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Anyone ever go through a property tax grievance?
Old 03-11-2007, 06:16 PM   #1
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Anyone ever go through a property tax grievance?

I received a solicitation in the mail from a company that performs tax grievance services for homeowners in my area. It contained a form to fill out regarding specifics about the property and dwelling, and also requested the homeowner SSN. I don't hand out my SSN on a whim, so I sent the company an e-mail with some information which would hopefully garner a response as to whether or not I have a good chance going forward with a grievance, without providing my SSN.

Since www.zillow.com provides tax assessments on all the homes in my area, I went through my immediate neighborhood and found homes which were identical to mine (exact style...some had more amenities like rear additions, in-ground pools, etc) and found a bunch of homes which would help support my over-assessment argument. I used the "birds-eye" view feature on the Zillow website and cropped front and read aerial images of the houses for comparison purposes, as well as the listed taxes for each one. I sent this information to the tax grievance service to help them determine if I have a case. In my opinion, I just did half the work for them. I'm awaiting a response.

If I decide to go with this company, their fee is 50% of the first year savings (reduction in property tax). Some of the comparible homes had property taxes lower than mine by $1k, so if my grievance was addressed and my taxes were adjusted by that much, this effort would save me $500 the first year and $1k every year going forward. The company would get $500 for their services.

Is this something I should attempt to do on my own, or is it better to let the grievance company do it for me? My taxes just went up another $600 this year to over $9k and i really want to do this.

Anyone with experience with this kind of thing? How successful do you think I would be doing it on my own versus letting a company do it for me for a fee?
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Re: Anyone ever go through a property tax grievance?
Old 03-11-2007, 06:37 PM   #2
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Re: Anyone ever go through a property tax grievance?

Yes. We just did it ourselves. It was easy though alot like going to buy a used car.

1. Go to the tax appraisal office and get the data that they are using to set your appraisal. In our area, there is a computer printout with data for every house: square footage, lot size, the last time it sold and the sales price. Do not use zillow because the tax assessor can rightfully point out that it is BS.

2. We protested because a house of our exact same model and lot size about 10 houses away sold for much less than our new assessment. We used this fact as the main basis for our protest. We put in our written report a photo of both our houses, a map showing location of both houses, a 1 year-old appraisal.

3. Our assessor had his ammo: his data on sales. He had selected several sales in our area that were well above average for our area. He said our appraisal was more than 2 months old and blew it off. We pointed out that the sales he had picked had pools or had been re-done on the inside. He blew off the re-modelling because there was no way to verify anything we said.

4. He offered to split the difference with us. We stuck to our guns. When the assessor and the homeowner do not agree, you have to go before a board of judges. He said, "Please wait outside, while I prepare for the judges." We waited. He appeared 10 minutes later and said, "Oh, I found some homes that are lower in sales price. I can agree to your number."

If we had his list of home prices and not just the one home, we could have had a stronger initial argument. OTOH, two homes within 50 meters of our house sold for 40% more than our new assessed value within 3 weeks of our protest. If we had protested a month later, we would have been screwed.
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Re: Anyone ever go through a property tax grievance?
Old 03-11-2007, 06:41 PM   #3
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Re: Anyone ever go through a property tax grievance?

Yes ... I grieve every time I pay property tax
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Re: Anyone ever go through a property tax grievance?
Old 03-11-2007, 06:44 PM   #4
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Re: Anyone ever go through a property tax grievance?

Yes, we (DW actually) got our property tax reduced but we worked directly with the county.

Mom did the same thing in a different state and also helped one of her neighbors do it.

We just sent them a letter showing the comps and they agreed to the reduction.

I think that this is something that you can do yourself, eliminate the middle man, and keep ALL of the first year savings.

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Re: Anyone ever go through a property tax grievance?
Old 03-11-2007, 07:30 PM   #5
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Re: Anyone ever go through a property tax grievance?

Yup, work directly with the county. No need for some fee-charging company to "assist" you. It's usually a straight-forward process.

