Appealing your property taxes

I’ve spoken with many past clients over the past few weeks about their property tax statements.  Many people are frustrated that their property taxes rose for the 2009-2010 property tax year even though the real market value of their home declined.  Brent Hunsberger wrote this great post on the subject for the Oregonian.

Here are the cliff notes:

*As you probably know, you can appeal your assessor’s valuations. But if you’re looking to cut costs, you’d be better off spending time exploring a refinance, a sale or driving down your homeowners insurance premiums.

*The reason: In the ’90s, Oregon voters passed not one but two constitutional amendments limiting growth in property taxes.

*In Oregon, you’ve got until Dec. 31 to fashion your petition.

*Last year, the number of tax petitions more than doubled in the Portland area’s three counties. It’s early, but this year’s volume seems no different, county officials say.

*And now some tips should you mount a challenge:

Talk to your assessors’ office first. The law allows assessors to “stipulate,” or settle, appeals before they reach the board. About one-third of them are resolved this way. It might involve some give-and-take, but it will save you time.

Gather evidence — an appraisal, comparable sales in the neighborhood, or damage-repair estimates. “The worst thing you can do is write a sentence saying, ‘Well, my neighbor’s house is worth this and that,'” Broughal says. “Give us some evidence.” Also, don’t focus on how your tax payment is higher than your neighbor’s. The value is what matters.

Clackamas County officials encourage petitioners to sit in on a hearing before they present their case.

You need not be present when your case is heard, but it’s probably a good idea. You can bring an attorney, but it likely isn’t worth the cost.