pleasant tone and manner is enough to reduce your tax bill. Just remember this meeting is a negotiation and you must be prepared to present your case in an easy to follow manner.
If your area assessor doesn’t allow these informal meetings and doesn’t respond to your letters the next step is to ask for a formal hearing. This is virtually the same thing as the informal meeting just with more people evaluating your appeal. You’ll need to present your facts and figures to a panel of a few people. Make sure to find out about the proper procedures for this type of appeal before you go to the hearing.
It may be a good idea to sit in on somebody else’s hearing before your own. This will help you get a feel for how things will go and how the process works. Take notes of questions the panel asks because it is likely you will be asked the very same ones!
If appealing your property taxes seems like a daunting task remember that a majority of homeowners win at least a partial victory. Combine that with the fact that most appeals only require five to twenty hours worth of your time working towards your appeal and you can see how it is easily worth the time and effort. Just be sure to follow all guidelines and be sure to file your appeal before the opportunity passes you by!