Appealing Your Property Tax Assessment? Try These 14 Expert-Recommended Tips

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Expert Panel, Forbes Real Estate Council

Successful executives in the real estate industry from Forbes Real Estate Council share firsthand tips & insights.

Property taxes can be a significant expense for homeowners, even if you’ve already paid off your mortgage. That’s why it’s important to review your annual tax assessment carefully. You'll want to know how the bill is calculated, as well as ensure that everything is accurate. 

If your tax assessment seems off, you may consider appealing the ruling to reduce your payment. We asked a panel of Forbes Real Estate Council members to share their best approaches for homeowners looking to appeal their tax assessment. Their top tips are below. 

Photos courtesy of the individual members.

1. Find Out The Time Frame 

Talk to the township assessor and find out what their time frame is for disputing an assessment. Get a local agent to help you with locating comparables that mimic the property’s age, style, upgrades and amenities. The ideal square footage should be within 600 square feet of yours. Make a case using those comparisons and if you can, find a few that are assessed much lower! - Nancy Kowalik, Nancy Kowalik Real Estate Group 

2. Try To Appeal Online First 

Start by seeing whether you can protest your taxes online. If you’re not offered a reduction, provide comparables of the houses in your area that support your position of a reduction. You can also provide recent photos of the inside of your home showing that it is not as updated as some of the other homes in the neighborhood. If all else fails, hire a company that specializes in tax protests. - Nancy Wallace- Laabs, KBN Homes, LLC 

Forbes Real Estate Council is an invitation-only community for executives in the real estate industry. Do I qualify?

3. Research Other Local Properties 

Most, if not all, municipalities have a tax grievance process that allows property owners to contest their tax assessment. You can contest them on your own or hire a professional to do so. The most important thing you can do is research other similar properties in your area to see what their taxes are and use that comparable information to build your case. - Stephen Glen Kliegerman, Halstead Property Development Marketing 

4. Don't Bring Emotions Into Your Case 

Emotions can sometimes cloud what might be a powerful case. If you are looking to appeal your tax assessment, be sure to provide comparables and demonstrate why your property is similar to or different from the comparable properties you are presenting. A good case needs facts and concrete information. Do your research and create a case that supports your position. Don't let your emotions take the lead. - Michelle Risi, Royal LePage Connect Realty 

5. Consult An Attorney 

Start by researching and identifying the most comparable properties to your target property that are closest in proximity. Once you have identified several solid comparable properties, consult with an attorney who specializes in tax assessment appeals and will be able to turn your research into the strongest case possible. Consider doing this annually to keep your tax assessments in check. - Garratt Hasenstab, The Mountain Life Companies™ 

6. Provide Data The Assessor May Not Have 

We have successfully appealed tax assessments for our properties by providing concrete information that may not have been publicly available to the assessor. For example, if you have a commercial building that is in grey shell condition because a tenant gutted either all or a portion of the property prior to leaving, that would reasonably lower the value of the building. - Catherine Kuo, Elite Homes | Christie's International Real Estate 

7. Have Your Home Appraised 

An appraisal of the property may be money well spent to help the owner's case.The agent will find data on comparable closed property sales from the same neighborhood as the property in dispute. Take those comps and the appraisal to the local county appraisal board and protest your assessment. There are professional companies that can do that for you and they get a percentage of savings as a fee. - Rita Santamaria, Champions School of Real Estate 

8. Call The Tax Assessor 

When you get your tax bill and question the tax amount, don't call the tax collector. First, read your bill carefully. Make a copy of the bill that can be marked up and then call the tax assessor’s office. This is who determines your tax amount. Some charges are Voted Indebtedness, which increases depending on the law or custom. In California, we have Proposition 13 so the assessment process is cut and dry. - Michael J. Polk, Polk Properties / Matrix Properties

