FEDweek

A Close Look Can Reduce Property Taxes

Homeowners in hot real estate markets often find they are facing steep increases in property taxes. If you’re in that situation, here’s how to appeal the assessment:

* Establish a timeline. Find out when assessments go out and the deadline for appealing—it might be as short as 30 days.

* Correct any mistakes. Many assessors don’t even come on your property to inspect it. They simply compare a written description of your home with that of similar properties in your neighborhood. Make sure the assessment has accurate information about inhabitable square footage, the number of bedrooms, etc.

* Accentuate the negative. Point out any factors that might devalue your house, such as a nearby bridge that has washed out or a garage you’ve torn down to increase garden space.

* Compare your home to its neighbors. You can find information on comparable homes and their worth at the local assessor’s office. Get comparisons on five to 10 homes and decide whether you have a case.

* Contact your assessor’s office. If you believe that your assessment is too high, try to arrange a one-on-one, informal meeting. Sometimes simply pointing out the facts can be enough for the assessor to lower an assessment.

* Protest the assessment. If negotiation doesn’t work, you still are entitled to a hearing. Follow the guidelines to the letter and gather all your evidence beforehand. For example, you may want to collect photos of comparable properties or put the market data into a spreadsheet that makes it easy for the hearing officials to see the basis of your argument.