One of the largest expenses you’ll pay for your home, aside from the mortgage, is the real estate taxes. What if you could lower those taxes though? It is possible. You have to appeal the assessed value, which is what drives taxes up. Every couple of years, your county assessor likely assesses your home. The assessor then uses that value to determine your taxes by multiplying it by the tax rate.
Because each home isn’t assessed on an individual basis, it is entirely possible that your home is assessed too high. So what if you find out that’s the case for you? It’s time to appeal and we’ll show you how.
Know the Deadline
Each county has a specific deadline for property tax appeals. If you miss that deadline, you are out of luck until next year. As soon as you receive your assessment letter, letting you know the new assessed value of your home, it’s time to check on that deadline. Put it on your calendar and don’t miss it.
Determine Your County’s Assessment Procedures
Just as each county has an assessment appeal deadline, they also have certain assessment procedures. Go to your county assessor’s website to see what you have to do. Some can be done entirely online, while others have to be done in person. You’ll want to know what forms you need and what information you must bring along to help you win your appeal.
Check the Validity of Your Home Listing
Once you are on the assessor’s website, you can see your property’s description. Take the time to go through it to see how accurate it is, or isn’t. Are the number of rooms correct? Are the room sizes about right? Are the features listed correct?
It’s not unusual for a property to have a listing with extra bedrooms or larger square footage than they actually have. Check the validity of your property’s description and report any discrepancies that you see right away. This alone could help you reduce your taxes.
Find Comparable Sales
This is where the legwork really comes into play. You need to find homes that sold recently that are like your home. Unlike when you are trying to get a mortgage, you don’t need the sales to be within the last six months, but going back more than three years may be too much. Try to find the most recent sales that you can to use as evidence.
You can find the comparable sales on sites like Zillow or Redfin. You could also ask a local realtor to help you out with this information if you can’t find it yourself. The realtor may have access to more detailed information which could help you choose properties that are as similar to your property as possible.
Once you have the chosen properties, look at their assessed values. If the listing itself doesn’t show it, you can go back on the assessor’s website and search for each property address. Is the assessed value higher or lower than your assessed value?
If the comparable sales aren’t identical to your property, you can still use them to argue your point. For example, if they have more features, yet have a lower assessed value than your home, then your home is assessed much too high.
State Your Case
The final step is to state your case. Some counties will have you do this in person. Others may have you do it in writing or online. No matter which way you do it, make sure you have plenty of evidence. If you don’t like the outcome of your initial appeal, you can always ask for a review. This is usually done in front of a panel of county employees who will hear your case.
Keep in mind that only your assessed value can change – the assessor cannot change the tax rate. If you do get a lower assessed value, know that you will likely have a lower ‘ market value’ too. If you are planning to sell your home in the near future, you may want to leave well enough alone, especially if the discrepancy isn’t that large.