Your property tax bill is one of the few bills that, when received, is simply accepted and paid without much debate. However, unlike a car payment, you do have some control over the amount that you pay every quarter or half a year. You cannot fight the mill rate for your specific municipality, but you can fight the value that is used to determine your tax bill. In most cases they are using the last recorded value on file which could either help or hurt you depending on where your current market is. If you feel that your value is dramatically lower than what the town is using, you do have to power to appeal it.
Go to town hall and get a copy of the appraisal they have on file in addition to a copy of your latest tax bill. Some towns will only reassess property values every four years. You don’t have to be a real estate investor to know that values have been all over the place during that time. Some areas and properties that were hit hardest are still dramatically lower, even if they have increased the past few months. If you think you are paying too much based on the old value, you can request an appeal.
During the appeal process, you have the burden of showing that your value is much lower than what the town has on record. You don’t have to hire an attorney or an accountant – simply come to the appeal with pictures and documents supporting your claim. If the property has any damage or needs any maintenance that will require repair and lower the value, you should have pictures and contractor estimates on hand. If there have been recent sales supporting your value, you should include the MLS listings and everything you can about those sales. It is up to you to show that your value is not in line with what the town is using. The more items you can bring to the appeal, the better your chances will be.
The assessor is the final decision maker. In most cases, your value will have to be significantly off to have your town readjust. That being said, with the way the market has fluctuated you may just have a chance. While you may have to wait several weeks or months to get an appeal, you should hear on the spot or within 24 hours if your appeal was accepted. If so, it will be reflected and prorated for your current tax bill. The reality is that while it may take a few hours to put your documents together and you may have to pay an appraiser or reality for supplying you with these items if the town doesn’t see it your way you haven’t lost anything else some time and a few dollars. On the flip-side, if they do reassess, you can save hundreds of dollars every year. The old adage that you don’t know unless you ask certainly applies in this situation.