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  How To Lower Your Property Taxes  


About 25% of America's cities have tax rates higher than 2% (the highest rate is 4% in Newark, New Jersey.)  This means that over 25-50 years, many people pay the same amount in property taxes that they paid for their house!  To lower your property taxes, consider the following options:

  • Find out what property tax breaks are available in your area: there could be tax breaks for veterans, seniors, low-income families, the disabled, long-time residents, owner-occupied homes, and so forth.  Your local assessor's office would have this type of information.

  • When you file your federal tax return, don't forget to deduct your property tax expenses for houses, cars and boats.

  • Move someplace where property taxes are lower.  You can use the Lifestyle Optimizer and City Reports at Homefair.com to check property tax rates in almost any city.

  • When you receive a notice from the assessor that your property taxes have risen, if you think their assessment is wrong, protest it within 30 days.  The assessor's notices may be deceptive, because local governments often juggle some numbers to try to minimize protests.  Sometimes they do this by assessing your home at a low value (to make you think your home is under-assessed), and then they charge a high tax rate on assessments.  The only sure way to determine whether you are being overtaxed is to compare your assessment to other property assessments and actual home sales in your neighborhood.

Here's a quick guide to appealing your property tax assessment:

  1. Survey your property.  Find out the legal identification of your lot and the dimensions of your land (you may have a land survey in your records.)  Then use a tape measure to measure the outside dimensions of your house.  Note whether the second story is smaller (assessors sometimes mistakenly list them as the same.)

  2. Search the neighborhood for homes similar to your own home.  Look for homes that are similar in age, size, architecture and condition to your own.  A real estate agent who knows your neighborhood will often be able to help you look up records of comparable homes.

  3. Visit the tax assessor's office to see your property record card, something the assessor uses to estimate a home's actual value.  Note anything that's wrong, and try to remember things about your home that would decrease its value.  Check to see whether the assessor added it up correctly.

  4. Review the record cards for houses you think are comparable.  Note which houses are assessed less than yours.

  5. If you think you can show that an assessment is incorrect, meet with the assessor to ask for a correction.  If that doesn't work, ask for the paperwork and guidance you'll need to file a formal appeal. 
Read this article on Tax-Saving Tips for Homeowners if you'd like to see more tax savers.

(Next Gem: How To Sell Your Home For Maximum Gain)

 
   
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