House assessment questions

scrynMarch 1, 2007

Hi, we just got our new assessment for our house. It is assessed every year. The assessment went up 11,000 dollars this year, when in previous years it has gone up maybe 1000 or not at all. We do not live in a hot area.

I am wondering if we should dispute this. This is going to be difficult for us as there are not many comps in our area. Our taxes are the highest in the country, so 11,000 makes a big difference. Our house is only worth 131 now.

I have no idea how to find comps. Our house is located on a busier street. It is OVER 150 years old. Also it says we need an appraisal and I have no idea how we do this. Do I call up our realitor or do we need an inspector to do the appraisal? These usually are about 200-300 dollars.

Smaller houses down the street from us are selling at around 90, but they are located on a quieter street and some have more land than us.

Then, won't we just have to go do this next year as we are assessed every year? What exactly affects house assessments? The cost of a house in our region has NOT increased this year, so why would my assessment? I called the town and they were not too much help.

This is our first house and we have never had to do this before. I would love advice on this subject.



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I don't know if you can do this, but in our county, I can go online and look at the assessment records. Not only for my own home, but also for my neighbors.

It would be interesting to see if your neighbors' homes' assessments went up the same %. I'm not suggesting that you try to compare assessments, but rather compare the increase.

If everyone's assessment incrased by the same percentage, the county should be able to explain why. If only yours, then they need to explain why. You will get the best response, however, if you go in person and ask (very nicely) rather than call on the phone.

One year our property taxes doubled! Literally doubled. Turned out that they were billing us for both our lot and our neighbor's lot. It took some polite persistence and several months, but we got it straightened out.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 12:55PM
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Thanks, They do not have up to date assessments for our town. The last one they put online were from 2000. They are not concrete yet either (as we can dispute next month) so they will not show these new values untill summer.
I did call the town and make sure that they had the right stats on our house. They had it all down.
I did notice that a house three down from ours sold a year ago for 120. The house isn't as big as ours and it is closer to the highway overpass than us so I assumed it would have been cheaper. So I wonder if the town finally noticed that and decided to charge us more. (grr!)
Once again though, this house is WAY newer than ours. How can we compare our house with this house when ours is over a 100 years older? Many of the houses around us are smaller houses and ranch style. Our neighbors have a cape cod however I do not know them close enough to ask about their assessment. The other house next to us and very large and was owned by an elderly couple. I have not seen them for a while and it looks like repairs are being done for it to be sold. I think they may have moved. Upkeeping a large house isn't very easy for people their age.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 1:07PM
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Renee - My public library has several books about how to challenge your real estate assessment. That would probably be a good place to find information. If the library doesn't have one, you could probably find one on Amazon.

You will need an appraiser, not a realtor or an inspector to do the appraisal.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 1:50PM
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Bummer, I didn't want to pay for an appraisal :(

We were pondering refinancing. If we did do that then we need to pay for an appraisal anyways. Mmm.

Now, what things affect the house assessments (besides additions and change of floor plan sort of stuff) ? They don't really seem to state this anywhere exactly.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 2:30PM
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Is it possible your house is being appraised for its value as commercial property? I don't know just how busy your street is, nor if it is entirely residential.

It's always possible they just made a mistake. (That happened to me once.) Try to find out as much as possible what they based the appraisal on before your deadline to contest it. If you can, schedule one meeting with the assessor just to gather information, then a later one to actually contest the appraisal. It's possible they will even tell you the assessment values on other properties in your area.

Because your property is unique, it will be a bit harder for you to change their minds. For me it was pretty easy to correct as I lived in a real cookie cutter neighborhood. There's a lot more judgement required for a property like yours.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 3:41PM
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thanks, our street is all residential. There are no businesses.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 4:17PM
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There are some good suggestions here, but you really need to go talk to your assessor's office and find out what's going on. Maybe they do estimated adjustments every year, and only do a more formal assessment every, say, fifth year, and that's what happened. Maybe you've been lucky to be underassessed for several years. Or maybe a mistake was made. Or maybe the tax rate was lowered and the assessments were changed to balance out. Or a dozen other things. Before you decide on a stategy, you need some facts rather than our speculations.

By the way, how much is the actual tax increase in dollars? Tax rates can change every year, and just because an assessment goes up X% doesn't mean taxes go up X%.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 4:49PM
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I'm not sure what your state rules are but I know here in PA a school district tried to reassess some homes that were out of line compared to neighboring homes. It went to court and the court said it was not legal to do "spot assessments" that the whole township had to be reassessed. The township dropped the reassessment changes.

