If you have seen your property taxes increase this year, you aren’t alone. The increase in home values following the worst of the pandemic could mean that your home is worth more, but it also means higher taxes.
If your property tax bill has increased, there are things you can do to get it reduced. We will look at the things that could lower your tax assessment if it is higher than it should be.
Be aware of the rules
How the local tax authority deals with tax assessments will vary. Find out how long you will have to appeal once you have received your assessment of tax. You might only have weeks to challenge the assessment, so you need to be ready.
Understanding how property is assessed and the rules they follow is important before you decide to appeal. They might only use a percentage of the assessed value to calculate the tax, for instance.
There are types of real estate values homeowners should know and assessed value is one of them.
If you think your home is worth $400,000, but the assessment tax bill uses a figure of $320,000, you might think you are being charged less than you should. However, if they are only using 80% of the market value, you could be overcharged for a home worth $420,000.
Check for errors
If your tax bill is higher than expected, could the cause be an error? Check the records held by your tax jurisdiction to make sure there aren’t any obvious issues.
You should be able to check this on their website, or if not, a visit to the tax assessor’s office will allow you to check.
You might also be able to request this information by email from the tax assessor, and if you find a problem, you can notify the assessor. This could reduce your tax bill without having to appeal.
Claim your tax breaks
Are you receiving all the tax deductions you should? Check your tax breaks are included in your property tax bill.
Sometimes there are tax breaks available for some of the value of your home if it is your primary residence. Other deductions or credits are available for veterans, disabled people, and senior citizens. You could also be eligible to freeze your property valuation for a few years.
Make sure you are claiming all the deductions offered in your state, as they aren’t normally added automatically.
Compare your home
If you think your home has been unfairly assessed, check how your property compares to others in the neighborhood.
Looking at the property cards of similar homes in your area might reveal if something is genuinely wrong. Check homes with similar square footage, bedrooms and bathrooms, and features to compare assessments.
You can also check recently sold similar home prices online. This should show you if the assessment is a long way from reality or not. A local real estate broker can also help with getting this information if you run into issues.
Making your case
If the tax assessment is higher than other homes that are similar to yours, an appeal could be worthwhile. Perhaps your home is not in as good a condition as other properties in your area. If that is the case, the market value of your property will be lower than those, and you should be paying less tax than them.
When you begin an appeal, you need to provide evidence that the assessment is incorrect. Data on comparable homes, repair estimates, photographs of the condition of your home, and blueprints can all be used to prove your case.
You might have to wait a few months before you find out if your appeal was successful. If you do not get the result you hope for, you might be able to plead your case to an appeals board. If you get this far, stick to the evidence that proves your case.
Bring in a professional
If you want to make sure you give your appeal the best chance of success, hiring a professional appraiser could turn things in your favor. While it will cost you at least a few hundred dollars, if it is successful it could save you a lot more.
The appraiser will provide strong evidence that your home is worth less than the tax assessment.
Make sure you only hire an appraiser with national certification from the American Society of Appraisers or the Appraisal Institute. However, don’t take an offer from a company that wants a percentage of the savings, as it will be cheaper to hire an appraiser directly.
If your appeal goes well, the savings will continue until the next assessment, which could be 5 years away. While appealing your tax bill might not seem easy, it will certainly be worthwhile if it works.
Bill Gassett is a nationally recognized real estate leader who has been helping people buy and sell MetroWest Massachusetts real estate for the past 35 years.