Get Your Property Taxes Reduced
Taxes are a part of life. While we may disagree with this, it doesn’t change the fact that the federal and state government are coming for their money every year. One area where homeowners are hit particularly hard is through property taxes. You will pay a particular tax rate on your property based on where you live and the characteristics of your property.
But did you know that you might be able to get that amount lowered? Lowering property taxes, of course, is on the minds of many homeowners who feel they are paying too much. So do you want to know how to challenge high property taxes? I am sure you are nodding your head with a big yes right now!
If you are like most people, you would like to know how to lower your property taxes! Who wouldn’t want to understand how to reduce their property taxes especially if they are getting unfairly taxed?
Strap yourself in and find out how to appeal your property taxes when you know your property assessment is too high.
Lowering Your Property Taxes
You may be able to reduce the amount of property taxes you pay, but first, you will need to do some investigating. You need to know how your state and county determines what you pay in property taxes, and you need to know what information the town has in your home. While you may not be able to alter the actual tax rate, you can correct the information the county has in your home to get a lower assessed value. The tax rate for your city is typically determined and set each year. Once determined it does not change.
The first thing to do is make a visit to your local assessor. Here you can find out how the city or town determines property taxes, information that every homeowner should know. You can also ask the assessor what it takes to appeal the assessment on your home. Lastly, you can ask for the field card that the county has on your property. This property card will list all the relevant facts about your property, circumstances you may be able to contest.
The property card will list things like the square footage of your home, the size of your lot, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms in the house and even the size of your garage. It is here where you may find an easy way to contest how your town determined your property value.
If the card says you have a four bedroom home when you only have a three bedroom home, you can appeal this fact with the town. If your square footage or lot size are off these are additional valid reasons why you may be getting taxed improperly. These are a couple of good examples of how you may end up paying taxes that are too high for your property. Understanding how to challenge high property tax assessments will be the basis for getting your tax bill lowered.
Assessed Values Can Be Way Off
Reducing your property taxes starts with understanding your assessed value. There are a lot of different ways to determine the value of a home. Lenders appraise at one value, Realtors evaluate at another and then there is the actual market value.
Of course, there is also the assessment made by the local assessor. The fact is, all of these numbers can vary. These valuation methods can get very confusing for the average person. Here is a good explanation of how assessed value differs from market value for those that do not know the difference between these two real estate terms.
When you move beyond challenging the particular facts on your property card, you can begin looking at your neighborhood and other properties that are similar to yours to see what they are assessed at by the town. This is another place where you may find some discrepancies that work in your favor. Remember that the assessor’s office is only going to be interested in hard evidence. Your neighbor may tell you how much lower his property is assessed at, but this is not enough to appeal with the local assessor.
This is another place where you may find some discrepancies that work in your favor. Remember that the assessor’s office is only going to be interested in hard evidence. Your neighbor may tell you how much lower his property is assessed at, but this is not enough to appeal with the local assessor.
Consider talking to a local real estate agent that you trust to see if you can gather evidence on why your home’s assessment is off. The Realtor can look for comparable sales – information that shows what other similar homes were sold for in the area – and can provide you this information to take to the assessor’s office. If the market has changed considerably or a mistake has been made, your home could be assessed at a higher value than it should be.
Theoretically, the market value and assessed value should be similar to one another, but they rarely ever are. This is because when assessed values are calculated the market data is already old. So if the market is increasing or decreasing in value the data used will not reflect the current market conditions. What is important is that other like properties that are similar to yours are being evaluated the same. For example, if another home is statistically similar to yours and is located in a relatively similar neighborhood they should be taxed in the same ballpark.
One caution – do not use Zillow to estimate your homes value! While Zillow has an excellent site for looking at homes, many consumers are not aware that home values from Zillow are not accurate. The “Zestimate of value” as they like to call it can be off by tens of thousands of dollars or more. I have personally seen home values on Zillow off by over one hundred thousand dollars! Obviously, if you are looking for accurate information to make a case about your homes value, you would not want to use a tool that fails miserably.
What you should understand about assessments is that they are just a yard stick for a city or town to collect an appropriate amount of taxes to fiscally run the municipality on a yearly basis. Assessors adjust assessments typically on an annual basis to collect an appropriate amount of taxes from the residents.
