(This article appeared previously on MarketWatch.)
This is the time of year when many Americans stop thinking about taxes and start thinking about beaches and vacations. But since many home assessment notices for 2016 are mailed out in the spring, you might be unpleasantly surprised to see that you’re soon going to owe more.
Take note because while in some areas you may have a full six weeks to appeal (from the time you receive the assessment in the mail), in others, you’ll have as little as two weeks. “If you miss this window, you’ll have to wait until next year to protest,” says Davis.
Does this card indicate that you have three bedrooms when you only have two? That you’re sitting on 3.0-acre lot when it’s only .30? Is your house closer to 2,500 square feet than the specified 3,500? Errors like these are more common than you think, according to Pete Sepp, president of the NTU.
The good news is that simple discrepancies can often be corrected right away and you can avoid a formal hearing. “You’d be surprised how much can be settled with your first try; if the adjuster has no reason to disagree with you — for example, if your property card says you have four bedrooms and you clearly only have three — it’s a slam dunk,” says Davis.
Back up your case with any relevant photos. “Preparation for this process can go a long way in helping your case,” says Mitch Roschelle, a partner at PwC, and the firm’s U.S. Real Estate Advisory Practice leader. “Towns are inundated with appeal applications and those that are well-organized and well-supported stand the best chance of being considered.”
First, while legitimate third party experts can save you a lot of time, energy, and frustration, they are also going to pocket a big chunk of your tax savings — a flat percentage of up to 50 percent of your first year’s reduction.
Second, some appeals boards are more sympathetic to homeowners who represent themselves. “There’s the ‘believability’ factor,” says Sepp.
Then, reap the rewards. “Over 30 percent of researched, prepared homeowners have some kind of success appealing,” says Sepp. “And it can make a dramatic difference in your bill, especially if you live in a jurisdiction that will allow that new assessment to stay in place for several years.”
Vera Gibbons is a financial journalist. A former analyst with MSNBC who appeared regularly on The Today Show, Gibbons has written for Inc., SmartMoney, Kiplinger’s, Real Simple and All You, among others. She recently hosted a series on Yahoo! called Savvy Spender and completed a personal-finance insurance series for msn.com.
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This article is reprinted with permission from MarketWatch.com. © 2015 Dow, Jones & Co., Inc. All Rights Reserved.