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Help with Property Tax Appeal
Old 02-04-2020, 11:07 AM   #1
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Help with Property Tax Appeal

Our latest tax assessment shot up which is motivation for me to file an appeal. The process seems really intimidating as far as what do they actually want. I知 going through recent sales on Zillow and the state assessment data base looking for anomalies. It痴 pretty apparent the assessment is a crap shoot.

They offer an appeal by email, phone, or in-person and I知 thinking the threshold to get any relief increases with the type of appeal requested.

Any suggestions from anyone familiar with the process would be appreciated. I知 in MD.
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Old 02-04-2020, 11:30 AM   #2
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What you need is comparable sales data. There is an attorney in our area who specializes in this, the fee is a % of your savings.

If you could find a realtor who can generate comps that would be helpful. Ask around to find the right person to negotiate a fee as a 'side hustle'.
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Old 02-04-2020, 11:49 AM   #3
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Don't know about MD, but I've done a couple grievances with moderate success.

There are really two aspects to look at.

One is how the assessed value of your property compares to similar properties in your area. At least here in FL, there are numerous properties to compare. The idea is equity among neighbors.

The other is how your assessed value compares to the fair value of your property.... however, usually assessed values are consistently lower so they get less grievances. IOW, if all properties in the district were at 90% of fair value, then they would get the same revenue because the tax rate would be 11% higher than if all properties were assessed at fair value, but they get a lot less grievances since the tax rate is the budget divided by the grand list. So if the budget is $10m and the grand list at fair value is $10m then the tax rate would be $1... but if the budget is $10m and the grand list is $9m then the tax rate is $1.111... they get the same revenue but less grievances since when taxpayers look at their assessment they can easily judge that it is less than fair value. In fact, in Florida it is built into the whole assessment process.... so-called first and eighth adjustments typically reduce the fair value by about 15%.

The important thing to remember... and I suspect that you already know this... is that you'll get nowhere just complaining that your property taxes are too high or you can't afford them or things like that.... in a greivance hearing I went through last there were lots of those and the is nothing that the valuation adjustment board can do. OTOH, if your assessed value exceeds fair value or even fair value less sales costs if that is a typical adjustment in your area or is a lot higher than similar properties in the area then you have a case.
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Old 02-04-2020, 11:54 AM   #4
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Our county has an online development map which shows everything about every address. Sq footage, taxes, owner's name, etc.
Our house which is an identical floorplan to one of our neighbors showed 100 sq feet larger on our tax bill and our cost reflected that. I appealed and lost. They said the builder plan shows my house is 100 sq feet larger though the county's own development map says they are exactly the same.
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Old 02-04-2020, 12:09 PM   #5
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^^^^ Can't you just measure the footprint and calculate what your actual square footage is?
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Old 02-04-2020, 12:14 PM   #6
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^^^^ Can't you just measure the footprint and calculate what your actual square footage is?
Maybe, but I somehow think its more complicated than that. I think they do not include garage space and patios. I would probably get in the ballpark, but not enough to suffix for an appeal.

The funny thing is the county has it correct on the website, but they are using the builder's plans to generate the tax bill. I think the error is in the plans.
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Old 02-04-2020, 12:21 PM   #7
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How much do you figure this is costing you annually? $200-300?
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Old 02-04-2020, 12:28 PM   #8
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How much do you figure this is costing you annually? $200-300?
I know exactly what it is costing me since the property taxes are public. Its $100 a year.

I would push it, but in 12 months or so we'll be in a new house.
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Old 02-04-2020, 12:33 PM   #9
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So you're gonna spend how many hours of time and hire how many experts to save a hundred bucks?
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Old 02-04-2020, 12:38 PM   #10
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So you're gonna spend how many hours of time and hire how many experts to save a hundred bucks?
Did you read my post? I am going to spend $0 with 0 hours.
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Old 02-04-2020, 12:57 PM   #11
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I brought sales comps and a recent appraisal to an in-person meeting. I received a major downward Revision in my taxes which lasted all of 12 months until the algorithms put it right back, and even higher yet the following year.
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Old 02-04-2020, 01:53 PM   #12
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Here in Texas, appealing your property tax valuation is almost like a sport. The losers are the ones who don't play the game. All the valuations are "padded" initially to allow for some negotiation, although that varies a bit by County.

I've had "OK" results over the years when appealing myself. Then about 5 years ago, we engaged an agent who handles thousands of appeals in our County every year. They got very good results and so now we use them every year for our primary house and some rentals. Of course, they get half the savings every year. But it saves me the hassle of gathering data on comps and constructing an argument, etc.

I did an appeal in person for DMIL a couple years ago and got a sizable reduction. I went in with 3 comps I had more-or-less cherry-picked because they were all pretty low. The County appraiser pulled up 3 different comps that were more-or-less cherry-picked because they were all pretty high. We amiably accused each other of cherry picking, met half way, and that was that.

