In most jurisdictions, tax assessments happen every few years (and often in the first year you own your home). What should you do if you are unhappy with your new assessment? Consider appealing it. Experts estimate that up to 60 percent of home assessments are too high and about one-third of all property tax appeals succeed. They key is to act promptly because there’s always a time limit to file an appeal.
Get your property card. The first thing to do is to ask your assessor’s office to see your property card. The property card shows all the information on your home and land. Ensure its accuracy since the lot size, house square footage, number of rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms enter into the assessment. Make sure the card doesn’t describe more house or land than you own. If the property card is incorrect, you may get your assessment changed without a formal appeal. Check for an error in the tax rate for your home as well. Jurisdictions often have different tax rates for homes with rentable spaces, homes zoned for commercial use, homes in a historic district, or other provisions. Be sure your property is being charged the correct tax rate.
Check the market value. If your property card checks out correctly, check on your home’s market value. Assessed values are based on a percentage of market value which may be listed on your assessment or supplied by your tax assessor’s office. If you have had a recent home appraisal to refinance your home or to get a home equity line of credit, you may be able to use it as evidence of market value. It may also help to search online for sites that show what homes in your neighborhood sell for. You may have a good case for reducing your assessment if you find similar homes at lower values.
Compare your assessment. Check your assessor’s list of homes in your area and look for homes with similar features, such as square footage or lot size, that have lower assessments. Next, check for homes with similar assessments that are bigger or have more land.
Although new homeowners can’t do much to argue market value (since it’s usually established by the purchase price), they should look at their property card to make sure it contains the right information for future assessments.