9. Know If You Fall Within The Margins 

Tax assessments are based on sales. If you want to appeal an assessment, you'll need data to back it up. In our market, valuation needs to be off by 15% or more in order to get a hearing. A good real estate professional can help with this, but remember that reducing assessed value may work against you when buyers see how the assessor valued the property. - Thomas McCormack, Resources Real Estate 

10. Make Sure Your Complaints Are Logical 

Find a few properties in the market that are similar in year built and size, and calculate the taxes per square foot or per unit for each. Pick three to five of them with lower taxes than your property and submit them to the local assessor. They may not budge from their assessment, but if you submit logical complaints like this with your appeal, you will definitely improve your odds. - Marc Rutzen, Enodo Inc 

11. List Out The Problems That Need To Be Fixed 

Eliminate opinions from your appeal. List all the facts that benefit your case. Include a recent appraisal (get a new one if you are serious about appealing) and recent sales prices of neighbors' homes. If the home is a fixer-upper, list all the problems that need to be fixed. If you suggest a compromise on the assessed value based on facts, you stand a good chance of success. - Z Otto Bonahoom, Bohouse Investment Group 

12. Get Estimates On Pending Repairs 

Most agents and homeowners do a market analysis to appeal their tax assessment. When the market is more tipped toward sellers, we look at adjacent properties of similar size and use that data to request an assessment closer to what the neighbors have. Also, get estimates on large repairs or upgrades needed to bring the home to current standards of the neighborhood or resale potential. - Michelle Ames, HorsePower Team Texas/Independent Realty 

13. Check For Clerical Errors 

Double-check the information, verifying the correct number of rooms, sizes and year of construction. Clerical errors do happen and those could be easy wins. Don't miss the deadline to appeal and come prepared with notes of comparable properties and lots of pictures. These will help build your case for a lower valuation. - Jill Szymanski, Bar Louie

14. Don't Go It Alone 

First, don't go at it alone. Bring in consultants to help you. There are several specialty tax consultants you can hire with legal teams in place that understand all the nuances and know all the players in the space from a city standpoint. They can take the comps and make the case in order to get that bill assessed lowered based on values and other factors. - Ari Rastegar, Rastegar Property Company

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Property taxes can be a significant expense for homeowners, even if you’ve already paid off your mortgage. That’s why it’s important to review your annual tax assessment carefully. You'll want to know how the bill is calculated, as well as ensure that everything is accurate. 

If your tax assessment seems off, you may consider appealing the ruling to reduce your payment. We asked a panel of Forbes Real Estate Council members to share their best approaches for homeowners looking to appeal their tax assessment. Their top tips are below. 

Photos courtesy of the individual members.

1. Find Out The Time Frame 

Talk to the township assessor and find out what their time frame is for disputing an assessment. Get a local agent to help you with locating comparables that mimic the property’s age, style, upgrades and amenities. The ideal square footage should be within 600 square feet of yours. Make a case using those comparisons and if you can, find a few that are assessed much lower! - Nancy Kowalik, Nancy Kowalik Real Estate Group 

2. Try To Appeal Online First 

Start by seeing whether you can protest your taxes online. If you’re not offered a reduction, provide comparables of the houses in your area that support your position of a reduction. You can also provide recent photos of the inside of your home showing that it is not as updated as some of the other homes in the neighborhood. If all else fails, hire a company that specializes in tax protests. - Nancy Wallace- Laabs, KBN Homes, LLC 

Forbes Real Estate Council is an invitation-only community for executives in the real estate industry. Do I qualify?

