How To Lower Your Property Taxes

Free Money Finance dredged a fascinating statistic from Kiplingers that suggests 60% of homes are overvalued by assessors, and that 33% of tax appeals succeed. The stat comes from a dubious source, the National Taxpayers Union, described by the San Francisco Chronicle as the “the grand-daddy of the tax revolt organizations.” Assessments guide property taxes, which are universally reviled by homeowners. Even politicians, who suckle tax revenue with the vigor of a vampire on a vein, regularly crusade against property taxes during election season.

Appeals can usually be filed 30 to 60 days after you receive notice of an assessment. Start with the low-hanging fruit; an assessment can be easily overturned for basic mistakes like reporting the wrong number of rooms or square footage of your house. Also check utilities like Zillow.com to see how similar properties stack up against your home. If you think your house is overvalued, call your local assessor’s office’s and file an appeal. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

60% of Homes Assessed for Too Much, 33% of Property Tax Appeals Succeed [Free Money Finance]
(Photo: David Gallagher)

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  1. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    Obviously this group never appealed taxes in Cook County, Illinois.
    The system is thoroughly rigged against the homeowner.
    You have to hire a shyster that specializes in tax appeals, because they give “election contributions” to the assessor & the appeals board. They get 50% of the tax saved for the first year.
    The average joe walking into to the office is stuck with a flunky that hears your appeal, then gives a report to the appeals commissioners. You have no say directly to the commissioners.

    Huge racket, everyone involved is a crook!

  2. rlee says:

    Hmm. In Fairfax Co, VA, I discovered they’d listed my place with an extra bedroom. I corrected them and requested a corresponding adjustment to my appraisal. They replied that the number of bedrooms was not a factor in the appraisal!!?!

  3. crawfishpie says:

    When my county assessor announced a huge increase in home valuations, we had 90 days to appeal. On day 89, I went to the county office & waited for 45 minutes (with no one ahead of me) to sit with a tired looking woman. I smiled and made eye contact and simply stated that I wasn’t sure the new assessment was correct. She told me under regular guidelines, she could submit up to 10% reduction to the official board, and she found comparable home sales to back it up. But by maneuvering something-or-other on line, she was able to recommend a 30% reduction. I’m paying much less tax now than I was before the county-wide increase. These people have some tricks they can pull now and then. It pays to be nice.

  4. squikysquiken says:

    @Greasy Thumb Guzik: You don’t *have* to hire a lawyer in Cook County, and you can talk to the board directly if you wish to do so (just have to ask). Given the size of the county, it’s not suprising that the 3 member of the board don’t hear all appeals directy. A lawyer friend of mine even recommended I do it myself. The board prefers to see taxpayers than hired guns according to her. I appealed by myself to the board and I got a nice reduction. It helps to smile and be a bit patient and polite; some people already arrive at the appeal screaming and upset assuming that everyone is crooked, not a good way to start.

  5. Psydneyh says:

    I have twice appealed my taxes in Portland,Oregon, both successfully. The first wes just after purchase, when the purchase price was below the taxable amount The second was when I thought it was outrageous. The county assessor lumped my home within a subdivsion of more expensive homes in a cul-de-sac fronting on a park, whereas my home was on a busy street. The local board denied my appeal, so I appealed to the state. I hired a professional appraiser for $500; we won and he saved me $5000. Worth it

  6. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    @squikysquiken:
    But I did ask to speak to the board & was told there wasn’t time for it.
    I have no way of knowing what the deputy appeals people tell in their report.

    It’s a racket, plain & simple.

    But the Board of Appeals is terrific compared to the Cook County Assessor’s office which is totally corrupt, refuses to tell how it reassesses property with a secret computer program that it refuses to release to the public. They say we can’t understand it. I’m sure that someone would develop a PC program to use it in a few weeks of getting it.
    I don’t understand why someone with a lot of time, money & a good understanding of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act doesn’t sue for it.

  7. virgilstar says:

    So I have a question…

    A friend of a friend of mine has done some “improvements” on his house, such as adding another bathroom, but the work was all done by him, without any professional help, and so some of it may not meet official building codes (such as distances of waste pipes to the nearest vent etc). The not-to-code stuff is all hidden in the walls. Also, all the work is internal, but was done without a building permit (in NY state).

    What powers to tax assessors have to report building code violations, if they suspect they have occured? My “friend” has no problem with paying the extra taxes incurred by adding another bathroom and increasing the value of the house, but if inviting an assessor into the house will run the risk of ripping apart the walls due to suspected code violations, then my friend might just forget to inform them about the new bathroom.

  8. revmatty says:

    Zillow is probably not your best bet for getting your taxes reduced. All the markets I’ve checked for them (several in CA and MO, as well as Denver and Boulder) they are at least 20% higher than the actual prices homes are selling for.

  9. weave says:

    wow, in northern Delaware homes were last re-assessed in the late 70s.

  10. smakdphat says:

    I’ve tried this at least 3 times. Hasn’t worked at all in Champaign Co. IL. I would love to actually witness a successful appeal. I’m pretty sure they’re like bigfoot riding a unicorn.

  11. swalve says:

    I could see Champaign, IL, being more likely to not reduce your property tax bill, because farm land is taxed very low, and they need the revenue to keep up with all the UIUC students.

    Secondly, assessments aren’t the only problem. In cook county anyway, there are a number of other “correcting” factors. There’s the assessed valuation, which has no seeming relation to the actual market value of the property. Then there are the various tax rates, like 0.012% for this mosquito abatement district, 0.6% for that retirement fund, etc. THEN there’s an “adjustment factor” which changes year to year. I assume they use this to plug budget holes without “reassessing” or “raising tax rates”.

  12. shdwsclan says:

    hahah….yeah…
    My 2 story+basement house and yard is registered as a 2 story no basement, 1 bathroom, 1 bedroom single family dwelling with no garage and no air conditioning with no yard.

    The truth is.
    It 3 floor total.
    3 full bathrooms
    5 bedrooms
    2 car garage
    Redundant AC, for both floors
    And..it has a yard…

    Every year…i get one of those sheets to fix the assesment. I throw it out…and if they call and ask….i would either fake that i dont understand english….or tell them that i never got it…
    Its a good way to get out of jury duty too..

  13. NadiaSydor says:

    I tried to lower my property taxes on my own and it was a absolute headache!
    It took me months to get answers to my simple questions. I ended up Googling
    “prop 8″ and I found a company called http://www.prop8.org. They saved me over
    $1,800 a year. Yeah it cost me some money to save some money but in the end
    my SANITY was worth it! Good luck guys!