Wednesday, March 30, 2011

7 Tips for Lowering Your North Shore Property Taxes!

Chicago’s North Shore offers the best in Chicago suburb living. Close proximity to your every day needs, great shopping, mouth watering restaurants, and of course a quick drive to Chicago’s downtown makes the North Shore a very desirable place to live!

The only cloud that may hang over head is something that any homeowner in America deals with: property taxes. However, there is a silver lining! From now until April 22nd, those that own a home in New Trier Township may file an appeal to the Board of Review to get their assessed valuation lowered. This, in turn, could result in a reduction of the home owner’s tax bill! If you currently own a home in New Trier Township and you feel that the assessed value of your home is at least 10% higher than it should be, you may want to consider filing an appeal.

Being willing to put in a little time and research can help you save in an area you never thought possible. If you’re not sure how to determine if you’re paying too much on your taxes; there are a few ways to learn more about the system and what you can do to take action. Recently pointed out 7 steps for lowering your property taxes. So, whether you live in New Trier Township or not; you may be able to save money!

1. Learn your system- Taxing authorities use different methods to calculate home values. Some look at recent sales of similar homes. In rural areas where sales are few, they might estimate the cost to rebuild. Others use some combination of methods. Call your assessor’s office and ask how it pegs values. In some locales your tax liability is based on a percentage of your property’s estimated value. You’ll want to know what that percentage is so you can figure out whether the actual value the assessor is assigning to your home is fair. You can always ask a North Shore Real Estate agent about the process for assessing taxes on homes in the North Shore.

2. Get your assessor’s evidence- The assessor didn’t pull his estimate out of a hat, even if it seems that way to you. Visit the tax assessor’s office and ask for the evidence used to value your home. Get your home’s property card, which lists basic details like lot size, square footage and number of bathrooms.

3. Make sure the description is right- When municipalities or counties re-assess property values, they typically hire an outside contractor who looks at hundreds or thousands of homes in a tight time period. The appraiser has to come up with shortcuts. Three vent stacks on the roof? That must mean three full baths. Never mind that an upstairs laundry room could be the culprit. The assessor’s file should contain a worksheet that the appraiser filled out during inspection with addresses of homes he compared with yours.

4. Build your case- You won’t have much time to file an appeal, generally 60 days or less from the time your annual tax assessment was mailed. (This typically occurs between late spring and late summer.) For those of you living in New Trier Township; the deadline is April 22nd! If the issue isn’t a simple error on your property card, you’ll need to arm yourself with recent comparable sales or assessments that show your house has been valued too high. You can look up your neighbors’ home valuations at the assessor’s office.

The easiest way to come up with comparable sales is to ask a North Shore Real Estate agent for help. Please know that if you can’t find comparable North Shore homes that sold for at least 10% less than your property’s assessed value, throw in the towel. Some areas require the valuation to be off by even more than that to win an appeal.

5. Meet the assessor informally- Go over the evidence you found in support of a lower value. If the assessor more or less agrees with you, the rest of the process will be a lot faster and smoother. Attitude is important. You’re showing the assessor how his appraiser messed up, so be kind. If the assessor won’t budge, make him explain why. Take notes since these are the same arguments he will use once your appeal is filed.

6. File the appeal- Usually filing the appeal is with a county board. Hand deliver it and get a receipt or use certified mail. Within a couple of weeks you should get a notice acknowledging receipt, although you could have a long wait for a hearing. Most appeals are heard over the course of a couple of weeks. Before your day arrives, attend a hearing to get accustomed to the proceedings.

Prepare visuals with photos of your home and the comparable homes, then write out and rehearse your presentation. Keep it to eight minutes or less. Brevity will score you points and leave time for the board to ask questions.

7. Feel lost?- First, you’ll likely appeal to a state agency. If that fails, you’ll probably have to go to court. At this stage of the game you’ll need help from a lawyer, but you can retain a lawyer for a contingency fee that varies based on your potential tax relief. An independent appraisal will cost $400 or so. The state, which will be handling hundreds of such appeals, wants to end the dispute as quickly as you do. In about 95% of cases, they will voluntarily give relief.

This whole process, if not having to go to court, could take you a mere 15-20 hours; which seems painless in the grand scheme of the money you’ll be saving. If you’re interested in learning more about the New Trier Township appeal; please visit their website.

As a North Shore Real Estate agent; I’m always available to answer any questions you may have about the North Shore Real Estate market, living in Chicago’s North Shore or about buying or selling a home! Please feel free to contact me anytime; I look forward to hearing from you!

Janie Bress
Your North Shore Real Estate Expert

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