Now’s the time to challenge house values

By Ian Perrotta
If you’re not satisfied with your property tax assessment, next week is your chance to do something about it.
Beginning Monday (March 15) the yearly Board of Review will convene throughout the week for the purpose of examining, reviewing and correcting the 2010 Assessment Role. It will be an opportunity for homeowners who feel their taxes are too high to challenge the assessed value of their house.
The good news is that this year it is likely your taxes will go down anyway. According to City Assessor Tony Fuoco, residential property taxes will decrease by an average of 7 percent. But despite that reduction, he says he expects this year to be extremely busy.
“People are looking at foreclosures and bank sales around them, and they assume their values are lower as well,” says Fuoco. “However, that is not the case.”
For homeowners questioning why their taxes don’t reflect what they paid for their home, the answer lies in the determining factor used to assess a house’s worth: real market value. Fuoco says that while the board does take into account the current conditions of the economy, it is unreasonable to expect assessed values to reflect prices of, say, $5,000.
“Market value is the usual, typical selling price between a willing seller and a willing buyer, under no duress and at an arm’s length transaction, where the property has been exposed to an open market for a reasonable amount of time,” said Fuoco.
So instead of tax assessments being set by sale price, they will be determined by using figures obtained through a sales study that took into consideration several factors that affect home prices. Those factors included independent market analysis, short sale prices and the values of houses sold in verified sales.
If you feel that your taxes don’t reflect the true value of your house, be prepared to make your case. The more information to you have to back up your claim, the more likely it is to be accepted. Fuoco encourages residents to bring whatever evidence they feel will help support their argument to the Review Board.
The Review Board will be in session from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday and Thursday (March 15 and 18), and on Wednesday (March 17) from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. in City Hall at 3401 Evaline.

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