FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: WHAT IS AN “ASSESSED VALUE” AND HOW IS MY PROPERTY TAX BILL DETERMINED?
A: Assessed Value is a price placed on land and buildings by a government tax assessor for use in levying property taxes. A home’s Assessed Value is very different from its Market Value. The Assessed Value is a percentage of a home’s actual fair market value. That percentage is called the “Common Level Ratio” (CLR). It is a number that varies from county to county and from year to year. In Chester County, the most recent CLR was 1.66. So, to arrive at a home’s Assessed Value, the taxing authority multiplies its Market Value by the CLR. For example, if you feel your home would sell on the open market for $300,000, the proper Assessed Value would be: 300,000 x 1.66 or $498,000. (Montgomery County’s CLR was 1.58; Delaware County’s was 1.35)
Q: WHY IS MY HOME’S ASSESSED VALUE DIFFERENT FROM THE PRICE I THINK I COULD SELL IT FOR?
A: Your home value is the “Market Value”. A Market Value is the most probable price that a property will sell for when it’s put on the open market. This value is determined by a home appraisal. Thus, an “Appraised Value” is the same as a home’s Market Value.
Q: IS MY HOME’S ASSESSMENT ACCURATE?
A: The amount of your home tax assessment is what the local government thinks your house and land are worth relative to other properties in your area. Many taxpayers are under the impression that their assessment is fair and accurate if it is below the current market value. However, what we really are looking for is equability. The fact is that property should be valued equitably with similar type properties within the same taxing jurisdiction. Often, a taxpayer’s property is assessed at 95% of fair market value and his neighbor’s similar home is assessed at 75% of fair market value. Clearly this assessment is not fair or accurate.
Most municipalities hire a company to do a “blanket assessment” every few years since the tax assessor does not have the time to individually inspect each property. Often old values are just rolled over without any inspection whatsoever and without any consideration for changes in the real estate market. Mistakes are common and any mistake can cost the homeowner hundreds or thousands of dollars every year.
Q: WHY DON’T MORE PEOPLE CHALLENGE THEIR INACCURATE ASSESSMENTS?
A: Quite simply, because most people don’t even realize that they are being overcharged. The taxing authority doesn’t have the time or manpower to establish accurate assessment figures – and since most homeowners don’t challenge the assessment, why bother?
Q: WHEN CAN I APPEAL MY PROPERTY TAXES?
A: You can appeal you assessment annually. The deadline varies from county to county but is generally either August 1 or September 1 (call our office to learn when your appeal is due). Any reduction in your taxes that we obtain for you becomes effective the following year – 2012. You can also appeal an interim tax bill, or a bill you received because of new construction on your property (a deck, finished basement or addition). The deadline for filing an interim assessment appeal is within 40 days of the date of notification of the assessment change.
Q: WHAT CAN THE LAW FIRM OF LUONGO BELLWOAR LLP DO TO HELP ME REDUCE MY PROPERTY TAXES?
A: As attorneys specializing in residential and commercial tax assessment appeals, we make a preliminary determination of whether your property tax assessment is accurate. We engage a certified appraiser to collect recent sales data of similar homes in your area and examine the potential to successfully prosecute your appeal. If your property deserves an assessment reduction, a detailed individual appraisal of your property is prepared and the appropriate appeal paperwork is completed and filed with the Tax Assessment Appeal Board. The Board then sets a hearing date to listen to arguments on why your property is over- assessed and what the accurate assessment should be. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO ATTEND THIS HEARING. AS ATTORNEYS, WE ARE AUTHORIZED TO ATTEND ON YOUR BEHALF.
Q: WHAT ARE THE FEES ASSOCIATED WITH LUONGO BELLWOAR LLP REPRESENTING ME?
A: Our firm is paid on a contingent fee basis – a percentage of the amount we save you on your tax bill. Thus, our incentive is to save every homeowner as much as we fairly can. The only money we require up front is a filing fee – approximately $50.00 – made out to the taxing jurisdiction. In essence, you pay us nothing unless we save you money on your property tax bill.
Q: WHY NOT USE A “REAL ESTATE MANAGEMENT COMPANY” TO APPEAL MY ASSESSMENT?
A: LUONGO BELLWOAR LLP, is a law firm located in the heart of West Chester. We charge a fair contingency fee to our clients that is often less than what non- attorney entities require for their services. Most “real estate management companies” require clients to pay for all or half of the cost of the appraisal – an amount ranging between $250 and $750. We do not ask for any money for the appraisal on residential assessment appeals because we fundamentally believe that this should be included in the cost of our representation.
As attorneys, we feel that we are better able to engage the Tax Assessment Appeal Board at an adversarial hearing where your money is at stake. We answer all of the Hearing Board’s questions, review your appraisal with them, and negotiate or persuade the Board to reduce your assessment. Remember, because you are represented by an attorney, your presence at the hearing is not required. You do not have to take a day off from work and wait in line for your case to be heard. We do that for you. If you engage a “property management company” to represent you, not only will you need to pay for your appraisal, but you will probably have to attend the hearing along with the company’s spokesperson and assist in the hearing process. You will always deal with an attorney when you are a client of our firm.
Q: WHAT TYPE OF SUCCESS HAS LUONGO BELLWOAR HAD IN LOWERING HOMEOWNER’S PROPERTY TAXES?
A: We are thoroughly prepared and methodical in our research and preparation before we attend your assessment appeal hearing. We find that our attention to detail results in across the board reductions for every appeal we prosecute. Accordingly, we have saved homeowners hundreds of thousands of dollars each year on their property taxes.
CALL US TODAY TO DISCUSS HOW WE CAN SAVE YOUR TAX DOLLARS
LUONGO BELLWOAR LLP