Step by step guide to challenging your property tax bill.
Local municipalities are constantly trying to increase the assessment of a home, which will lead to higher property tax expenses for the owner. Homeowners, no matter their income, can always challenge these increases. Or they can try to get the overall real estate taxes that they are responsible for paying lowered at any time. Here are some steps to take to try to challenge the assessor on their valuation of your residence and to get the annual cost of paying real estate taxes on your home reduced.
1) Check the information and description of your residence on the property tax bill that you are sent every year. The items to review include the address, lot size, square footage, when built, and the number of rooms. You need to note the appraised value of the property. If that information is not on your property tax bill, then you can search your local assessor website or even call the property tax office for your home's appraised value.
2) If you expect an exemption, you need to compare any listed tax exemptions that you think you qualify for with what is listed on the statement. Some examples of who may get a reduction include a senior citizen, veteran, disabled person, and more. Tax exemptions will vary depending on your exact location, but you can also find this information on your municipal website, or by calling them. Make note of any differences that you find for presentation later. Read more on property tax exemptions.
3) It is very important to examine property values or any sales prices for similar homes in your area. You can find this information from a local realtor, or this can also be found using your local property tax assessor’s website. All local government centers need to make this information accessible to anyone that requests it. Or always stop by the office to use their systems there. This property information on recent sales is public, so the information is available to you and all property owners.
4) Once you have the information on homes similar to yours, you need to analyze the appraised value of your home compared to those similar properties that you have researched. Any sizeable difference in property tax bills due between these properties should be noted and prepared as evidence in presenting your case. This can be valuable data when challenging the assessed real estate value of your home.
You should compare the same items as indicated in step 1 above, such as square footage, lot size, number of rooms, etc. Things to look for include if two houses have the same square footage, are the same age, number of rooms, etc, but your home is assessed at a higher rate and has a higher property tax bill. That is something you can challenge.
Recent sales can also be great comparisons. Also, look to see if a home that is similar to yours sold at a price that is lower than your appraised value. You can also consider hiring an independent appraiser to assess the value of your property, which will give you further supporting evidence.
5) Decide if there is enough of a difference in the appraised value of your home and what you have discovered when reviewing similar properties. If you decide the difference in the property tax bills is great enough, and the amount of that difference is totally up to you and also depends on your property value, then go ahead and contest your property taxes. Note that everyone is different. Some owners will contest their property tax bill if the difference is only a couple thousand dollars.
As noted, also look for errors in the description of your home. Also, definitely go ahead and contest the property taxes if you find an exception or some type of error in the description of your home. Find what percent of property tax appeals are successful.
The process of contesting your property taxes.
1) Review your real estate tax bill for those dates in which appraisals can be contested. Each county or town will set up formal meetings at some point in the year. Or you can call your local tax assessor's office to get this information if it is not on your property tax bill.
2) Find out if your local jurisdiction will allow informal, or formal reviews. If your area allows informal reviews, you should schedule a time for an with your assessor first. Schedule it far enough in the future so that you have time to prepare your case. If this is not an option, then be sure to call or fill out any paper work for a formal review if an informal review is not allowed.
3) Prepare all of your collected documentation from the steps above. Organize it in a way that will allow you to present the most important details first, such as the information regarding your property and comparable properties. The time that you will be given to present your case is typically limited. Find an example of a property tax appeal letter which can be used to ensure your information is in order.
4) Show up on time, be very respectful, and be prepared for your meeting, whether it is formal or informal. If you are late, you may miss the only time in which you can contest the value assigned to your home. Present your research and materials and you need to share copies of it with whomever you meet.
5) Wait for the answer on any informal request that you may have gone through to lower your property taxes. It could take days or even weeks to get an answer. So be patient when challenging the assessed value of your home.
If you haven't heard back on your informal request, you can go ahead and file the formal request forms if the deadline is rapidly approaching. So always stay on top of the deadlines in this process. The property tax office should contact you with a formal presentation date.
6) As mentioned above, arrive on time to any formal review as well. Many areas have some type of appraisal review board that you'll be presenting your case to. Do not be intimidated. These boards are used to seeing all types of people present, and you do not need to be a public speaker to present your case/challenge. Your local tax assessor will also present the documentation that was used in your original property tax assessment. Again, be concise, respectful, and professional in your meetings.
7) Be on the lookout for a letter indicating whether your property tax assessment challenge has been approved. A formal notification needs to be sent to you that gives the results of the review. Be sure to look for ow much your property tax bill will be lowered. If you are unhappy with the decision, some states will allow you to appeal the ruling by the review board to a district court. However, action such as this is best done under a lawyer's guidance. As any second or thrid attempts at a challenge become more complicated.
Tens of thousands of homeowners contest their property tax bills every year. You should not be afraid or intimidated to this process. It is a straightforward process that can result in significant savings on both an annual as well as recurring basis.
That being said, if you are uncomfortable with this process for any reason, you can always hire a professional property tax consultant or a real estate agent to contest your property taxes. They can take the lead when it comes to challenging an assessment. You should do your best to find someone who will only charge you if they are successful.