Generally the assessed value remains the same unless there is a county/state-wide reassessment done or you pulled permits for some kind of renovation. We did get a reassessed value when our state's Clean & Green program (lower tax rate for farm land conservation) changed.

So I think the first thing is to find out the percentage of increase to your assessed value. Then see if the increase has been just to your home or also to all the other homes in your area.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 8:03PM
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Assessment methods seem to vary considerably with jurisdiction. I suspect that you might need local knowledge on this matter.
Real estate prices have gone up a lot in many areas, even here. If assessments have gone up by about the same percentage throughout your jurisdiction then the tax rate should drop so that the total tax take stays roughly the same.

I do say should. When I was visiting my brother in Ontario a little while back, the papers were making a fuss about rising property assessments. People there seemed to be convinced that their city was going to make a tax grab. The people affected have voted in their city council and would have a better idea than I do as to how their politicians are likely to behave.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2007 at 5:18PM
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If you are looking into the Refi do NOT have someone come in and do the parasol. Why, Example... You call company A to come in because they were only $225.00 so you save $75.00... Guess what, The house appraised for $250,000.00.. So, you decide to go ahead and refinance to get some cash out and pay bills.. You then go to your Mortgage Broker Odds are they will NOT accept your appraisal report and have to send out another company to redo the report. Guess who will pay for the 2nd parasol? So the money you paid to Company A was just wasted. If you want to get a rough Idea of it's value.. Contact your local Realtor and ask them for what they would list it for. Take a few hours on Sunday and go to the open houses in town, You do your own assessment.

Appraisers can (shouldn't) cross any major dividers. I.e. If you have train tracks in town.. Comps must be from 'Your side of the tracks', Let's say you have a "Main St" in town... same rule applies. ALSO, Placement is everything.. Take your house from a busy street and put it on the same size Lot on a dead end.. Price goes up significantly. Funny, if you put that house in front of School it may drop in price.

Your comment of "Our taxes are the highest in the country" tells me you too are in NJ. Here are some things that I have heard in my Short time being a home owner..

Do small jobs prior to have it appraised. Replace the windows, If you are from NJ, we have places were you can get them cheap from $125 and up.. From what I have read lately Green Houses are what is being marketed. Make your house more Green if you want it to appraise higher.

"The rich buy assets. The poor only have expenses. The middle class buys liabilities they think are assets. The poor and the middle class work for money. The rich have money work for them.".......Robert Kiyosaki

    Bookmark   March 4, 2007 at 12:05AM
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nope, I am in Ny.
In NJ you are paying more in taxes because your house is worth WAY more however our PERCENTAGE (in my county) is the highest or one of the highest in the USA. Luckily our houses are cheap though!

We do not intend to refinance to get money we only want to refinance to get rid or our PMI and to go to a better bank.

We have an old house so we have been doing upgrades all the time. We have replaced most of the old (non original) windows with very high end replacements (best thing we EVER did!) and have done many repairs and upgrades. Last year we totally relandscaped the front of the house and we added a small greenhouse to the back. I am wondering if this made the assessment higher? We replaced and added a window in the back of the house last summer also. However, I am not so sure that the assessor would be able to see this as we have a 6ft picket fence around our backyard. You can see the greenhouse though.

that is why I was wondering what would affect an assessment exactly? I didn't think that curb appeal would affect it however I read somewhere it does.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2007 at 11:59AM
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The two main things which drive property tax assessment here are lot size and square footage in the living space. Then additional items like garage, shed, decking. You can have two houses side by side with one 50 years older and ready to fall in and the tax will be pretty close on them if they are similar lots and sized houses. You really will have to start at your own city hall and see how they do things there.

Our assessments are not even in the ballpark with selling prices.


    Bookmark   March 6, 2007 at 3:11AM
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I'm guessing that they came out to reassess because of the new greenhouse and when they reassessed they also looked at the overall improvement of the home and landscaping. If you had to get a permit for the greenhouse that will usually "trigger" a new tax assessment.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2007 at 4:58PM
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We get reassessed every year. We don't need a trigger. :(
We didn't need a permit because it is below a certain size and isn't used for commercial use.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2007 at 8:54AM
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I live in new jersey. have a six apartment house in sea side park (the beach) last year our house was assessed at 235 this year 589. more then doubled how can this be possible ? nothing has been done to the property. the assessor was going to assess it at 649, we complained to him so he drop the price. what is this a crap shoot? at today's market the house would never sell at this price. I want to call him ~ and have requested dispute paperwork. are my taxes going to rocket up? can I find out about my future tax bill? isn't there a cap on how high they can raise the assessment ? I'm ill equipped with my lack of knowledge on how the system works.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2009 at 4:58PM
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