I've done it in both CA and WA. There was very little pushback. I came armed with comps and other rationalizations, but you're generally dealing with some paper-pusher who doesn't want trouble, so they cave very easily. In one case, the paper-pusher said he couldn't make the change based on my rationale, but he could downgrade the building quality from "superior" to "average" to accomplish the same lower tax rate, so he did it without even inspecting the building.

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Re: Anyone ever go through a property tax grievance?
Old 03-11-2007, 07:49 PM   #6
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Re: Anyone ever go through a property tax grievance?

Quote:
Originally Posted by kjpliny
I sent this information to the tax grievance service to help them determine if I have a case. In my opinion, I just did half the work for them. I'm awaiting a response.
If I decide to go with this company, their fee is 50% of the first year savings (reduction in property tax). Some of the comparible homes had property taxes lower than mine by $1k, so if my grievance was addressed and my taxes were adjusted by that much, this effort would save me $500 the first year and $1k every year going forward. The company would get $500 for their services.
Is this something I should attempt to do on my own, or is it better to let the grievance company do it for me? My taxes just went up another $600 this year to over $9k and i really want to do this.
Anyone with experience with this kind of thing? How successful do you think I would be doing it on my own versus letting a company do it for me for a fee?
Gee, I bet the strength of your case rests upon the amount of money the middle-guy expects to earn from your savings!

We challenged our Hawaii assessment in the mid-1990s when the sales numbers were falling a lot faster than the assessments. It was pretty simple-- fill out a form, provide the addresses or tax-lot numbers of appropriate comps, include a $25 fee, and wait for the understaffed assessor's office to dig out from under the hailstorm of challenges. I bet your local tax office has a pamphlet or a website explaining how to do your own challenges.

You may have comparable appraisals/sales that are lower than yours, but determine how your property taxes are calculated. Appraisals may have nothing to do with assessments and you may not improve your taxes. In fact you may even end up raising your bill. Hawaii calculates assessments by adding up all the total $$ amounts of sales in an area of the island, dividing by the total square footage of the properties sold during that period, and obtaining the $$/sq ft numbers that are multiplied by your lot's & home's square footage. In other words the Hawaii assessments are a much rougher estimate than the appraisals. In a rising market they're below the recent sales (you pay less property tax than your new neighbor who just bought a home) and in a declining market they're above the recent sales (you pay more tax than the neighbor who just bought their home at a bargain discount). Hawaii assessments don't really include the "extra appraised value" of a home's bowling alley, orgy room, and 50-seat movie theater unless that was reflected in a number of similar properties in the area.

Bankrate.com has a number of articles on the subject like this one:
http://www.bankrate.com/brm/news/rea...20050811a1.asp
and you can find more by searching for "assessment" and "appraisal" like here.
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Re: Anyone ever go through a property tax grievance?
Old 03-11-2007, 10:31 PM   #7
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Re: Anyone ever go through a property tax grievance?

I challenge my Honolulu assessment this year. I purchased 1/2 the house from my ex-girlfriend at price that was 14% below the assessed valued based on the average of two appraisers.

Nords were you sucessful in your challenge and how long did it take?
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Re: Anyone ever go through a property tax grievance?
Old 03-11-2007, 11:12 PM   #8
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Re: Anyone ever go through a property tax grievance?

I did this about 12 years ago. Our county increased assessments and many people were in an uproar over the large increases. The county set up meeting places where you could meet with an assesor and discuss why you felt your assesment was too high. I spent 1/2 a day in line and about 10 minutes with the assessor but it was worth it because our assessed value was reduced. Our assessed value and therefore, our property tax bill, is still lower than most neighbors and many comparables in the neighborhood.

My reasons were all based on condition. Yes, the basement is "finished" but it certainly wasn't finished in a manner that would add significant value at sale time. Yes, we have 2 baths, but they are minimal in size, fixtures and plumbing are original, certainly not high end features.

