Alan R. Schwarz-Certified PA State Appraiser
PO Box 37
Shawnee-on-Delaware, PA 18356
What at first was plunder assumed the softer name of revenue. ~Thomas Paine
Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery. ~Calvin Coolidge
Taxes grow without rain. ~Jewish Proverb
What is the difference between a taxidermist and a tax collector? The taxidermist takes only your skin. ~Mark Twain, Notebook, 1902
Yes, everybody throughout the ages had something to say about taxes. Nobody likes paying taxes, not even the tax man. But, in order to participate in a civilized society, we need to pay our fair share of taxes.
In order to pay our fair share of property taxes we must first be assigned a fair assessment. In my 20 plus years of real estate appraising, I have found most people are fairly assessed. During times of rapid growth and explosive markets, value assessments are seldom questioned. But when the market has a downturn, over assessment can become very unpleasant not only for the owner but also for the county. It can exasperate the downturn of current market value and create upward momentum of the foreclosure problem.
Assessment x Millage =Taxes
There are two components that determine your property taxes: Assessment and Millage.
Assessment is determined by each county's assessment office.
Millage is determined by 4 entities - the county, township, library and schools.
I cannot determine if you are over taxed, but I can tell if you are over assessed.
Many people ask:
How is my property value determined?
The market value assigned to residential properties is based on the research of comparable sales of residential properties within your area as indicated by current market conditions.
What I offer you in this web site is a very simple way of determining if your property is over assessed. Just the fact that you are reading this page shows that you are concerned with the amount of property taxes that you are currently paying.
If you follow my general guidelines of determining your assessment and feel you fall into the category of being over assessed please e-mail or call me and I can help you determine your course of action should you want to appeal your assessment.
Most of the information given is for Monroe County, but is applicable for other counties as well.
What can I do if I feel my property is over assessed?
You must file a written intention to appeal with the Board of Assessment Appeals identifying the assessment you want to appeal, the property code number and the address to which the Board should send the hearing notice for your appearance. You will receive an Assessment Appeal form which must be completed and returned to the Assessment Office within 10 days.
What is the profile of a likely over assessed property?
Homes, condos and townhouses built in 2000 or later
HOME OWNER’S GUIDE TO CHECKING YOUR ASSESSMENT
Step 1: Checking Your Assessment
It’s easy to check what the county thinks your house is worth.
Get a copy of your tax bill. Look at the Base Assessment figure.
Multiple this figure by
· Monroe County …. 4.00
· Carbon County ….. 3.01
· Pike County ………. 4.00
Your Monroe County tax bill shows a total assessment of $23,500.
$23,500 x 4.00= $94,000. (Estimated value of your home by the county)
If you think your house is worth more, then you’re lucky because you are under assessed. But, if you think your house is worth less, you must prove it to the chief assessor.
Step 2 Investigating Your Home’s Worth
A Quick Way to Determine the Value of Your Home
There are web sites that can determine the value of your home. But, be careful some sites will charge and others are realty services looking for potential listings.
Yahoo Real Estate is a good start. It gives a price range of other valuation sites such as Zillow.com and Homegain.com
These web-sites will quickly determine the value of your home. It’s not as accurate as an appraisal, but it does give a ballpark figure. The drawback of the on-line valuation sites is that the information is sketchy and many transfers are missed. As a consequence the range of value can be very wide. Another big problem is unless you have a specific mailing address that is tied to your physical location it has a hard time finding your house. Rural Numbers are next to impossible to find.
If your house has been listed for sale, a Zillow value may not be available.
If the estimate is within 10% of the county’s figure I wouldn’t contest the assessment. If it’s outside that percentage then you have to make a determination if it’s worth fighting for. If at this point you feel you are over assessed:
Step 3 Get A Copy of Your Property Card
You will need to go to your county’s assessment office. Before you go, please remember the people in the office have a very difficult job dealing with the public who do not understand the process of assigning value to properties. When at the Assessment Office just remember these key points:
· Be courteous
· Say thank you
At this point you just want the card so you can take it home to look over. It’s in your best interest not to even mention that you are feel you are over assessed. They hear it every day!
Once you are at home, look over the detailed information regarding your house. Make sure the details are correct especially the square footage. This is where most mistakes are made. Sometimes the basement is included in above grade living area. This can make a big difference in your assessment and a simple correction can be made.
If the details are correct then you must gather information regarding recent sales in your neighborhood that support your claim that you are over assessed.
Step 4 Gathering Supportive Information
The burden of proof for any reassessment is on the homeowner. You need to gather information regarding recent sales in your neighborhood. You cannot use foreclosure sales. They must be fair market `arms length’ transactions. That is, sales that are not distressed sales.
This might be difficult in the current real estate market but not impossible. Collecting the information is a laborious process unless you know how to go about it. The web-sites mentioned above do mention some transfers in the area, but it is sketchy at best. (At this point you may want to consider hiring a certified real estate appraiser.)
Once you have gathered the information and you feel that you have enough evidence to justify lowering your assessment you can then make an appointment to meet with the Board of Appeals. The appeal process begins September 1 of each year for the following tax year.
Step 5 Appealing Your Assessment
All assessment appeals must be made on or before September 1 for the following tax year. The fee for residential property is $25.00. You should bring all your documentation and present it in a clear and concise manner. The following should be in your file for presentation if requested:
· Sales of similar homes
· Construction costs
· Pictures of your house and the similar homes sold
· Appraisal (the appraisal must be submitted 10 days before the hearing date)
· Real estate statistics and trends of township, school district and county
Finding an Attorney
If you feel an attorney is best to represent you the Monroe County Bar Association has a very good web-site that lists local attorneys who specialize in assessment appeals. Just copy the address below into your browser. Then click on the ‘Housing and Real Estate' button. A list of attorneys will appear.
Finding an Appraiser
Determining valuation can be a daunting project especially when its your own home. If you feel you need the assistance of a professional appraiser, please contact me. I have the experience to make the process less taxing.
Thank you for visiting this site.