The golden rule of taxes is don’t pay more than you need to. And with property taxes, some of us often do. While you might assume that the bill in the mail from the county assessor is set in stone, it’s actually not. Summit County Assessor Steve Martin knows what he’s doing, but mistakes can happen.
When it comes to property tax errors, there are two varieties:
- Under-assessment, which actually works in your financial favor. This means that you pay less than you’re property is actually worth, while the actual market value of your home is unaffected.
- Over-assessment, which means you’re paying more than you owe. If you suspect your property may be over-assessed, read on to find out how to right-size your bill.
How assessments are determined
First things first, do you even need to file an appeal? County Assessor Steve Martin appraises properties by studying the market, your property, and its current condition. There are many factors that can affect your assessment, such as:
- The housing market. If the market grows, your home’s value may increase. Obviously, the inverse is also true.
- Home improvements. If you add a new bathroom or an addition, your property value will likely increase.
- A property’s condition. If your property has fallen into disrepair, the value will decrease.
- Your residency status. Second homeowners are charged higher property taxes than primary residents.
The assessor’s methodology to arrive at an accurate assessment based on your property and the above factors, however, is not foolproof. The National Taxpayers Union estimates that between 30-60% of taxable property in the U.S. is over-assessed!
Have you been over-assessed?
If you bought your home this year and haven’t made any significant changes to it, your assessment should probably not be more than what you paid. According to the International Association of Assessment Officers, if you can prove any of the following, then you have grounds to appeal your property taxes.
- The county lists incorrect information about your property. For example, they list four bedrooms when you really only have three. Or you have a shed, and they call it a barn. Or maybe they just got the square footage wrong.
- The estimated value is too high. If you can prove that other comparable properties in your area have sold recently for less, than you may have a case.
- The estimated value isn’t fair. Essentially, this means that the value may be accurate, but isn’t equitable because other similar properties are valued lower.
Another possibility is that the assessor has incorrectly categorized you as a second homeowner. This has happened before in Summit County, and I’m sure it will happen again. Be sure to check that your residency status is correct, especially if you just moved here from out of state.
Appealing your property taxes
If you believe you can prove that your property has been over-assessed or that you’ve been wrongly categorized, you have until Monday, September 17 to file an appeal.
In your appeal, you should provide evidence to back up your case, such as the correct specs of your property and/or the valuations of several similar properties. You also need to include a copy of the valuation you received in the mail.
If you’ve been wrongly identified as a second homeowner, you’ll need to fill out and sign a Statement of Residence form.
Send your materials to the County Assessor. Even better, go to Coalville (the county seat) and talk to the staff at the assessor’s office in person. You can find the contact info for the Summit County assessor online here.
Don’t have a case for lower property taxes? Remember that you’re stocking the coffers of our community. Your taxes go to support our schools, fire department, and other important services, which in turn increase your property’s value.
And if you have any questions or need help finding comparable properties to support your case, please reach out to me. I’m happy to walk you through the art of how to appeal your property taxes anytime.