Author Topic: Property tax increase by 32% - requesting abatement  (Read 3896 times)

CommonCents

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Property tax increase by 32% - requesting abatement
« on: December 31, 2014, 07:32:37 AM »
Just got the property tax bill for the year and it went up by 32%.  I suspect it's in part because we bought out house at the end of last year, so they reset the value (prior owners had it 17 years, they did a reno in 2002 on the basement).  However, I'm not keen on paying more than my neighbors simply because I'm a new resident.  One of the reasons for objecting to an increase is because of a disproportionate assessment in comparison with other properties.  I'm trying to gather information on what sorts of facts would be useful to present in the application for an abatement.  This has a significant cumulative impact on my COL, so it's important to do it right.

Have you successfully reduced your property taxes?  What did you say?  What factors are considered relevant?  e.g. Do they only look at the square footage of the house, or should I pull up information on houses with the same bed/baths?  How do I find out the taxes of nearby properties?  (I can do preliminary research on Zillow/Redfin, but I'm not expecting they would accept that as definitive.)  Is there a fast way to do these searches or do I need to look house by house?  I intend to ask the town hall these questions as well, to get their perspective, as it may vary by locality.

http://www.mass.gov/dor/docs/dls/publ/forms/abatement.pdf

ZiziPB

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Re: Property tax increase by 32% - requesting abatement
« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2014, 07:50:58 AM »
Not sure how it works where you live but in Connecticut you can find tax info on line for any property by its address.  Go onto the local tax assessor's website (in Connecticut, it's by town but it may be the county where you live) and see if you can access their database.  Sometimes you can only see the assessed value not the actual tax amount but that is really all you need for the tax contest.

CheapskateWife

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Re: Property tax increase by 32% - requesting abatement
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2014, 07:56:35 AM »
I was able to successfully abate an enormous increase in my property's assessed worth by providing a comparable sales report from Zillow.  It turns out that the values in the neighborhood had been skewed by the recent sale of a much larger home with a pool (I don't have one of those) just two doors down.  Once I was able to show that they had misapplied that sale value to the rest of the neighborhood, my assessed value was reduced significantly.

Best option is to provide verifiable sales...start with Zillow's info and then veryify with the tax roll data for the sales numbers.

lurker

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Re: Property tax increase by 32% - requesting abatement
« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2014, 07:57:54 AM »
It does vary by jurisdiction; however, it is unlikely that comparing your assessment to those of your neighbors or other similar homes will be that persuasive.  You mention you bought the house last year; how close is the new assessment to what you paid for the property.  Ultimately, the appraised value should be as close as possible to fair market value (and a recent sale of the subject property is the most appropriate indicator).

If the new county value is close to what you paid, you can still fight it, as in my experience, most of the time they'll at least offer a small reduction (that is still worth your time) just to make you go away (YMMV).

Another option you could consider is paying for an appraisal (and letting the appraiser know that you're doing it to try to lower your property taxes -- wink, wink).

James

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Re: Property tax increase by 32% - requesting abatement
« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2014, 08:00:21 AM »

I understand your situation, I have been there and it is frustrating.

I have fought tax valuation with mixed results. The advice I would have is to definitely fight it, but don't expect to "win". I would expect to be able to push the dial to some extent your direction, which is worth doing, but they aren't likely to drop your level to what you believe is right.

The key is persistence, the system seams almost built to wear you down. It takes phone calls, paperwork, following up and pushing things along. Finding out what might get them to make changes and doing it. Nothing really hard, just busywork for the most part, and fighting back against their "logic" with your own logic.

But the benefits compound over time, definitely worth the fight.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Property tax increase by 32% - requesting abatement
« Reply #5 on: December 31, 2014, 08:10:55 AM »
I challenged our appraisal once, somewhat successfully (I convinced them the house was unfinished, which it was).

The challenge for us was that they wanted to compare sale price per square foot of houses with the same configuration - in our case, split-level houses where most were colonials. We had a list of every recent sale in the area and the property description, pulled from Zillow, when we went in. That allowed us to demonstrate that the expensive houses had a lot more features than ours did, because they cited several sales as justification for our valuation.

Also, find out whether there's an expected difference between market value and appraised value. In Pennsylvania, counties don't like to reassess, so the appraised value is frequently weird crap like 1977 value, which is defined as 31% of current value. You need to know those stupid bureaucratic ratios ahead of time.

CommonCents

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Re: Property tax increase by 32% - requesting abatement
« Reply #6 on: December 31, 2014, 08:20:26 AM »
Thanks all.  Very helpful to get me started.  Even a decrease by a bit will make an impact over time.

I was able to successfully abate an enormous increase in my property's assessed worth by providing a comparable sales report from Zillow.  It turns out that the values in the neighborhood had been skewed by the recent sale of a much larger home with a pool (I don't have one of those) just two doors down.  Once I was able to show that they had misapplied that sale value to the rest of the neighborhood, my assessed value was reduced significantly.

