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I Appealed My Property Taxes and Saved Thousands, While My Neighbor's Appeal Failed. Here's Why

The Ascent logo The Ascent 5/15/2022 Christy Bieber
Man smiling reading a letter. © Getty Images Man smiling reading a letter.

Property taxes are a huge added cost associated with owning a home. They have to be paid every year along with your mortgage principal and interest. But, the good news is, it may be possible to lower the amount you pay for property taxes by appealing your assessed value.

See, property taxes are based on how much your home is worth as well as the millage rate applicable to your area. A millage rate is the tax dollars you pay for each $1,000 in property value. You can't change the millage rate that applies to your home, but if you can get your property's assessed value lowered, you can reduce the taxes owed -- sometimes by thousands of dollars.

That's exactly what my husband and I did. And my neighbor tried to do the same, but wasn't successful. There was a simple reason for that.

Here's why my property tax appeal succeeded when my neighbor's failed

When my husband and I appealed our property taxes after moving into our home, we hired a professional appraiser. We pointed out all of the issues with the home and let the appraiser know we were getting an assessment for the purpose of appealing our property taxes. And, we ended up with our home appraising for much less than the amount that our township said the home was worth.

We were able to submit this documentation to our appeals board. We were also required to attend a hearing, which we did -- and we presented our appraisal and argued that a qualified professional had said our home was worth less so it clearly was overvalued for tax purposes.

The appeals board agreed and substantially lowered our assessed value, which has saved us a fortune in the decade we've lived here and continues to pay off to this day.

Our neighbor, however, decided to appeal his property taxes but he didn't want to pay for an appraisal. He submitted some simple documentation showing other homes in the area had sold for less than what his house was appraised for and argued his case at the hearing, but the appeals board found the evidence was insufficient and didn't reduce his assessment. He's since tried several times, each time without hiring an appraiser -- and his appeals have yet to be successful.

Sometimes, it pays to get a professional involved

The big takeaway that I learned from this experience is that sometimes it can pay to get a professional involved when you're trying to do something that will help your financial situation in the long term.

Whether that means hiring an appraiser to help appeal your taxes or hiring a lawyer to handle legal work or a financial advisor to give you advice, it's important not to be shortsighted when you decide if paying a fee for advice is worthwhile.

If my husband and I hadn't paid the appraiser $400, we'd have spent thousands more in taxes over the years. This is a great example of how being penny wise and pound foolish can come back to haunt you.

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