3 steps to reduce property taxes

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Are you paying too much in property taxes?

Chances are your answer is yes. Most homeowners feel overburdened by ever-rising property tax costs and want to take steps to reduce property taxes, though not every homeowner’s taxes are as oppressive as others.

Nationally, Americans pay an average of $2,823, or 1.4 percent of their home’s value, on annual property taxes, according to a new survey from Zillow. Many are willing to take steps to reduce their property taxes.

The real estate information and listing site ranked the Top 5 places with the highest and lowest property taxes. Not surprisingly, homeowners shelling out the largest chunk of change on property taxes all live in suburbs ringing New York City. The residents of Westchester County, N.Y., living just north of the NYC border, pay the most in property taxes – an average of $14,829 a year. That’s five times as much as the national average.

They’re followed by Essex County, N.J.; Bergen County, N.J.; Nassau County, N.Y. and Rockland County, N.Y. Homeowners in these counties pay between $11,000 and $12,000 in annual property taxes.

However, that doesn’t mean they necessarily have the highest property tax burdens. That distinction goes to Allegany County, a quiet area in the middle of New York state, where homeowners spend 3.76 percent of their home’s value on property taxes. Milwaukee County, Wis.; Kendall County, Ill.; Sullivan County, N.Y. and Orleans County, N.Y. follow, where residents pay over 3.5 percent of the average home value in property taxes. The tax obligation is actually slightly lower in Westchester County, where residents pay 2.5 percent of their home value in taxes.

On the other end of the spectrum, counties in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Alabama and even Hawaii pay much less in property taxes. Randolph County, Ark. residents pay just $149 a year. Homeowners in Caroline County, Va.; Catahoula County, La. and Randolph, Ark. pay .2 percent or less of their home’s value in annual property taxes.

While you may not be able to pay as little as those folks, you can try to reduce your tax burden. Here’s some tips from Zillow on how to take 3 steps to reduce property taxes.

1. Fact check your property information. Get your property card (also known as “working papers” or “worksheet”) from your local assessor’s office. It should outline the factors used to determine your home’s assessed value, such as square footage, lot size, the number of bathrooms, etc. If those are inaccurate, you need to have your property reassessed. While you’re there, ask your local assessor how they assess properties and how to go about appealing that information.

2. Determine if your home is overvalued. To see if your home is properly assessed, find half a dozen comparable homes that recently sold using information from your assessor or from a listing site. If your home is valued 5 to 10 percent higher than those properties, that’s grounds for an appeal. Remember that counties typically assess homes on a one- to three-year cycle, so the value may not be up-to-date.

3. Present your case. Once you’ve gathered up this information, try to meet with your assessor. If he or she won’t meet with you or won’t adjust your assessment that way, file a formal appeal. While the process differs from place to place, you should be prepared to submit in writing your appeal along with the evidence that your property should be reassessed. You should receive an answer within a few weeks.

It’s a long and laborious process, but it may be worthwhile when it could save you thousands of dollars a year.


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About Ilyce Glink

Author of 13 books, including the bestselling 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask. Writer of the nationally syndicated column, “Real Estate Matters.” Top-rated radio host in Atlanta. Writer for CBS MoneyWatch.com. Managing editor of the Equifax Personal Finance Blog.
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One Response to 3 steps to reduce property taxes

  1. Michelle Stoffel says:

    From reader Paul D. Lane:
    Fairfax County Virginia has an unpublicized benefit for seniors and persons with major disabilities…. No Property Tax…
    Yes, there are income limitations, but they are quite generous

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