I disagree with the value the assessor placed on my property. What can I do first? Fight city hall–

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 20, 2013

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You can take the matter up with the assessor in an informal meeting, but the burden of proof is on you. Keep in mind that changes are based on evidence. Throwing random darts at the assessor or stating “my taxes are too high” or “are ridiculous” won’t get you a reduction (or much consideration for that matter).

To make a successful and effective argument, you need to obtain all the records pertaining to the valuation of your property, and examine the accuracy of the information for any glaring errors (such as an extra bedroom, bath, type, wrong taxing unit). Request copies of the comparable sales information the assessor used to value your property and examine your assessed value and those of nearby properties and look for disparities. If your appeal is based on conditions of which the appraisers were not aware, such as your home has pest infestation or a cracked foundation or undesirable environmental conditions (your neighbor is McDonalds or the local sanitary system), this could adversely affect its value. The assessor may also have missed exemptions you’re entitled to (e.g., veterans, POW, homeowner), which can also lower a property’s value.

By far, the most compelling evidence of value are comparables of recent sales within the same neighborhood. This information is easy to obtain, because it is public information, but analyzing it is not quite that simple. Sales prices may be skewed because of the motivations of the buyers and sellers. For example, one similar property may have sold for more than it was really worth because the buyer was in a hurry to move in and was willing to pay a lofty price. On the other hand, another similar property may have sold for less than it was worth because the owner needed cash right away and was willing to sell to the first buyer who made an offer. If there are none, check to see if there are comparables of reasonably similar property to yours, such as in location, style, age, physical factors (square footage, lot size, rooms, etc.).

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