“You can’t fight City Hall” has been part of our vernacular for years. Basically, it is an admission that you have no power to make change, or fix something you feel is unjust and needs correcting. Trust me, I am in the mortgage business and understand this feeling of helplessness all too well.
Daily, I face a barrage of obstacles that can potentially sabotage my clients loan. Yet we always seem to work our way through it. If I have learned anything in this business, it is to never give up on a client’s file. Never! If you have done your homework and you know you are right, it’s just a matter of showing the other side the merit of your case and being just a tad persistent.
When I read that 6 in 10 households are currently paying more in property taxes than they should, I felt a slight ping of frustration come over me. In this post boom era, it still feels like we are constantly being nickel-and-dimed to death, and is was another example. According to the National Taxpayers Union, up to 60% of U.S. homes are over-assessed. Yet sadly, only 5 percent are willing to appeal their property taxes and fight City Hall.
Since home prices nationwide are down, and down big, the fact so many are paying more in taxes may surprise you. But, because properties are typically assessed only once every two to three years, or longer, your home may have to wait. In addition, property taxes are likely to increase as municipalities are facing severe budget shortfalls at the local level. So taxpayers will have to foot the bill. This combination of over-assessed properties and higher taxes will hopefully move you to appeal, and put a few more bucks back into your pocket.
In California, the County Assessor’s office completes assessments annually, but they don’t always get it right. In addition to verifying that they have your correct home value, you also should check for errors in the assessment itself. Your assessor can give your property record card (or worksheet), which shows dimensions and number of rooms. In addition to making sure the room count is correct (including bathrooms), also check the square footage listed for both the house and the land.
For Sacramento County, applications to appeal can be filed with the Clerk of the Assessment Appeals Board between July 2nd and November 30th of each year. So, start your homework now so you will be ready to fight your case in July! Not all appeals will be successful, but hopefully a little work won’t dissuade you. I am telling you it’s worth the effort. After all, it’s estimated that half of all contesting homeowners are successful with their appeals. And that is nothing to shake a stick at!
A great resource is the frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) pages at the Sacramento County Assessor’s Website. (Click here)