According to the National Taxpayers Union, roughly 60% of the nation’s taxable property may be over-assessed.  Taxpayers are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars more than they need to.

NTU also states that 30% of all people who appeal their property assessments end up with lower taxes.  Your chances are especially good in a time of declining property values.  Assessors use data from the Multiple Listing Service (just like real estate agents do) to determine assessed values.  However, in a slow market, sales data is simply not available and there is a good chance that the assessment is faulty.

Here’s what you need to do if you decide to appeal.

Don’t Delay – When you receive your assessment notice, you usually have only 30 to 60 days (sometimes an actual date is stated in the fine print) to let city hall know that you plan to appeal.  At this point, it’s ONLY a “notification” that you don’t agree with the dollar amount.

They will then provide you with a hearing date, which will give you time to gather your evidence as to why you think the assessment is too high.  They should also provide you with a list of “allowed” documents that you can bring to the hearing.

Gather the Evidence – First, go to the assessor’s office to check out the data they have on your property.  There may be mistakes in square footage or lot size, or other data may be inaccurate.  Write down the addresses of homes similar to yours (in the neighborhood) and ask to see their information, too.  Don’t worry, the information is public and others can see what YOUR property taxes are, too.  Next, get sales data from a real estate agent and find out what homes are selling for—both listed and sold transactions.

Look for Unique Factors That Could Make a Difference – Are you next to high-tension electrical wires? A drainage ditch?  On an extremely busy street versus your neighbor who lives on a cul-de-sac?  Check to make sure the assessor made adjustments for negative factors.

Hire an Appraiser – Refer back to the list of documents that you might be required to present when your hearing is held. You may need an appraisal, which could run $300 or more.

Word of Caution – If the appraisal or the comparable sales from the real estate agent comes back HIGHER, cancel your hearing appointment.  They also have the ability to RAISE your property taxes at that hearing.

Here’s a link to a handy homeowner’s checklist, “Steps to Take in Appealing Your Assessment”