I don't remember how much we saved by doing that but it was definately worth spending a half day in line.
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Re: Anyone ever go through a property tax grievance?
Old 03-12-2007, 08:00 AM   #9
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Re: Anyone ever go through a property tax grievance?

Definately do this yourself ... did several in the early ninties; Just realize that if your property is not unique (i.e. it looks alot like the rest of the neighborhood) the most they'll do is pacify your request with a VERY small adjustment. Won't want to open the floods gates in the neighborhood.

Where I abated it was a 2 page form, required 3 comps and had very stringent dead lines. They'll happily "round file" any late applications.
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Re: Anyone ever go through a property tax grievance?
Old 03-12-2007, 10:39 AM   #10
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Re: Anyone ever go through a property tax grievance?

Quote:
Originally Posted by clifp
I challenge my Honolulu assessment this year. I purchased 1/2 the house from my ex-girlfriend at price that was 14% below the assessed valued based on the average of two appraisers.
Careful, you got a bargain and the assessment will probably be at least as high as the purchase price-- maybe higher. So challenging the assessment will wipe out your purchase price and reset it to the assessor's mathematical formula.

Quote:
Originally Posted by clifp
Nords were you sucessful in your challenge and how long did it take?
Back in 1996 (about the pit of the valuation trough) it only took a couple months and it reduced our assessment by 25%. There'd been a lot of rock-bottom capitulation selling in our neighborhood by people who were probably upside-down on their 7% mortgages. But I've heard that today the assessments-challenges people are backlogged a year or more.

City council members are starting to challenge their assessments, but I suspect that their requests get a bit more priority processing than ours. And you know the $40K exemption was just doubled to $80K?

http://starbulletin.com/2007/01/13/news/story07.html
http://starbulletin.com/2007/02/24/news/story08.html
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Old 11-10-2009, 12:55 PM   #11
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My property taxes were just increased such that I'm paying $150 more a month on the mortgage, cutting into the extra money I was putting toward to mortgage to pay it off early. What would be the best place to get comparable home sales that I could take in to help with my case?
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Old 11-10-2009, 01:16 PM   #12
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Zillow.com will show sales ... but does not cover rural areas. Any realtor can pull recent sales in your neighborhood. Otherwise you're looking at a trip to the registry of deeds.
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Old 11-10-2009, 02:12 PM   #13
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I have done it at least 5 times over the years...

The first time was when I purchased my first house 25 years ago... during the recession back then... they accepted the price I paid for the house since it was not a foreclosure...

The second time I went in and we were discussing the quality of the house etc. They would not budge on their assessment. Then I saw that they had and extra 300 sf ft. of house!! That stopped the discussion as they scheduled someone to come out and measure the house. Seems they measure by 'guesstimate' and thought I had a full two story house. It was on 1 1/2 story... they came and still screwed up the measurement as they tried to add a walk-in attic to the space. Finally got that straight.. went before the board (the judges as to OP said)... got it reduced ONLY because two of them thought that they reducing my sq. ft. and not the value of the house just did not sit well.

The third time, the master bath as in horrible shape. It was ripped out. Since they are supposed to value on 1/1.... it meant that the value was 'lower'. They said 'deferred maintenance'.... went before the board... they agreed. No reduction in value.

Fourth time, my BIL did it with bills etc. showing that it needed a new roof, needed new paint etc. etc.... got a new appraiser and she fell for it agreed the value was to high. He then got HIS out and proceeded to get his reduced on the spot. I was surprised he got it since it was the same argument I lost last time... deferred maintenance.

The last time (this year), again, bought a new house. They said it was worth more than I paid for it!!! Had to go before the board again. Showed how mine was the 5th highest per sq. ft. in my area... that I had just bought the house... etc... The appraiser agreed to reduce the amount, but not to what I paid. The board agreed with me... one said 'it is what he paid, how can you argue with that'....

Be aware, they have a LOT of info. They are used to doing this... so you will need to have your facts in line.. and at least here, anything that you talk about with the appraiser is 'gone' when you go before the board. They can do a completely different tack... you can not bring up what was said...


