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Challenging Your Property Assessment

MoneyWise | Aug 5, 2022

Show Notes

Homeowners love the fact that property values have gone through the roof this past year, but there’s a downside. If you haven’t gotten your latest property assessment, you could be in for a shock. Your property tax assessment will probably rise right along with your home’s value. But is it accurate? We’ll tell you how to challenge yours on this MoneyWise.

  • Real estate analysts are predicting that a property assessment reckoning is coming due to dramatically higher home values. Since assessments are automatically tied to property value in most cases, tax hikes seem inevitable.
  • Property assessments were already trending upward well before the huge value spikes of last year. In Spokane, Washington, the average property tax bill rose from $2,500 in 2019 to $3,000 in 2021, an increase of 20%. You can only imagine the increase when the 2022 bill comes around.
  • The good news is, you can challenge your property tax assessment. It doesn’t mean you’ll win, but you can always try. By some estimates, you have a 20% - 40% chance of being successful in challenging an assessment.
  • Almost all jurisdictions have some form of appeal process, usually within 90 days of receiving a new assessment. First you need to find out the deadline for appealing. Then check to see how your home was assessed. In most cases it’s simply a percentage of the market value.
  • Then make sure that your local assessment office has applied any reductions or credits you’re entitled to. These are things like homestead exemptions, and credits for veterans, the elderly, and the disabled. You may have to show evidence that you’re entitled to a particular benefit. Very often, homeowners don’t take advantage of these breaks.
  • Next, make sure that the official description of your property is accurate. Your local assessor’s office should have a record card on file describing your property. You can ask to see it. Look for discrepancies like an extra bedroom or bathroom that you don’t really have. The assessor may be able to correct a mistake on the spot, so you don’t have to make a formal appeal.
  • If everything in the property description checks out, you next want to start comparing your property to other homes in your neck of the woods. But make sure you’re doing it “apples to apples.’
  • That means comparing your property only to those with similar features — roughly the same square footage and lot size — and the same number of bedrooms and bathrooms. If you don’t have a basement, don’t compare your property to others that do. Even an unfinished basement can add 15% to a home’s value.
  • If you see that you’re being assessed a higher amount than similar properties in your neighborhood, you may have grounds for an appeal.
  • At that point, you want to start building your case. The appeal process itself will vary, so you’ll need to check with your local assessment office to see how it’s done and to get any forms you might need.
  • Whatever the process, though, you’ll need to gather and organize your evidence. That would be the value of comparable homes you’ve dug up, photographs, and even blueprints if you have them.
  • Once you file your challenge, you may have to wait several months before you get an answer, and it may not be the answer you want. But that doesn’t mean you should give up.
  • Most jurisdictions have an appeals board, where you can make your case in person.
  • You don’t have to do this all on your own. If you’re willing to shell out a few hundred dollars, you can hire an independent appraiser to get a more accurate value of your property.
  • But first, make sure your jurisdiction allows outside appraisals, and that your appraiser is certified by the Appraisal Institute or the American Society of Appraisers.
  • You may be wondering if all this is worth it. Well, not if you discover fairly early in the process that comparable properties were assessed the same as yours.
  • But if they aren’t, and you win your case, you’ll be able to enjoy a lower tax bill year after year … and that would definitely be worth it.

On this program, Rob also answers listener questions:

  • How should closing costs factor into your decision about buying a home?
  • How will your capital gain be determined after selling a second home and how can you minimize the tax liability?
  • Would it be wise to sell your primary home and move into a rental property?
  • How can you investigate pension information with your employer?


Remember, you can call in to ask your questions most days at (800) 525-7000 or email them to Questions@MoneyWise.org. Also, visit our website at MoneyWise.org where you can connect with a MoneyWise Coach, join the MoneyWise Community, and even download the free MoneyWise app.

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