In Rochester, NY the Local Property Tax Assessment Season opens just before the Road Repair Season. And tax assessment season can be more rough, rocky and strewn with pot holes than road repair season. I helped my fiance, Beth, challenge my future Mother-In-Law, Mary's, home tax assessment. Here are some of the lessons we learned from successfully challenging our tax assessment.
Tax Assessment: The assessment had increased over 20%, or $20,000, from $98,000 to $118,000. This was over the 4 year reassessment cycle, or about 5% a year. Mary didn't want to fight the assessment, but Beth prevailed. In Monroe County, NY, we have an informal process to avoid a more formal appeal to a Board of citizens familiar with Real Estate.
Strategy: 1) Information 2) Comparables 3) Condition
- I ran the comparables and my CMA valuation was $116,000 (I said "Why bother", but the decision to challenge had already been made.)
- Zillow, at the time, was only giving the old assessments
- RealEstateABC.com gave an estimate identical to the Town's at $118,000
I copied a couple of the best comparable homes (in our favor), but we chose not to argue comparables.
Condition: Our best argument. We kicked our own tires:
- New roof needed: $8,000
- New driveway needed: $2,000
- Other Updates: $3,000
- Backs up to the 490 Expressway (picture).
- NYS Highway Dept does not take care of the border (picture), fence and vegetation.
- Thought to build a deck or a 3-season room, but didn't because of the traffic, noise and view (early Spring picture with no leaves). I even thought of bringing an audio tape of the sound/din of the traffic.
We arrived 15 minutes early. The door was open to the appeals room. The fellow ahead of us was challenging his appeal terribly. He educated us big-time.
What Not To Do:
- Argue, sometimes loudly.
- No supporting documentation.
- Trying to convince the appeals officer by just talking.
- Leaving nothing with the officer, but a bad impression.
- If you attack, they attack back. If you negotiate, they negotiate.
- Leave on bad terms.
My resolve was to do: "None of the above".
- We had typed up our bullet points and gone over them several times.
- I prepared several possible questions he might ask: 1) Why should your home's value be lowered?2) What value do you think it has? 3) What do you base your opinion on?
- Small talk. Common friends and acquaintances and local history.
- Mary (45 year resident on fixed income) did most of the talking. Beth added details and had data and documents, with copies for the appeals officer. I just sat there for moral support, to monitor the proceedings and take notes, if necessary.
- We presented our bullet points without reading them.
- We left copies of all our information with the assessor.
Result: I'm still getting married and I got a nice home-cooked, "thank-you" dinner for my help. The assessment was reduced $8,000, from $118,000 to $110,000, or about 6.8% for the next 4 years. With a 4% tax rate, that's $320 a year. We had been told to hope for "split the difference" or a 50% reduction. We got a 40% reduction of the increase and settled for that.
Chicken Parm, Anyone?
Posted by: Cliff Jacobson
Adapt Or Die!
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