I would not pay someone to do the work... but they do have an incentive to get you SOMETHING... even if it is not as much as you might be able to get. It also takes time... I had to go there 3 times to get my value reduced $15K... which will save me about $450... and next year.. they might increase me back up to the high price.. so it might only be a one year 'win'....
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Old 11-10-2009, 02:29 PM   #14
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I'm staying under the radar.
I've had a lot of major inside improvements done over the years and do not want to let an assessor inside.
Nope nope nope...
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Old 11-10-2009, 03:49 PM   #15
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Had a major reassessment here 3 years ago. Many problems with that, so town had to revalue several area in town. We contested at the initial value, and were reduced. Then, after a year, we initiated another reval. Town tax assessor is definitely not on your side. We produced 3 sales, but he would not reduce more than a few thousand. Rather than press on with the county, we accepted. In our county there is a two-year wait, and we are coming upon that. Sales in this area (we collect all the data and save) are 20% lower. This time we will get all the reduction, or press on with a county appeal.
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Old 11-10-2009, 05:07 PM   #16
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Since this thread got bumped...

I did go ahead and challenge my assessment the process was easy the constant bird dogging was a pain in the butt. After more than two year of emails and phone calls, I finally reached the same guy at the assessors office three times. He looked at my case and granted my appeal, and few months latter I actually got a refund check.
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Old 11-10-2009, 05:27 PM   #17
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When I lived in NY I would grieve my taxes every year. I used an attorney who took 1/2 of the 1st year savings. I saved a bunch of money over the years. Only problem is you can write off your taxes but not they attorney. At least that's the way I think it works.

Down here in Fla. I fought my taxes last year and went to court myself. A complete joke, just no point as the so called judge is in on the scam. I couldn't get anyone to answer my questions and at one point the property appraiser walked out and the Ref or Judge didn't do a thing. I asked him why he was letting the property appraiser walk out and he just sort of laughed at me. No point to fighting your taxes down here. They just make up a # and send you the bill and there is no rhyme or reason the their madness. Everyone pays a different tax and no one knows how or why. I gave up, they won.
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Old 11-10-2009, 05:40 PM   #18
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If you are resourceful, you can do the challenge yourself. Perhaps if the situation is really unique you might need outside help, but we've never even considered hiring anyone. As far as finding information about comps, at least here in Michigan most of the property assessment info is available free online or at the local assessor's office -- lots of data to wade through, but essential if you want to be successful in your challenge.

I agree with a previous poster that Zillow data is generally too optimistic to be of value. In my community, Zillow data carries no weight at all in a tax grievance.

We've challenged our property tax assessments twice, and were successful both times. The first time, I questioned the description of our property -- the assessor claimed that we had a fireplace in our family room, which clearly we did not have! When I challenged it, I was told that "every" home in the sub was built with a FP, so I walked around and took pictures of a dozen or so homes showing the second chimney on each...along with pictures of our home which didn't have the required 2nd chimney. Easy to prove, taxes were cut by several hundred $$. (Although the previous owner never challenged the description, so they overpaid for nearly 10 years before we bought the home.)

The second time, we challenged on improvements. Many in our neighborhood put in very expensive upgrades -- top of the line kitchens and baths, for example -- and all the homes in the sub (improved or not) were assessed at a higher rate. We did have to submit to an inspection, but the result was well worth it. (We did upgrade quietly about a year later...and sold the home soon afterward. I don't know if the new owners were reassessed or not.)
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Old 11-10-2009, 05:42 PM   #19
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Quote:
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When I lived in NY I would grieve my taxes every year.
It should come as no surprise that regardless of where they live, everyone grieves when they pay taxes.
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Old 11-10-2009, 06:23 PM   #20
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Yup, work directly with the county. No need for some fee-charging company to "assist" you. It's usually a straight-forward process.
Ditto, I've done, and known others who have. The more info the better chance you have of success.
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