Most of the time assessed values are more accurate on homes that have sold recently. Quite often you will see the assessment of homes that have been sold years ago having a bigger variation to market value.
If your neighbors home are nearly identical to yours and is assessed much lower for no apparent reason, it could be because in a prior year they filed a challenge to the assessment with the town and were granted a reduction. Their property now has a reduced assessment. What you can count on is the fact that the city is not going to decrease every other value of similar homes in the area. This is an excellent example of the squeaky wheel getting the grease. Understanding this information will go a long way in knowing how to appeal a high property tax.
Appeal Your Homes Assessment
If you have reliable information demonstrating that your home is incorrectly assessed, gather that information and request a meeting with your local assessor’s office. It does not need to be a formal meeting, to begin with – as long as a representative will agree to meet with you. If the office doesn’t meet with you, you may have to take it a step further and file a formal appeal.
Usually, appeals begin with the presentation of evidence for your case. You can deliver this to the assessor’s office in writing, and the office will tell you how long it will take to review your case. Most departments can look over your appeal within a reasonable time frame – often within two weeks to a month after you deliver it. Of course, this will vary depending on where you are submitting your appeal.
Most departments can look over your appeal within a reasonable time frame – often within two weeks to a month after you deliver it. Of course, this will vary depending on where you are submitting your appeal.
If things go your way, you could manage to get your assessed property value lowered and end up paying less in taxes each year. More than worth the effort for most people. But if you are denied, the road may become a little more challenging. If you are denied, you will typically take your case to the state level to see if you get a different outcome. There are states including Massachusetts that allow you to challenge your taxes in front of an appellate tax board if the local assessor does not change his or her opinion.
If you are denied, you will typically take your case to the state level to see if you get a different outcome. There are states including Massachusetts that allow you to challenge your taxes in front of an appellate tax board if the local assessor does not change his or her opinion.
If you happen to live in Massachusetts, here is how you can appeal your property taxes. If you reside in another state just Google “appellate tax board and your state’s name”. This will give you the exact location of where you need to go for your tax appeal.
Keep in mind there are also deadlines on when you can challenge your homes assessed value. As an example in Massachusetts owners still, can challenge their real estate tax assessments within thirty (30) days of the mailing date of the actual tax bill. The real tax bill is usually the third-quarter tax bill in jurisdictions that assess taxes on a quarterly basis.
January 1st is when most third-quarter tax bills are mailed in Massachusetts. Therefore, under M.G.L. Chapter 59, the majority of abatement applications must be filed with local assessors offices on or before February 1, 2015. However, in jurisdictions in which taxes are assessed on a semi-annual basis, this date can vary. To preserve your abatement and appeal rights, your taxes must be paid in their entirety for the current and all prior periods.
It would be smart to check in your particular state to find out any deadlines you may have on filing an appeal to challenge your property assessment!
If you are still denied the only option is to take the case to court. At this point, it is up to you to determine if the cost of hiring a lawyer and going through a court value is worth the savings you will get if your case is successful.
Get Clear on Your Property Taxes
You may or may not want to go to great lengths to pay fewer property taxes. But regardless of how much effort you want to put in, every homeowner should at least get educated on how his or her property taxes are calculated. You can do this in an afternoon, and check your property card in the process. Who knows? You may save yourself thousands of dollars with just a little work on your part.
On the slip side if you are buying a home where the assessed value is significantly higher than the market value this should be adjusted during the next tax year. If for some reason this does not happen you are now well armed on how to challenge the assessed value!
Hopefully, this has given you clear direction on how to get your property taxes lowered!
Additional Helpful References on How to Appeal Property Taxes
- How you can appeal your property tax bill via Kiplinger.
- What is assessed value via Investopedia.
- What is the definition of real estate market value via CRE Online.
Use these additional references to help determine whether your home’s assessment is correct and if it is worth it for you to appeal your property taxes.
About the Author: The above Real Estate information on how to challenge high property taxes was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 508-625-0191. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 29+ Years.
Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!
I service Real Estate sales in the following Metrowest MA towns: Ashland, Bellingham, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Northborough, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Sutton, Wayland, Westborough, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.