How To Reduce Your Property Taxes

Wed Mar 22, 2017 17:03:52PM
Categories: Property Taxes
A suburb in Urbandale, IA. Typical setting that could benefit from property reassessment.By: Photo by Lynn Betts, USDA Natu
If you own real estate in the United States, you know all about property taxes. And it stands to reason that you feel each and every time you pay that you might be paying too much. Ever wonder if you can proactively get your property taxes lowered? The simple answer is you can, if you are willing to put in a little effort.

The fact is a great many homeowners all across the country are simply overpaying in property taxes. In fact, the National Taxpayers Union cites their findings, and the reasoning behind it:

Statistics vary by area, but experts estimate that between 30 and 60 percent of taxable property in the United States is over-assessed, and this leads to higher property tax bills. Middle- and lower-income taxpayers are among the most often over-assessed. Yet typically fewer than 5 percent of taxpayers challenge their assessments, even though the majority who do so win at least a partial victory when properly prepared.

Over-assessment. That's the issue. The way it works is that your home or piece of property is assessed (on average across the country) only every 1 to 3 years by the county (usually). And with the rising and falling rates in the real estate market any given year, it stands to reason that your property simply isn't worth as much from year to year. The county office doesn't typically take this into account though, every year. That leaves gaps in true value vs county recorded and perceived value.

Enter Property Tax Reassessment. That is the way to lower your property tax. It's not always the easiest, or most fun process (as with most bureaucracy), but it is a process that with minimal research and a trip or two to the right county office, can be a successful route into saving you hundreds, possibly even thousands every year on property taxes. For the above quoted 5% of Americans that try, a great many are successful, year in and year out.

There are a few ways to go about getting your house reassessed. You can obviously start with a quick and local-centric Google search. That's a great way to get the ball rolling. Read a handful of different resources to familiarize yourself with the process. And if it helps, I'll include a few links at the bottom of this posting to make it even easier.

You will likely find that you have two main options: do it yourself, or hire a company that promises to do it all with ease for you. My 2 cents, do it yourself. It takes only a few hours total, and costs you only the gas required to the county assessment office that way. Otherwise, a professional will charge. To each their own there though. Hiring a professional is still better than not pursuing at all, and will still likely save you a decent chunk of cash.

To do so yourself, consensus says visit your local county assessor's office. In some cases, you might not have to even make the drive, as they make the information you need available online. A google search or a phone call to the office is a great starting place. What you are in search of, your property card. There you will have all the information (free of charge) that your municipality/county/city has to determine your property's value. Look it over with a fine-toothed comb. If there are any errors, reporting the errors likely will save you money with ease.

Basically a reassessment is a way to gain your property's true and current market value, over what the county's outdated assessment likely has it at. Research what other houses close to you are currently selling at (not listed for, as many times they sell at much lower rates, especially if your neighborhood is experiencing a drop in market value, like so many all across the nation). If it's clear that your property is overvalued, document 5 plus houses, and start making your case for the court.

You can also contact local real estate agents to get an even better appraisal number of the houses that are currently going in your area. Most real estate agents would gladly help you, as word of mouth and customer care is their bread and butter. Networking and such. Take advantage and be courteous, it goes a long way.

Once you have a decent case that your property is seemingly overassessed, you schedule an appointment and meet with a local assessor to present your case. Typically takes a few weeks to hear back. Be diligent. If you get denied, you can always file an appeal.

So, it's not as easy as clicking a button. But reducing your property taxes is a very real thing you can proactively set out to do, if you truly believe your taxes are simply too high. 30-60% of the time, that feeling is 100% accurate.

As my outline for how to accomplish this might be a little too vague for some, like I stated above, here are a few resources you can consider that go into even more depth on the process. Please comment and share your personal experiences, and let me know if this helps, or needs to be amended in any way. Tax policies, they are always a'changin on us.

Zillow: How to Fight High Property Taxes

Investopedia: 5 Tricks For Lowering Your Property Tax

HGTV: Getting a Property Tax Reassessment Due to a Decline in a Home's Market Value
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