By Vera Gibbons of Zillow
Errors in your home’s assessment could cost you big time. Here’s how to make sure all the facts line up.
When tax time rolls around, many homeowners are surprised at the amount of property tax they owe. If you disagree with the stated value of your property, it’s worth a closer look to see if your bill has increased fairly.
To be sure you’re not paying more than you should, check the following factors.
First, verify that there are no mistakes on your property card — a document that records information such as dimensions, acreage and value. Does the card show that your home has three bedrooms when it only has two? That it sits on 3.0-acre lot when it’s only on .30? That it has a finished basement when, in fact, it doesn’t? That it has two fireplaces when it only has one?
Errors like these can — and do — occur, and they’re actually quite common. But you won’t know about discrepancies if you haven’t seen your home’s card and reviewed it carefully. Get a copy at the town hall, bringing any errors to the immediate attention of the assessor. Adjustments can often be made without the need for a formal appeal.
After you pull your home’s property card, take a look at a few of your neighbors’ cards — specifically, neighbors who have homes that are similar to yours in terms of age, size, style, condition and location.
How do their assessments line up with yours? Maybe your four-bedroom house with a one-car garage has been assessed at $250,000. Your neighbor also owns a four-bedroom home, but this house has a two-car garage, a nice little shed, and even a swimming pool — and yet it’s valued at $235,000. Make a case, as you likely have one.
Do you live in a home that’s in deteriorating condition? In a neighborhood that’s undesirable due to strange smells, poor air quality or heavy street traffic? These are the types of factors that could lower your property’s value.
Prior to construction, you may have had discussions about how much that new pool or deck was going to cost you in terms of property tax. After all, you needed to know what to expect, and just how much higher the bills were going to be.
But here’s the thing: Maybe those structural improvements never came to fruition or are not yet completed, and yet your bill reflects these assessments as if you’ve been enjoying them. Speak up and save!
Are you taking advantage of special exemptions? Some states offer tax reductions for veterans, the disabled, and senior citizens. Some also provide reductions for historic buildings and special energy-efficient systems. Ask about these — and other incentives for tax reductions — that you may be eligible for. It’s worth a shot.