real estate

How to appeal your real estate taxes

If you're a homeowner, real estate taxes are an important part of your budget. With the recent decline in home prices, however, your tax bill may be lower because taxes are based on a home's value.

If your tax bill seems too high compared to the true value of your home, you can appeal the bill, and you may have your taxes reduced. Here are some important steps for filing a grievance.

  1. Ask about the appeals process. Cities and counties that charge real estate taxes generally have a grievance procedure for taxpayers who believe their bills are in error. Call your local government office or visit its website to determine the process. You may have to fill out a grievance form and even appear at the government facility in person to state your case.
  2. Collect sales data. An important way to establish the true value of your property is to document the sales prices for similar properties in your area. You can find this information through public tax records. You can also ask local real estate agents, who routinely pull comparable sales data, or "comps," on local properties. A more formal way to evaluate the worth of your home is to hire an appraiser. He or she can give you an independent, expert assessment.
  3. Consider hiring a third party. Some professionals focus on helping homeowners appeal their real estate taxes. If you have a lot of money at stake, it may be worth it to hire a professional, such as an attorney, who specializes in real estate tax appeals. Before hiring a third party, however, understand that no one can guarantee your property taxes will be reduced. In addition, the professional will likely charge you a fee for appealing your real estate taxes.

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