Once we sell the last rental, I might start doing this myself again just for the entertainment value and to save the fee we pay the agent. But for now, as long as they're getting good results, this is one job I don't mind paying an expert to do.
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Old 02-04-2020, 02:00 PM   #13
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I've had to go in and discuss ours several times over the yrs. Before moving where we are now, 80% of fair value was the norm. The county we live in now it's 110%+ of fair value and I discussed it a cpl times in our last home but our new home is very far below so we are in stealth mode not to bring attention to ourselves. They raise it so much every yr, just a matter of time before I'm back up to the accessor. All suggestions posted above plus: (1) Check your counties mapserver, auditor's site for comparisons in your area. It's all public (2) our assessors do a 1-10 scale on all the different aspects of your home, flooring, windows, etc. If your assessor does the same ask to see how those aspects of your home are rated. I won't let the bastards in our home because they have flat out lied multiple times so all our home aspects are rated 10 and I'm fine with that. (3) We have a lot of realtor and developer owned properties in our area that are always conveniently taxed well below market value. Really check those tax assessments. Most of the assessors I've dealt with elsewhere have been good people and honest. Our county just booted an extremely corrupt assessor out. Dang what a mess.
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Old 02-04-2020, 02:02 PM   #14
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Here in Texas, appealing your property tax valuation is almost like a sport like calling the cable company to ask for a better rate. The losers are the ones who don't play the game call.
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Old 02-04-2020, 02:39 PM   #15
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Not looking forward to our first full property tax bill here in central TX. Moved into a new house in June 2019, the property taxes for 2019 were already set from the previous year (and very low, since it was based on the value of the lot only).

As much as I loathed taxes in CA, at least we knew what the property taxes would be at the time of purchase, and Prop 13 would keep them from accelerating upward too much (2% yearly limit). I still expect Sacramento to start neutering Prop 13 for homeowners. As it is, the property taxes on our 1995 CA house purchase was at 1.03%. When we sold it late in 2018, it was 1.26% for the new owners. One way or another, tax collecting agencies find a way to increase revenue.
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Old 02-04-2020, 02:44 PM   #16
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I just pulled the 3 latest sales from our development (identical units) post-Great Recession...so they were low...got most of what I asked for...they haven't re-valued yet.
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Old 02-04-2020, 02:50 PM   #17
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I did this close to 20 years ago in Maryland. I went in person with comparable sales data and noted the age of the houses as compared to our home. I noticed a lot of folks arguing in to not pleasant tones with the assessors, so when my time came I remained pleasant and smiling and sympathetic to the assessor as I made my case. I did get my assessment lowered easily, they did not even question my data. From my experience, my main recommendation is to go in person with the facts, state your case, and remain pleasant.
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Old 02-04-2020, 03:28 PM   #18
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I don't know how much money is involved, but you may want to talk to some local experts (realtors or attys who handle tax appeals) to find out the success rates for appeals before you spend the time or money on an appeal.

In our prior location, appeals were almost always losers. I appealed twice with the help of a local realtor (I was an atty) and lost both times. The third time, I hired an atty specializing in property tax appeals and he lost as well.

After getting to know some of the people in the property tax office, one of them confided to me that they "prided" themselves on rejecting pretty much any appeal they received. I didn't waste time on appeals after that.
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Old 02-04-2020, 03:44 PM   #19
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I've done several and won each one when there was cause to appeal. I set up a spreadsheet comparing comps (you can get them from Zillow or the county assessor's site) and comparing amenities and square footage. I also looked at the real estate reporting (any firm will provide it) for the annual average sales price inflation for the neighborhood/city/county. I compiled this and submitted it. In one case I graphed the price/sq ft of solds with mine charted on the line to show where mine should have been.

In the last case their reassessment changed to a number lower than I was even asking. This year I was SOL because the increased value was right on.

To those who may say it's only a few hunderd dollars; yes, but it is a basis for all future increases and since they tend to be be % increases rather than true reassessments a lower number can pay dividends for years to come. They have in my case.
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Old 02-04-2020, 04:56 PM   #20
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I did this close to 20 years ago in Maryland. I went in person with comparable sales data and noted the age of the houses as compared to our home. I noticed a lot of folks arguing in to not pleasant tones with the assessors, so when my time came I remained pleasant and smiling and sympathetic to the assessor as I made my case. I did get my assessment lowered easily, they did not even question my data. From my experience, my main recommendation is to go in person with the facts, state your case, and remain pleasant.


This is especially helpful. Thanks to all for many other helpful comments.

In MD they reassess every 3 yrs on a rotating cycle. The state does the assessment which is supposed to make it impartial since most of the taxes are levied at the county/municipal level. The assessed value is generally in the 90% of FMV range so it feels like you池e getting a break. Our current assessment is ~107% of FMV and increased by 17%. The saving could be 600/yr and would likely affect all future assessments.

I am using Zillow and the state property tax data base to find comps. They supposedly provide the worksheets for any property for $1. I just keep thinking I値l get laughed out of the meeting if I show up with Zestimates, but actual sales data on Zillow is easier to search and correlates to the state data base. I wanna be that guy that is making it easy for them to make an adjustment and not confrontational with the people that can actually help.
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