My Real Estate Taxes Are Too High! But what can I do?
HOW REAL ESTATE TAXES ARE DETERMINED
Real Estate taxes in localities like Loudoun, Prince William and Fairfax Counties change annually. The tax rate is set by the localities. Within the counties, that is set by the Board of Supervisors. Here in Loudoun our rate was just changed last week (the rate went down). But that is only one part of determining what you’ll pay in real estate taxes for the year. These same counties also do annual assessments. These are not appraisals, as they are determined by a large scale valuation model based on the county’s knowledge of your property and similar sales. They come up with an estimation of what your property’s value is, generally “as of January 1st”.
If your property is located in a city or town, you may also have real estate taxes you pay to those localities. In most cases they also have a “tax rate” set by a local governing board such as a Town Council, and they use the county’s assessment of your property value to determine the actual tax charged.
Your specific property may also have a “special assessment”. Special assessments are usually for very specific improvements that directly impact your property. For example, properties that are closer to the metro will have an additional tax because it is beleived that they will have a greater benefit than the rest of the county from that metro. A recent road or utility improvement that was funded by the county and that impacts only a few properties may also cause the need for a special assessment. These are usually set amounts, separate from the assessment.
BUT MY TAXES ARE TOO HIGH! WHAT CAN I DO?
To get the TAX RATE changed takes an act of government… so you need to be active in your local political elections, and talking to your local elected officials. Remember they are paying for schools and social services in your community, and those things are not free ~ so it is a balancing act. And changing the tax rate impacts the entire budget and the entire community. This is REALLY hard to do.
If you are looking at your PROPERTY ASSESSMENT and feel that may be too high, that the county thinks your home is worth more than it is, you may have a chance to get your property taxes lowered, we would highly recommend getting help from a tax preparation company (you can look at this to get a discount online). All counties have an appeal process where you can ask for an independent review. You can ask them to look at facts about your property such as square footage, finishes, etc. Also, you can ask them to take a closer look at comparable sales in your neighborhood. You may even need to argue why certain sales are MORE comparable than others. Any of these things can change your valuation, and ultimately your tax obligations.
Every county has a process and a deadline. Just check your county’s web site for details . (These counties have deadlines the first part of June.)
There are attorneys and consultants that specialize in getting tax assessments reduced… so if you own commercial property, this may be the right avenue for you to pursue. But if you’re “Harry Homeowner” and are wondering if you might have a shot at getting your assessment reduced, you might not want to start there.
If you are in my service area (all of Loudoun, parts of Fairfax and Prince William) I am happy to take a look at comps and tell you if I think you may have a case. Just shoot me an email or give me call! I am always happy to help my neighbors, clients, friends and future clients. I have helped many people get their taxes reduced. The more unique your property, the better your chances because valuing it is open to such interpretation. Mass produced properties (like condos), on the other hand, are much easier to value, and I find county assessments are often very close.
If you’re more of a “Do it yourselfer” you can also order a free and automated “Market Snapshot” for your address at www.SalesInMyNeighborhood.Info. Just load some facts about your home and add your address. A report is emailed within minutes, and updated monthly until you request it be stopped. The best part: NO SPAM.