How to Fight Property Taxes and Win

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My husband and I took advantage of the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit when we purchased our home in 2009. Many surprises came with being new homeowners. Our home inspector missed some repairs, for example, and our car broke down a month after we drained our bank account for the down payment. The biggest was a new appraisal from our property-tax assessor, which increased the tax appraisal of our home by 7 percent.

Fighting for—and Winning—a Lower Appraisal

When I saw the hike in our assessment, which automatically increased the amount of property taxes we’d have to pay, I immediately wanted to appeal the process.

My first step was to gather evidence for my case. On our Harris County, Texas, tax appraiser’s website, I tracked down the price per square footage of comparable homes in our area, which revealed that ours was considerably higher ($49/square foot versus an average of $39/square foot) than the average. Next, I took photographs and gathered quotes from repairmen to show the issues with our home that a drive-by appraisal likely had not taken into consideration. Lastly, on our home inspector’s report, I highlighted instances where he checked off “good repair”—including our bathroom’s sinking sub floor and chimney’s structural problems—when, in fact, there were issues. Documenting these issues with photographs and professional quotes established that the market price was based on misinformation and was therefore overpriced.

Unfortunately, both my initial appeal online and my first informal meeting with an appraiser were both met with denial.

I didn’t give up, however. I signed up for a formal appeal hearing in front of an Appraisal Review Board, where I found success from the same argument used in the previous two sessions. The result? They decreased our home appraisal by 3.9 percent, an amount that remained intact for three years.

How to Fight Your Own Property Taxes

Do you believe your tax district overpriced your home’s value? Your local tax jurisdiction should provide you with information on how to make an appeal.

Here’s a basic outline for fighting your property taxes, keeping in mind that your local tax assessor process may look slightly different:

  • Gather Your Evidence: You need to research your home’s value in relation to the homes surrounding yours (cost per square foot). Your local tax assessor should keep this information on their website. Next, gather any quotes on needed repairs in your home that the appraiser may not have taken into consideration. Photographs, inspector reports, and other forms of hard evidence are key.
  • Follow Through on the Appeals Process: Often, you’ll do the first appeal online. Don’t give up if it’s declined. There should be other ways to appeal your case, such as informal and formal board hearings. Your tax assessor’s office should provide information for how to continue the process. Remember, persistence can pay off.

You can also hire a property-tax consultant to fight your taxes, but remember that you’ll have to pay them a percentage of your net savings.

Whether your home’s value was increased because of a spike in neighboring home values, sizable home improvements, or your local jurisdiction looking to raise more revenue, remember that a successful appeal must involve hard evidence, adherence to deadlines, and preparation. The savings can make this process well worth your effort, especially if the newly appraised value lasts for several years.