Best option is to provide verifiable sales...start with Zillow's info and then veryify with the tax roll data for the sales numbers.


This could be at play here.  This summer, a house 4 doors down with comparable square footage sold for $330k more than our house.  It was owned by a professional interior decorator who did an impeccable high end job on the renovation of their house.  (We meanwhile, do not have a new renovated kitchen, fancy bathrooms, fancy slate floors or sliding doors, professional landscaping, large deck, etc.  Nor was there a bidding war over our house with a crazy couple determined to offer high enough to scare everyone else away - fortunately for us.)

CommonCents

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Re: Property tax increase by 32% - requesting abatement
« Reply #7 on: December 31, 2014, 08:27:47 AM »
It does vary by jurisdiction; however, it is unlikely that comparing your assessment to those of your neighbors or other similar homes will be that persuasive.  You mention you bought the house last year; how close is the new assessment to what you paid for the property.  Ultimately, the appraised value should be as close as possible to fair market value (and a recent sale of the subject property is the most appropriate indicator).

If the new county value is close to what you paid, you can still fight it, as in my experience, most of the time they'll at least offer a small reduction (that is still worth your time) just to make you go away (YMMV).

Another option you could consider is paying for an appraisal (and letting the appraiser know that you're doing it to try to lower your property taxes -- wink, wink).

Another reason to fight it is that it's overvalued, which I don't necessarily think is the case.  I think I'd be fighting it based on the disproportionate  assessment instead.  I'm not sure how often they reassess properties, and if it's a long time, then long-term owners really make out at the expense of new owners.  This is what happened with my folks - my dad was quite unhappy to learn he needed to pay more in taxes than a much larger home on a lake(with lake access, worth ~$2 million - assessed at ~$600k or 800k I think), so he fought it and got a partial reduction.

"You may apply for an abatement if your property is: 1) overvalued (assessed value is more than fair cash value on January 1 for any reason, including clerical and data processing errors or assessment of property that is non-existent or not taxable to you), 2) disproportionately assessed in comparison with other properties, 3) classified incorrectly as residential, open space, commercial or industrial real property, or 4) partially or fully exempt."

mm1970

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Re: Property tax increase by 32% - requesting abatement
« Reply #8 on: December 31, 2014, 08:29:39 AM »
I don't know about where you live.

But you can get the taxes on Zillow or city-data (at least I get city-data here in California) - it's 4 years old though.

jawisco

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Re: Property tax increase by 32% - requesting abatement
« Reply #9 on: December 31, 2014, 08:50:56 AM »
How much did you pay for the house and how much is it assessed for?  If those numbers are close, you aren't going to win the fight - you can't claim you paid more than market value since what you paid (assuming arm's length transaction), IS by definition the market value, and it really doesn't matter what your neighbors are assessed at.

All that being said, it won't hurt to call up the assessor and see what they have to say. 

NathanP

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Re: Property tax increase by 32% - requesting abatement
« Reply #10 on: December 31, 2014, 08:53:21 AM »
The idea of "fairness" may be dependent on which state you live in. Up until this year I owned a home in Florida which purposely designs its property tax code to favor longer term residents (maximum increase of 3% per year in appraised value) and full-time residents ($50k "homestead" deduction in appraised value). I benefited from this system as I lived in Florida all year and bought my home during the housing market crash. I also lived in a lower cost area where the $50k reduction dropped the taxable value of my home to around $40k.

Unfortunately I cannot help with your situation but wanted to point out that the system may be purposely "unfair" to new buyers. In the case of Florida, a buyer today would be subsidizing his/her neighbors until either the housing market drops again or remains flat long enough for the neighbor's taxable values to rise.

DoubleDown

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Re: Property tax increase by 32% - requesting abatement
« Reply #11 on: December 31, 2014, 08:56:02 AM »
Good luck, I hope you can have it adjusted in your favor. Where I live (Northern Virginia) I've challenged our assessments numerous times on the same reasons you've stated, and they always reliably shoot it down. Once they raised our assessment 50% in one year. Even when I provided proof of the identical house next door being assessed $150k lower, and the house across the street that was 3x larger on 3x more land and worth at least $500k more assessed only $50k higher, the County denies the appeal. Persistence and speaking to assessors did nothing. It's frustrating. Our County is also extremely spendy, and the budget is carried 88% on the backs of homeowners via property taxes.

lurker

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Re: Property tax increase by 32% - requesting abatement
« Reply #12 on: December 31, 2014, 01:21:50 PM »
It does vary by jurisdiction; however, it is unlikely that comparing your assessment to those of your neighbors or other similar homes will be that persuasive.  You mention you bought the house last year; how close is the new assessment to what you paid for the property.  Ultimately, the appraised value should be as close as possible to fair market value (and a recent sale of the subject property is the most appropriate indicator).

If the new county value is close to what you paid, you can still fight it, as in my experience, most of the time they'll at least offer a small reduction (that is still worth your time) just to make you go away (YMMV).

