The Tax Man Cometh

The Denninger Report  - by Gini Denninger

Taxes - people just love to pay them. Not! Many home owners think they pay too much in property taxes, and the reality is that many do! Their property values may have dropped and the taxing authorities may not have adjusted for these drops, or it’s possible the home was over-assessed to start with. What to do?!

The first thing to do is to check your assessment. It’s possible your property is still assessed at it’s peak value from 3-4 years ago. If you believe your property is over-assessed, it’s time to seek help. Unless you are 100% certain of your property value, call your favorite Realtor or seek one out. Explain that you need a CMA (Comparative Market Analysis). While some Realtors will gladly do this for free (especially if you are a regular client) be prepared to pay a nominal sum for their time and effort - unless you expect others to work for you for free. If it looks like your property is over-assessed you have options!

Once you are armed with the information of whether your property is over assessed, you need to decide to challenge the assessment yourself or to hire someone to do it for you. At this point, I must disclose that my significant other, Rick, specializes in property tax reductions. Because of this, I get to see (and participate in) the work involved, up close and personal. It is time consuming and requires hours spent, visiting and photographing properties, finding and pouring over comparables, all the while planning strategy for successfully getting that reduction. We go through too many ink cartridges to count and by the time tax season is over, the relief is palpable.

Researching this article, I have come across articles in respectable magazines urging home owners to do the work themselves under the premise that tax boards are irritated if a professional is hired and less sympathetic to the home owner as a result. If anything, I see the opposite, at least in the Greater Rochester region. Many of the tax boards that review cases include real estate professionals who know their taxation region like the back of their hand. Unless you are as well versed as someone who works with property value every day, you usually will come out with the short end of the stick. I see this when our office gets a call from people who decided to go it alone and either did not win or got a nominal token drop in value to make them go away. They then come to Rick to see what he can do. At that point there is little to do until next year, or if there is a possibility of helping, Rick is now faced with a much more difficult situation to overcome and often the reduction total is less than if he had taken the case from the very beginning.

Talking with assessors who deal yearly with citizens seeking a drop their values, the common complaint is use of incorrect comparables and demands based on emotions instead of fact. Often home owners are belligerent and demanding, which does little to gain sympathy. No matter what, assessments are based on facts and unless you are intimately familiar with the facts and can use them to challenge the assessor, you come to the table with a reduced capability to achieve maximum results. I liken this to going to battle with one hand tied behind your back.

Read Part 2 >>

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