As the sluggish economy drags on, county boards everywhere are looking for ways to replace lost income, and re-assessments of residential real estate taxes is just one of those ways. Sometimes it's fair, other times it avoids belt-tightening. If your property taxes have been raised and you feel it's unfair, here is how to prepare to meet your assessor for a review to lower them:
1. Look for reporting mistakes. Examine the assessor's entire property description. Note discrepancies and document them with blueprints, surveys, photos or other inspection reports.
2. Compare neighborhood assessments. Are other homes in your neighborhood assessed similar to yours? Check the web first; some counties post assessments online.
3. Compare current sales. Talk to a local real estate agent (if you need a referral, I'm glad to help) and get a report of comparables sold within the last 6 months. Sold homes count, listings don't.
4. Take pictures. Document where your home needs repair compared to other homes in better shape in your neighborhood.
5. Get a new appraisal. If your home is unusual or hard to "comp" this is the one time it can work in your favor. If you recently refinanced and the value is lower, use that report instead.
6. Get your contract. If your taxes increased soon after you purchased, values probably haven't changed that much. Document with your purchase agreement.
7. Are you exempt? There are many special exemptions: homestead, mortgage, senior citizens, veterans, disabled persons, and even energy-efficiency. Check with your county and check them all.
8. Prepare your case. In writing, briefly and professionally describe why you are entitled to the reduction, followed by documentation of your reasons. Make sure you have any required forms completed and know all deadlines for your appeal.