Understanding how it works to appeal property taxes

When the market gets hot, people tend to forget about their property taxes. Even the Sacramento County Assessor shows there were 35% less appeals filed last year compared to previous years (see graph below). We all know the market increased rapidly in recent time, but some people frankly still should have appealed, but they didn’t. Here is how the appeals process works and some tips to consider for this year.

Real Estate Agents & Loan Officers: Knowing these tips makes you well informed and an enormous asset for your clients (download a larger image to use in your newsletter). I hope this helps.

flow chart for appealing property taxes - by sacramento appraisal blog - white 530 - 2

10 quick things to know about appealing property taxes

  1. The Date: Your assessed value is based on January 1 of the given year – NOT today’s value.
  2. 2004-2007: If you purchased from 2004-2007 in particular, be sure to pay attention to your property taxes this year since the market is not quite back to those price levels yet in many cases.
  3. Wait Until July: Wait to see how the Assessor assesses your property before deciding to appeal. New assessments should be out in very early July. Do NOT hire anyone (including me) to help you appeal before you know what your assessed value is.
  4. Your Wallet: Remember that ever $10,000 in assessment is about $125 out of your pocket. This is a good gauge to keep in mind to help you decide whether it is worth it to appeal or not.
  5. Deadlines: You can begin appealing in early July, but the deadline to dispute property taxes in Sacramento County is usually November 30 (sometimes December 2). The deadline to appeal property taxes in Placer County is usually mid-September (dates will be announced by July).
  6. Two Form Options: There are 2 forms you can fill out. The Prop 8 “Decline in Value” form is a free informal review and the Application for Changed Assessment is $30 and is an actual appeal. Knowing the difference can make a huge impact for you and your clients because sometimes people think they appealed, but they actually only filled out the free form. Here is a brief video explaining the differences between these two forms.
  7. My Recommendation: In this market I recommend filling out the free Prop 8 “Decline in Value” form first, but if you don’t hear back by October in Sacramento County or August in Placer County, file a formal appeal. The Prop 8 form has no weight or power to take your appeal further once the appeals deadline has passed. In other words, if the Assessor disagrees with your value on the free form, you cannot move the conversation forward or have the right to an appeals hearing once the deadline to appeal has passed (since you did not actually file a formal appeal).
  8. Lowball: Don’t lowball your value.
  9. Comps Near January: Support your value with sales close to January 1 of the given year. Make sure your “comps” really are comparable. Don’t just use the lowest sales in the neighborhood. Use whatever is comparable.
  10. What Happens After You Appeal: The Assessment Appeals Board will either agree with your value, propose a new value that you can either accept or reject, or call for an appeals hearing. Try to resolve your appeal before the hearing. Otherwise bring your support to the hearing and argue your case. Resolving your appeal prior to the hearing can happen over the phone with whatever appraiser is assigned to your case. This is where knowing the market and all comps really well comes in very handy.

By the way, this graph shows the number of appeals filed last year after the market really heated up. What will happen this year?

graph of assessment appeals filed

flow chart for appealing property taxes - by sacramento appraisal blog - white 2A Resource for Your Blog & Newsletter: For my real estate friends, let your clients know about the tips above by forwarding this post. Or you can use my property tax flow image on your blog, Facebook or in your newsletter (just link back to me). Here is a larger-sized image too in case it’s relevant. Just click on the thumbnail and save to your desktop.

My Services: I’ve done quite a bit of work with “decline in value” property tax situations, but also with escape assessments and other base-year value challenges. I don’t use a full appraisal because it’s really not needed in most cases. Instead I developed a more limited custom valuation product that is amply informative, yet it costs less than a full appraisal.

Questions: Any other tips? Why do you think there were less appeals filed last year? Have you ever disputed your property taxes and found success?

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5 things to know about 2013 property taxes

There are going to be many property owners in for a rude awakening come next week when they find out how much their property taxes increased. We all love it when real estate values go up, but one of the unfortunate byproducts is increased taxes – especially for those who had their property assessments lowered by the Assessor’s Office in recent years.

There is so much bad and dishonest conflicting information out there about property taxes in Sacramento County, so I want to help clear some of that up by giving accurate insight based on my expertise with the property tax appeals process.

