In many areas of the country property values have declined by over 20%, but few counties have reassessed home values and reduced tax bills. Property owners are starting to ask, “Why”?  More and more of these owners are appealing their tax bills and want big reductions.

 For example, three weeks ago I was asked by a lake lot owner (and seller) to do a comparative market analysis on this property and let him know if his taxes were similar to others that were on the market for the same price. Two years ago his lake lot was on the market for close to $260,000. Today, his lot is listed for less then $150,000 and still hasn’t sold. Here are two paragraphs from a letter that accompanied the analysis:

1.  When comparing this subdivision to others in the same price range, it appears taxes, appraisals and assessments are totally out of line. For example, your total tax appraisal (according to the CRS Property Report, through the MLS) is shown at $151,530. After pulling other similar “Active” listings in the same price range ($145-150k) the average total tax appraisal was approximately $108k. That’s a pretty significant difference, (and those are probably high for the existing housing market and economy).

2.  Values have clearly declined as seen in the last 11 months of Sales and Listing activity. As of today’s date, November 22, 2009, according to the SC Western Upstate MLS, only 9 lake lots have sold, out of 254 “Active” listings. When you compare the sale price to the list price, lots sold for just 62% of the “original” list price (this doesn’t reflect list prices, which could have been even higher, on earlier listings of those properties).  

This property owner was told by the Assessors office that if they went out and reassessed his lot it could come back even higher. It appears that this scare tactic is being used quite frequently. In his case, it’s not going to work …he’s determined to have his day in court.

I urge you to look up some old issues ( December 7 – 11, 2009) of the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC). During this week the AJC ran a weeklong series on the “Property Tax Meltdown”. After each article they concluded with, “What you can do now – How to lower your tax bill – Returns and Appeals 101”. Following many of their tips could save you thousands of dollars.

Maybe you’ve already appealed your taxes. If so, I’d be interested in hearing your story.

By Jay Hufnagel, Keller Williams Realty, www.SayJayLakeandHome.com , sayjay@bellsouth.net or 770-757-2799.