Lower Your Property Tax Without Hiring a Lawyer

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If you think your tax assessment is too high, especially considering the recession, filing an appeal can be worth the time it takes. The bonus is that you don’t usually have to retain legal counsel for this – just file the appeal and be prepared to fight for a lower assessment. This means that you’re going to need some knowledge of your system and have the information about your home at hand, but the knowledge will benefit you in the long run, so it’s well worth gaining. And there’s the thousands of dollars in property taxes you could save.

You’ll want to move relatively quickly upon receiving the news that your property has had an inexplicable jump in value. You usually have 60 days or less from the time your assessment was mailed to you. The period of time you have to file an appeal should be mentioned in the paperwork associated with your assessment or on the assessment itself. The sooner you file the appeal, the better – this is a long process.

Try to have a casual meeting before pushing for an official one. If you have the right attitude, your assessor may well make your bid for a reassessment a lot easier on you. Even if the assessor is firmly entrenched in their opinion that they are right, remain calm and pleasant. Ask what criteria the assessor is using for evaluating your home the way they did and why they don’t think that your evidence indicates why your home should be assessed at a lower value. Make sure you take note of what they say; this is the position you will have to challenge in an official appeal.

Learn how your assessor’s office determines the values of residential real estate. Do they look at recent sales? Is it a percentage of the estimated value of your home? Do they figure out how much it might take to rebuild your home from scratch? Find out so you can understand why the assessor priced your home the way they did.

Obtain the property card for your home from your assessor. It lists basic details about your home, like lot size, bathroom/bedroom numbers, etc. See if there are any errors that might have been used to calculate a higher value. Sometimes assessors can make shortcuts in evaluations that can result in errors.

Get a copy of your assessor’s file for your home. There should be a sheet that the assessor filled out for your home that contains the addresses of homes compared with yours. If the homes used to draw up a value for your property are significantly different from your property, you may have a case for a lower property value.

Look up comparable assessments of homes that are similar to yours at the assessor’s. A real estate agent can help you find comparable sales that can help you prove your case, in most cases, for less than $100. New communities often have identical homes that you can use to build an even stronger case for the re-evaluation of yours.

Get a receipt when you deliver your appeal or use certified mail so that you have a record that you actually sent it in. Usually you will send it to the county board, but ensure that you are sending it to the right place by consulting your assessment paperwork. Be prepared for a wait; you could be waiting months or over a year if you are in a big municipality.

Attending an actual appeal hearing can prepare you for your own. Observe the procedure and make notes on it. Sometimes the same questions are asked every time – if you have ready answers for these, it can make your case appear stronger.

Bring the information you have found that bolsters your case with you in clear notes or a spreadsheet. Have extra copies on hand. Keep your appeal short; your time should not run over 10 minutes and should be shorter if possible.

You are not guaranteed to win an appeal, but taking the time to file an appeal and attend a hearing can end up saving you thousands of dollars in taxation. By being polite, precise and prompt, you will have the best chance of succeeding with your appeal.

About Author
Carolyn Capalbo is an expert military relocation specialist and real estate agent serving Fairfax County real estate. Visit Just4Real.com to find updated market information about areas in Prince William, including Prince William real estate.

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