Colleen Bennett - Sotheby's International Realty

Mark June 1 on Your Calendar as the First Day You Can File for a Property Tax Reduction

April 2, 2010
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hb27By Marty Rodriguez

For many homebuyers who have seen their property values decline in the Great Recession, there’s been one silver lining: Tax assessors are adjusting their tax bills downward to reflect current market prices.

Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject

Nationally, home prices have fallen about 30 percent from their peak in 2006, so if you’ve purchased a home in the last three or four years, you may qualify for a property tax deduction on the basis that your current assessed property value (the basis for your property taxes) is higher than the current market value of your home.

But the qualifying process doesn’t occur automatically. You have to initiate it.

The good news is, you don’t have to fight City Hall or hire a small army of attorneys and accountants to be considered for a reassessment. You simply need some basic web navigation skills to submit your request and then wait for a thumbs-up or down ruling on your appeal. Here’s what to do:

Get the right forms

Google or search Yahoo! to obtain the applicable website for your County Tax Assessor’s Office or Tax Collector’s Office. For Los Angeles County, the web address is http://lacountypropertytax.com. For the first time, Los Angeles County residents will be able to submit their request for a decline-in-value review online.

Know the process

Most important, know the filing dates. In Los Angeles County, the 2010 filing period will be from June 1 through November 30, 2010.

Your appeal form will likely be a page or two and ask for your basic information and your home’s parcel or lot number. This number should be listed on your mortgage or property tax bill.

Usually the request will ask you for (a) an estimate of the current market value of your home, and (b) a list of recent, comparable sales in your neighborhood supporting that estimate of value. It does no good to try to jump the gun. Applications received prior to June 1 or after November 30 for Los Angeles County will not be processed.

Gather your evidence

Call up the Realtor who sold you your house and ask the agent to complete the form for you or to at least provide the information you need about comparable sales. To keep you as a long-term friend, client and referral resource, your Realtor will be eager to fulfill your request.

 

Alternatively, find trustworthy valuation sites online, such as CyberHomes.com, MoveUp.com, Zillow.com and others, where you can get both an estimated value of your home and a list of comparable sales that were used to create your estimate. Remember, you’re trying to make the case that your property value is significantly lower now than when you bought it, so list legitimate comparable sales that support your argument for a property tax reduction!

 

Collect data on three to five properties, which, for comparative reasons, should be similar in size and style, and built around the same time as your home. Also note why the houses are comparable to yours, and highlight any significant differences that could affect values, such as proximity to a high-traffic street or a freeway.

 

You could order an appraisal from a professional and licensed appraiser but the cost most likely would offset any savings you might realize from a lowered property tax bill.

 

Submit and Follow Up

 

Sign and submit your application. Again, Los Angeles County lets you complete the entire process online. It usually takes about five months before a decision is made on your request, and longer, if you choose to appeal an unfavorable decision. You can also monitor the status of your request online or by checking with your property assessor’s district office. There are five district offices for Los Angeles County, including one in El Monte, which serves San Gabriel Valley residents.

 

If your request for a reduction is denied, there will be a more formal application and appeals process available to you.

 

You have much to gain by submitting your request, and little to lose other than the time it takes to prepare your application. Good luck!

CONSUMER WARNING: Many scam artists, preying on homeowners’ eagerness to have their property taxes lowered, have become quite adept at creating notices that look like official government documents. Please ignore these fraudulent solicitations promising to reassess the value of your property for a fee. Generally, the county where your home is located will conduct your property assessment for free or a very minimal charge.

If you have any questions regarding property tax reassessments, please call me at my office at either (626) 914-6637 or (909) 985-2114.

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