Another option you could consider is paying for an appraisal (and letting the appraiser know that you're doing it to try to lower your property taxes -- wink, wink).

Another reason to fight it is that it's overvalued, which I don't necessarily think is the case.  I think I'd be fighting it based on the disproportionate  assessment instead.  I'm not sure how often they reassess properties, and if it's a long time, then long-term owners really make out at the expense of new owners.  This is what happened with my folks - my dad was quite unhappy to learn he needed to pay more in taxes than a much larger home on a lake(with lake access, worth ~$2 million - assessed at ~$600k or 800k I think), so he fought it and got a partial reduction.

"You may apply for an abatement if your property is: 1) overvalued (assessed value is more than fair cash value on January 1 for any reason, including clerical and data processing errors or assessment of property that is non-existent or not taxable to you), 2) disproportionately assessed in comparison with other properties, 3) classified incorrectly as residential, open space, commercial or industrial real property, or 4) partially or fully exempt."



You have yet to answer the question with respect to current assessment vs. what you paid.  In regard to your 'disproportionately assessed' position, I don't think it means what you (or most reasonable people) think it means:

“In order to obtain relief on the basis of disproportionate assessment, a taxpayer must show that there is an ‘intentional policy or scheme of valuing properties or classes of properties at a lower percentage of fair cash value than the taxpayer’s property.’”  Brown v. Assessors of Brookline, 43 Mass. App. Ct. 327, 332 (1997)(quoting Shoppers’ World, Inc. v. Assessors of Framingham, 348 Mass. 366, 377 (1965)).  "

If you wanted to go that route, you'd have to pull a significant amount of data to prove that recently-sold homes are discriminated against compared to homes that haven't sold in a while.  The easiest way to do this would probably be to show significant valuation increases the year after a home sells.  Might be a fun project if you had hundreds of hours to devote to something that would only save you hundreds/thousands of dollars.  Otherwise, Overvaluation is probably the argument you want to focus on.

Check out this link:  www.mass.gov/anf/docs/atb/2010/10p532.doc

You'll see in that case that the most persuasive information was the recent sale of the subject property.


« Last Edit: December 31, 2014, 01:44:40 PM by lurker »

CommonCents

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Re: Property tax increase by 32% - requesting abatement
« Reply #13 on: December 31, 2014, 01:43:02 PM »
It does vary by jurisdiction; however, it is unlikely that comparing your assessment to those of your neighbors or other similar homes will be that persuasive.  You mention you bought the house last year; how close is the new assessment to what you paid for the property.  Ultimately, the appraised value should be as close as possible to fair market value (and a recent sale of the subject property is the most appropriate indicator).

If the new county value is close to what you paid, you can still fight it, as in my experience, most of the time they'll at least offer a small reduction (that is still worth your time) just to make you go away (YMMV).

Another option you could consider is paying for an appraisal (and letting the appraiser know that you're doing it to try to lower your property taxes -- wink, wink).

Another reason to fight it is that it's overvalued, which I don't necessarily think is the case.  I think I'd be fighting it based on the disproportionate  assessment instead.  I'm not sure how often they reassess properties, and if it's a long time, then long-term owners really make out at the expense of new owners.  This is what happened with my folks - my dad was quite unhappy to learn he needed to pay more in taxes than a much larger home on a lake(with lake access, worth ~$2 million - assessed at ~$600k or 800k I think), so he fought it and got a partial reduction.

"You may apply for an abatement if your property is: 1) overvalued (assessed value is more than fair cash value on January 1 for any reason, including clerical and data processing errors or assessment of property that is non-existent or not taxable to you), 2) disproportionately assessed in comparison with other properties, 3) classified incorrectly as residential, open space, commercial or industrial real property, or 4) partially or fully exempt."



You have yet to answer the question with respect to current assessment vs. what you paid.  In regard to your 'disproportionately assessed' position, I don't think it means what you think it means:

“In order to obtain relief on the basis of disproportionate assessment, a taxpayer must show that there is an ‘intentional policy or scheme of valuing properties or classes of properties at a lower percentage of fair cash value than the taxpayer’s property.’”  Brown v. Assessors of Brookline, 43 Mass. App. Ct. 327, 332 (1997)(quoting Shoppers’ World, Inc. v. Assessors of Framingham, 348 Mass. 366, 377 (1965)).  "

Check out this link:  www.mass.gov/anf/docs/atb/2010/10p532.doc

You'll see in that case that the most persuasive information was the recent sale of the subject property.

I did answer it generally above (see added italics).  I just didn't feel like posting the amount paid/assessed here in detail.

Thanks for the link, I'll check it out. 

fwiw, Nathan P, Mass isn't supposed to have a preference for older residents, as I've discovered it's required reevaluate every 3 years.  That said, yes, even if something unfair isn't explicitly built into it, it certainly seems that way when the amount can increase by a 1/3 in one year without a reason such as a big renovation or addition.