6 Ways to Lower Your Property Taxes
Contest your home assessment if you think it's too high
(This article appeared previously on MarketWatch.)
This is the time of year when many Americans stop thinking about taxes and start thinking about beaches and vacations. But since many home assessment notices for 2016 are mailed out in the spring, you might be unpleasantly surprised to see that you’re soon going to owe more.
While most households take their assessments at face value (only one in 10 households bother to appeal), if you think your house is overassessed — as a whopping 30 to 60 percent of properties are, according to the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) nonprofit taxpayer watchdog group — fight back.
Here’s how to challenge the assessment, boost your odds of success and ultimately put more money in your pocket:
1. Understand the Process
2. Review Your Property Card
3. Gather Evidence
4. Submit Your Package
While some areas allow you to email your packages and others require you to call in and make your case in person, most appeals are submitted in written form to the county boards, along with a statement explaining why you feel the evaluation is inaccurate. Claims must be supported with the aforementioned evidence (comps and pictures).
5. Go It Alone
While there’s no shortage of professionals — from attorneys to real estate agents to consultants and appraisers — available to help you make your case, there are two reasons to go it alone, says Sepp.
First, while legitimate third party experts can save you a lot of time, energy, and frustration, they are also going to pocket a big chunk of your tax savings — a flat percentage of up to 50 percent of your first year’s reduction.
Second, some appeals boards are more sympathetic to homeowners who represent themselves. “There’s the ‘believability’ factor,” says Sepp.
6. Be Professional
As you’re sitting in your designated room, or cubicle, one-on-one with the adjuster assigned to your case, “don’t plead poverty, get angry or belligerent; just present your case as to why your taxes need to be lower and then shut up,” says Davis.
Then, reap the rewards. “Over 30 percent of researched, prepared homeowners have some kind of success appealing,” says Sepp. “And it can make a dramatic difference in your bill, especially if you live in a jurisdiction that will allow that new assessment to stay in place for several years.”
Vera Gibbons is a financial journalist. A former analyst with MSNBC who appeared regularly on The Today Show, Gibbons has written for Inc., SmartMoney, Kiplinger’s, Real Simple and All You, among others. She recently hosted a series on Yahoo! called Savvy Spender and completed a personal-finance insurance series for msn.com.