Why pay for a service when you can do it yourself?
By Tara-Nicholle Nelson, MA, Esq., FrontDoor.com | Published: 2/24/2009
Many homeowners are receiving offers for assistance in getting their property taxes reduced, sent by services purporting to specialize in reducing people’s property taxes. It is absolutely possible to have your property value reassessed and, accordingly, your taxes reduced due to a recent decline in market value. However, it is a very feasible DIY project — most homeowners do not need to hire a service to do this.
If you bought your home within the last three to four years, it is likely that your current assessed property value — the basis for your property taxes — is higher than the current market value of your home. And in many areas, the annual reassessment is an assumed, automatic increase in value, rather than an actual reevaluation of fair market value based on the factual market dynamics.
This situation is so common that many counties across the country have actually simplified the process of getting your property taxes temporarily reduced on the basis of the current market value. As such, a homeowner with some basic Web navigation skills can generally do the same things these property tax reduction services do — for free — and might even have an easier time dealing with the County. (Local government offices tend to be a little less rigid with homeowners than they are with hired guns.)
To get your property taxes reduced on the basis of the recent decline in market value:
- Search Yahoo! or Google to find the Web site for your County Tax Assessor’s Office or Tax Collector’s Office.
- Go to the Forms section and look for a form with the words “reassessment request” or “decline in market value.” If you can’t find it, give the office a ring and ask them to fax, mail or email the form to you.Usually the request will ask you for (a) an estimate of the current market value of your home, and (b) a list of recent, comparable sales in your neighborhood supporting that estimate of value.
- Call up the Realtor who sold you the house and ask them to complete the form for you or to at least provide the information you need about comparable sales. They want to keep you as a long-term friend, client and referral resource, so 9 times out of 10 they’ll do it for you.
- Alternatively, find a trustworthy online comparables site, like CyberHomes.com, where you can get both an estimated value and a list of the comparable sales on which it was based.
- Keep in mind that you are trying to make the case that your property value is significantly lower now than when you bought it, so list legitimate comparable sales which support that argument or you are wasting your time! And keep in mind that if you bought your home 10 or 20 years ago, your property’s assessed value might not be out of whack with current market values, even though your home’s market value may have declined from the peak of the market.
- Sign it and mail it! Allow several weeks, then call and check on the progress of your request. If it’s accepted, you’re golden — for this year. Most areas require you to revisit the reassessment issue every year. If it’s denied, there will be a more formal application and appeals process available to you, and you can decide at that time whether it makes sense to undertake that.
Either way, you won’t have coughed up half your savings to some “consultant” to do something you could do in an hour yourself!
NOTE: To ensure compliance with requirements imposed by the IRS, we inform you that any U.S. federal tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein. Taxpayers should seek professional advice based on their particular circumstances.
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