The New York Times recently reported what we’ve known for awhile now: people are appealing their property taxes in record numbers.
That’s great news, as it shows that homeowners are taking more and more control over what they pay and what’s fair. ValueAppeal’s goal is to empower citizens to seek fair treatment from county assessor’s office, and this helps show that people are doing just that.
The NYT story says that the Westchester County Assessor’s Office is being flooded with property tax appeals, with the number almost quintupled from those in 2008 to those in 2010. And Westchester County isn’t alone. Maui County, Hawaii saw about 3,500 appeals last year, whereas before 2006, it had never seen more than 500 in a year. In Ocean City, New Jersey, appeals have more than tripled since the peak of the housing market and Hernando County, Florida has had a 42 percent jump in appeals.
The rise in appeals has led to millions of dollars being refunded to homeowners who were overcharged. The number of successful appeals coupled with the plunge of property values are forcing some counties to perform widespread revaluations for the first time in years, or even decades.
While the refunds may be costing the counties money, it is also forcing them to take closer looks at how properties are being valued and showing them that homeowners are no longer willing to sit idly by and accept what they are being told. And that is exciting.
The New York Times story uses Westchester as an example that everyone seems to be appealing their property tax. Westchester ranks as one of the wealthiest counties in the country and citizens have felt that higher taxes go along with a more opulent lifestyle. At a median of $9,044, Westchester pays the highest property taxes in the nation. The Rockefellers lived in Westchester, which is now the home of Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, David Letterman, Martha Stewart, Donald Trump, Ralph Lauren, Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, Richard Gere and billionaire New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. So, yeah, it’s pretty high end.
But clearly the sense of settling for paying more than a fair price has faded. Towns in Westchester County do not regularly reassess homes, instead establishing an aggregate valuation increase each year for all properties. That means that older homes didn’t keep pace with higher market values and middle-class residents and those who owned expensive, newer homes were paying much more than what was fair.
Predictably, government officials are blaming the rise in appeals on the increasing availability of companies like ValueAppeal, who help homeowners file appeals with the county. Many of those companies charge clients half of any tax reduction granted in the first year and sometimes small all-on fees. ValueAppeal simply charges a one-time fee of $99 and the clients keeps any savings they win. ValueAppeal only offers its service to homeowners who it believes has a legitimate case for appeal, and if an appeal isn’t successful, the entire $99 is refunded.
While the availability of companies like ValueAppeal has no doubt played a role in the rise of appeals, just as important is the fact that homeowners now see that they do have both the right and the power to fight for what is fair.
With the property tax appeal window opening in New York in the next month, government officials are preparing for another long, busy period. See if you might benefit from an appeal, log on to www.valueappeal.com and see if you have a strong case. Join the thousands of other citizens who are taking control and seeing the benefits.