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How can I decrease my property taxes? Is this even possible?


Yes, it’s possible. Good thing, too, after the collapse in home prices of the last few years. The soft market has increased the justification for downward assessments, especially because valuations for property taxes tend to be based on data that is several years old. Many homeowners have seen their equity vanish, yet they still may be paying rates calculated on top-of-the-market prices. Obtaining a reduced assessment, no matter how fair and reasonable it might be, isn’t easy, though. The procedure itself tends to be straightforward; just file an appeal with whichever entity – the city or county where you live, most likely – assesses the tax. The tricky part is convincing the local authorities that you deserve it.

There are two ways to go about that. You could make the case that they did a lax, drive-by assessment – that’s how they are often done – and arrived at an excessive figure based on an assumption that you own more house than you really do, say if the front makes the house appear grander than it really is. The other approach, which seems as though it stands a greater chance of success, is to compile information about recent sales of similar properties in your area. If you can show that they’ve been fetching significantly less in the marketplace than they say your home is worth, then you should have strong grounds for a reassessment. But beware – governments are strapped for cash and not above raising property tax rates for you and all your neighbors. Even if your reassessment bid succeeds, you could end up right back where you started.
-Conrad de Aenlle