Five things you should know about property taxes in 2013:

  1. Image-purchased-by-Sacramento-Appraisal-Blog-and-used-with-permissionWhen can you appeal? The formal period to dispute 2013 property taxes in Sacramento County will be open from July 2, 2013 to December 2, 2013.
  2. How can you find out your 2013 assessed value? You can look up your 2013 assessment here on the Assessor’s website in early July 2013. Keep in mind the assessed value is supposed to be based on January 1, 2013 (NOT the current market). If the value looks too high, then I recommend appealing if it makes enough sense for you. Every $10,000 of assessment equals about $100-125 out of your pocket, so it’s important to understand how much you are over-assessed to determine whether it’s worth it or not to pursue the appeals process. I usually recommend property owners to pursue an appeal if they are assessed more than $30,000 too high. The bulk of people I’ve assisted are usually assessed between $50,000 to $100,000 too high (my record was 1.5 million on a piece of land).
  3. Who will pay more in taxes this year? Since the market increased last year, mostly all property owners will have a typical 2% increase in taxes to account for inflation, but there will also be MANY property owners who have their taxes adjusted upward by 10-15% easily. The Assessor can only inflate taxes by basically 2% each year under normal circumstances, but for property owners who received a “Prop 8 temporary reduction” over the past several years, their property taxes can be raised any amount each year so long as it is not increased above the original “base-year value” (called the “Prop 13 value” – which is usually the original purchase price level from years ago). This essentially means many home owners will be paying hundreds of dollars more this year – and they didn’t even see it coming.
  4. image purchased from 123rf dot com and used with permission - Sacramento Appraisal Blog - smallerWhich form should you fill out? This confuses so many people, so read closely. There are actually two forms you can fill out during the appeals process. There is a free form called the “Prop 8 Decline in Value” form. It is NOT an appeal, but you might be able to get results still by asking the Assessor to review your property for free. If you do not hear back from the Assessor’s office by October though, I highly recommend filing a formal appeal (cost is $30) so you have recourse as a property owner after the appeals deadline on December 2 has passed. I cannot emphasize how important it is to know the distinction between these two forms. Please take a few minutes to watch the video below for more information. This can save you and your contacts money.
  5. Do you need help or not? If you have access to data (sales in particular) between January and March 2013, you can put together your own support for your property’s value. If you can do this, don’t hire anyone. The key is to put together something solid, honest and realistic (don’t lowball the Assessor). If you do not know how to support a value for your property, hire someone. Keep in mind that in most cases I strongly discourage a full appraisal because it’s just too much unnecessary information  unless the property is very complex.

I hope this was helpful for you personally or simply good information to make you a stronger asset and resource for your clients. Do keep me posted if you have any questions. Feel free to comment below and I’ll be sure to respond to you.

My Services: In case it’s relevant, I’ve assisted countless property owners during the tax appeal process over the past few years, and they’ve had profound success in reducing their property taxes. I’ve done quite a bit of work with typical “decline in value” situations, but also with escape assessments and other base-year value challenges. I don’t use a full appraisal because it’s not needed in most cases. Instead I developed a more limited custom valuation product that is amply informative, yet it only costs about 1/3 of what a full appraisal costs. You can check out my property tax website if you wish. Let’s talk more if you have any questions.

Watch a Tax Appeal Video: In case you’d rather listen to the content of this post, watch the video below (or here)

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What to do when a “Notice of Hearing” comes in the mail regarding your property taxes

So you filed your property taxes last year and have been waiting for an answer. Now what? Today I want to walk you through what happens after you turn in an appeal. This is good to know for home owners as well as real estate professionals.

After Filing an Appeal: Once you dispute your property taxes, if you provide good support for your value, chances are the Assessor may weigh your situation carefully and either agree with you or offer you a value that is somewhat close to your proposed value. But it doesn’t always play out like that.

notice of hearing from Assessor - Sacramento Appraisal Blog

The truth is even if you provide stellar data and give the best written presentation possible when filing an appeal, you can still get a “Notice of Hearing” form which sets up a date for you or your agent to appear at an appeals hearing. This hearing is generally the last opportunity to make your case for a lower assessed value.

Does a “Notice of Hearing” mean your value has been rejected? Not at all. Keep in mind sometimes these notices in Sacramento County are mailed automatically if the Assessor’s appraiser has yet to get to your file before a certain date. However, it could also be due to the appraiser not agreeing with your value. You’ll never know until you contact the Assessor (I do this for my clients).

Tax Change Withdrawal Form - Sacramento Appraisal Blog

A Real Life Communication Example: Let’s consider the example above. A home owner contacted me to help provide her with a valuation during the process of her tax appeal. I put together a very solid report to clearly illustrate market value. Even the graphs in my report made it incredibly obvious that her property was in no way worth $251,000. However, I still received a “Notice of  Hearing” to make an appearance at an Appeals Hearing. This notice was in no way due to my work, but rather the Assessor’s appraiser was not able to view the property’s file before the “Notice of Hearing” mailer deadline. This means I had to contact the Assessor’s appraiser to talk about the property once the notice came in the mail. Thankfully after reaching the appraiser it was a smooth process, and the appraiser ended up reducing the value by $121,000 (about $1,500 in savings). In light of the agreed upon verbal reduction, I then received the “Tax Withdrawal Form” from the Assessor and then faxed it to their office to basically resolve the appeal by agreeing to the new value listed. It would have been ideal to get the Tax Withdrawal Form in the first place since my original report was already conclusive, but this is how it works. Sometimes there are a couple of extra hoops of communication to jump through. This case was actually easy, but others have taken much longer.