3. Research Other Local Properties 

Most, if not all, municipalities have a tax grievance process that allows property owners to contest their tax assessment. You can contest them on your own or hire a professional to do so. The most important thing you can do is research other similar properties in your area to see what their taxes are and use that comparable information to build your case. - Stephen Glen Kliegerman, Halstead Property Development Marketing 

4. Don't Bring Emotions Into Your Case 

Emotions can sometimes cloud what might be a powerful case. If you are looking to appeal your tax assessment, be sure to provide comparables and demonstrate why your property is similar to or different from the comparable properties you are presenting. A good case needs facts and concrete information. Do your research and create a case that supports your position. Don't let your emotions take the lead. - Michelle Risi, Royal LePage Connect Realty 

5. Consult An Attorney 

Start by researching and identifying the most comparable properties to your target property that are closest in proximity. Once you have identified several solid comparable properties, consult with an attorney who specializes in tax assessment appeals and will be able to turn your research into the strongest case possible. Consider doing this annually to keep your tax assessments in check. - Garratt Hasenstab, The Mountain Life Companies™ 

6. Provide Data The Assessor May Not Have 

We have successfully appealed tax assessments for our properties by providing concrete information that may not have been publicly available to the assessor. For example, if you have a commercial building that is in grey shell condition because a tenant gutted either all or a portion of the property prior to leaving, that would reasonably lower the value of the building. - Catherine Kuo, Elite Homes | Christie's International Real Estate 

7. Have Your Home Appraised 

An appraisal of the property may be money well spent to help the owner's case.The agent will find data on comparable closed property sales from the same neighborhood as the property in dispute. Take those comps and the appraisal to the local county appraisal board and protest your assessment. There are professional companies that can do that for you and they get a percentage of savings as a fee. - Rita Santamaria, Champions School of Real Estate 

8. Call The Tax Assessor 

When you get your tax bill and question the tax amount, don't call the tax collector. First, read your bill carefully. Make a copy of the bill that can be marked up and then call the tax assessor’s office. This is who determines your tax amount. Some charges are Voted Indebtedness, which increases depending on the law or custom. In California, we have Proposition 13 so the assessment process is cut and dry. - Michael J. Polk, Polk Properties / Matrix Properties

9. Know If You Fall Within The Margins 

Tax assessments are based on sales. If you want to appeal an assessment, you'll need data to back it up. In our market, valuation needs to be off by 15% or more in order to get a hearing. A good real estate professional can help with this, but remember that reducing assessed value may work against you when buyers see how the assessor valued the property. - Thomas McCormack, Resources Real Estate 

10. Make Sure Your Complaints Are Logical 

Find a few properties in the market that are similar in year built and size, and calculate the taxes per square foot or per unit for each. Pick three to five of them with lower taxes than your property and submit them to the local assessor. They may not budge from their assessment, but if you submit logical complaints like this with your appeal, you will definitely improve your odds. - Marc Rutzen, Enodo Inc 

11. List Out The Problems That Need To Be Fixed 

Eliminate opinions from your appeal. List all the facts that benefit your case. Include a recent appraisal (get a new one if you are serious about appealing) and recent sales prices of neighbors' homes. If the home is a fixer-upper, list all the problems that need to be fixed. If you suggest a compromise on the assessed value based on facts, you stand a good chance of success. - Z Otto Bonahoom, Bohouse Investment Group 

12. Get Estimates On Pending Repairs 

Most agents and homeowners do a market analysis to appeal their tax assessment. When the market is more tipped toward sellers, we look at adjacent properties of similar size and use that data to request an assessment closer to what the neighbors have. Also, get estimates on large repairs or upgrades needed to bring the home to current standards of the neighborhood or resale potential. - Michelle Ames, HorsePower Team Texas/Independent Realty 

13. Check For Clerical Errors 

Double-check the information, verifying the correct number of rooms, sizes and year of construction. Clerical errors do happen and those could be easy wins. Don't miss the deadline to appeal and come prepared with notes of comparable properties and lots of pictures. These will help build your case for a lower valuation. - Jill Szymanski, Bar Louie

14. Don't Go It Alone 

First, don't go at it alone. Bring in consultants to help you. There are several specialty tax consultants you can hire with legal teams in place that understand all the nuances and know all the players in the space from a city standpoint. They can take the comps and make the case in order to get that bill assessed lowered based on values and other factors. - Ari Rastegar, Rastegar Property Company

Forbes Real Estate Council is an invitation-only, fee-based organization for senior-level executives in the real estate industry.