Surveys show that an estimated 60% of property is overtaxed, yet few people even know they can do anything about it. Everyone needs to review their property tax assessment to determine if it is accurate. It is possible to appeal your property tax assessment and the money you save will be well worth your efforts.
As property values are drastically increasing the issue of overtaxed property is an important one to evaluate. Obviously, homeowners are thrilled with the increased market value of their homes but the increase in taxes is less than a welcome addition.
Determine when your property values are assessed and then find out the deadline for appealing the assessment. Most counties have annual reassessments, while some only assess every few years. To obtain accurate information about your counties assessment guidelines go to Google and do a search by typing your state, your county and the words “property assessor”. You can also check the government pages of your phone book to locate your county tax assessor’s listings.
You will also need to understand how properties are appraised by the tax assessor’s office. The process is not the same as an appraisal done when you first purchased your home. In fact, the appraisal done at the time of purchase is not made available to the county tax assessor’s office. Instead the county property appraiser uses either comparable sales to determine the fair market value of your home or other information from the tax records to verify the replacement value of your property. This number is then assessed at a specific fraction (the assessment ratio) of the total assessed amount.
When looking at the fairness and accuracy of your property assessment, you will want to examine the total appraised value of your home before the assessment ratio is applied. So once you have a copy of your current assessment you will want to review the following items:
Incorrect Description of your Property: Do you own a 3 Bedroom but the assessment lists it as a 4 Bedroom. Check the number of bathrooms listed. It may include some unfinished area in as living area. Verify that the lot dimensions and the house dimensions are accurate. Errors such as these can be very costly for you if they go unnoticed.
Math Mistakes: Mistakes can and do happen. Make sure you verify all the math to make sure it is done correctly. Do the numbers add up (or multiply) correctly?
Property Defects: If there is any current defects to the property (land or home) that would substantially lower it’s value, you will want to let the county know about it. This isn’t something you would want to do if you were refinancing or in the process of selling the property (though you would have to disclose any defects to new buyers anyways). These defects can actually help lower your appraisal. Defects can include items such as termites, plumbing problems, a leaking roof or a drainage problem on the lot.
After you have looked at the obvious issues that affect your assessment, you’ll want to compare assessments of your property with other property assessments in the area. Find homes that are very similar to your own in the same neighborhood and see how yours compares. If you have access to a real estate agent, ask them to run some comparables for you. Use this information to review the property tax records on those homes to see how it compares to yours. This may seem like a lot of work but can be very worth the effort if you are paying too much based on an inaccurate assessment.
So what do you do once you discover that your assessment is incorrect? The procedure for appealing or challenging your property assessment varies by county. Go to the website of your county appraisal office and there should be a section regarding the appeals process. Make sure you clearly understand the process and requirements of your particular area and simply follow those guidelines to appeal your assessment. Remember you will have to present a concrete justification of why you believe your property tax assessment is incorrect. Include photos or the list of comparable properties and any other pertinent information you have gathered. Show the facts and keep emotion out of the process to get your assessment corrected. This can be a great way to keep more of your hard earned money.