Taxes & Insurance

Depending on your local tax rate and the value of your home, property taxes may be one of your more substantial ongoing costs.

That cost is based on the applicable tax rate and the assessed value of your home. The tax rate is set by the pertinent governing body and you can’t do much about it. But you can do something about your property tax assessment: you can appeal it if you consider it to be too high.

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To succeed, you need a plan:

* Learn the local rules. In some areas you have only 30 days to appeal, after receiving an assessment, so you need to act quickly.

* Read the property tax notice. See if it overstates the value of your house. For example, check to see if your house has fewer square feet or fewer rooms than the notice states. The assessment might say you have three bathrooms but you only have two, for example.

* Look for other reasons that your home may be overvalued. Your house might be near a noisy highway or in a flood zone or on a steep hill, making it less valuable.

* Find out if your house is over-assessed, when compared with others that are comparable. At your local assessor’s office, check to see if homes that are similar to yours in size or age or location have lower assessed values than yours.

Did you do a major do it yourself project such as adding a room? The assessor may have increased the value by the amount a contractor would have charged rather than the cost you actually incurred.

If you have a legitimate reason to support lower property taxes, contact your assessor’s office and request a private meeting to make your case. If you can’t arrange an informal conference, make a formal appeal to the local assessment board. Before your appeal date, sit in on somebody else’s public hearing to see how the board operates and get a sense of which arguments are most likely to succeed.