In short, this is a small example, but it helps illustrate what it’s like to communicate regarding property taxes. Sometimes it can be smooth, but in many cases it’s a huge pain there are inconveniences that cause minor delays (which add up over time).

Property Tax Advice (after you file an appeal):

  1. It takes time: Be patient with the process as it can take a while to work it out.
  2. Strategic use of manners: Be diplomatic with the Assessor’s office. Avoid name-calling or rudeness.
  3. Negotiate a new value by calling: If you get a Notice of Hearing letter, contact the appraiser listed on the form to try to work out a value before the hearing takes place. Just because there is a scheduled hearing does not mean the hearing has to actually happen. It saves you and the Assessor time if you can come to an agreement before the hearing.
  4. Get good support: If you don’t have any support for your value or research, you should hire someone to help you. For instance, I am talking with a property owner right now about his hearing in 40 days. He has zero support for his value when he filed last year, so he really needs something to give to the Assessor (or have me do it for him).
  5. Be ready when making the call: Keep in mind sometimes a discussion about the value of your property ensues on the phone when calling the appraiser after getting a “Notice of Hearing.” The conversation can be critical for the Assessor’s interpretation of the market, so have your research ready before making the phone call. This is where really knowing the comps and neighborhood market comes in handy.

I hope this was helpful and you now have a bit more insight on what might happen after you file your property taxes. Let me know if you have any questions.

If you have any questions or Sacramento home appraisal or property tax appeal needs, let’s connect by phone 916-595-3735, email, Twitter, subscribe to posts by email (or RSS) or “like” my page on Facebook

How long can you appeal your “base year” property value if you overpaid?

Have you ever overpaid for something? None of us like to admit when we spend too much money on something, but occasionally it happens – whether it’s a hyped-up gadget, hot toy during Christmas or even a piece of real estate.

latte_is_french_postcard from www.zazzle.com

Overpayment Conversations: I get phone calls periodically from property owners who think they overpaid for a house or parcel. After all, purchasing real estate often involves a combination of logic and emotion, and it’s usually the emotion part that drives us to pay too much.

Scenario 1: Most home owners I speak with about overpayment tend to say they overpaid by $5,000 or so to get the deal done. Honestly, even if there was an overpayment of $5,000, that’s an extremely minimal tax savings (about $50) that probably isn’t worth the time to pursue. In truth, don’t waste your time. Moreover, when a sale was on MLS and exposed on the open market for a reasonable time period, and there were other sales at a very similar level, the overpayment argument doesn’t have much support.

Scenario 2: However, there are cases where owners really do overpay by quite a bit. This tends to happen more frequently with unique properties, parcels, custom homes and all cash private sales off MLS that are not subject to an appraisal or strict lending guidelines to evaluate risk. Sometimes buyers and investors will overpay by tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. It happens and there are huge tax consequences too (overpayment).

How long can you appeal your “base year” value? In the case of legitimate overpayment, there can be tax relief for the property owner, but the owner can only appeal the “base year” value within four years of the date of purchase. After four years, there is nothing the owner can do to correct the base year value. In California the “base-year” or “Proposition 13” value is the assessment level the Assessor assigns to a property when it is first purchased. All other years of taxation are “based” on this original assessment, so it’s definitely an important number. For example, if you bought a property for $500,000, and the Assessor determined market value was indeed $500,000 at the time, then your property taxes should not exceed that level in the future beyond an allowable 2% increase for inflation each year. Of course if property values decline, then your property should receive a temporary “Prop 8” assessed value where your assessment is temporarily lowered each year to reflect the current market instead of the $500,000 market in the past when you purchased.

Money leaving your wallet: All things considered, if a property owner overpaid by $100,000 and the Assessor did not catch the overpayment, the property owner would basically be overpaying by $1,000 each year. Imagine doing that for 25 years in a row (that would equal 25-30K in overpayment). That’s why it’s important to act within four years in case there was a significant overpayment. All you would need to do is fill out the proper appeal form and supply support for a lower opinion of value for the base year between July 2 to November 30 of the calendar year (if relevant, this is what I can help you with).

I hope this was helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions, stories or scenarios to share with me (in comments below or feel free to call or email me).

When have you seen people overpay in real estate or retail? Are there are specific retail examples you can think of?

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