Assessment Appeals 101

Spring only officially began less than a week ago but, it’s not too early to start thinking about appealing your tax assessment.  Sure, you might think “the deadline for filing an appeal is still months away”…”there is plenty of time to work on the appeal in the Summer”…”geez, it’s not even Memorial Day, why worry about an appeal now?”  

Well, you would be surpized at how many people do begin thinking about their property tax appeal this early in the game.  It ususally occurs to folks when they receive their real estate tax bill in January and February. 

It’s this time of year that we receive hundreds of phone calls and emails from property owners who what to know if appealing their assessment is feasible.  One thing we’ve noticed is that many property owners have a fundamental misconception about their property taxes and how to go about appealing them. Most people think that they can appeal their taxes. Unfortunately, we can’t appeal our taxes. Sorry, folks, no such luck.

However, it is your right as a property owner to appeal your assessment. Your assessment is the underlying factor upon which your taxes are calculated. Given that most properties are taxed on an “ad valorem” basis, meaning the tax is based on the value of the real estate, your assessment should represent the current fair market value of your property.

Now, most counties in the Philadelphia metro region (including Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware, Chester, Berks, Lehigh & Northampton) have not been reassessed in years (it’s very costly to do a countywide reassessment). What this means is that the assessments may present an inaccurate representation of current fair market value. Now, as a means of trying to keep the assessments current with the real estate market, equalization rations have been developed in an attempt to make the assessments echo the current market. These ratios don’t always succeed in reflecting the market, especially the turbulent markets of the past 3-4 years. As a result, the assessment of a given property may be over stated, which translates into taxes that may also be overstated.

So, it stands to reason, if real estate values are declining your assessment should mirror those declines…right? This is done by filing a tax assessment appeal with your county board of assessment. Along with filing the necessary appeal paperwork, it is your responsibility to demonstrate that the assessment does not reflect the current fair market value of your property. The best way to do this is to present an appraisal report to the board at the time of your hearing.

Appraisals should be completed by a state certified appraiser (or licensed appraiser depending on the state) who is familiar with your area. In Pennsylvania, for instance, only a certified appraiser can provide an appraisal of your property. Anything completed by someone other than an state certified appraiser is not an appraisal.  Real estate agents and brokers cannot provide appraisals in Pennsylvania.

The deadlines for filing a tax appeal are usually in Bucks, Delaware and Chester Counties August 1, 2010 and September 1, 2010 for Montgomery County.  If you reside in any other Pennsylvania counties, please check with your county tax assessor’s office to confirm your county’s deadline. Remember, if you miss the deadline, you miss the opportunity to appeal and will have to wait another year (paying the same high taxes).

For more information or to see if you are a candidate for tax assessment appeal, please contact The Coyle Group. 

Note:  Be sure to visit our site from time to time over the next few months as we present a series of posts that relate to Tax Assessment Appeals and property tax reduction.

The Coyle Group provides appraisals for tax assessment appeals in Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware, Chester, Lehigh, Berks and Northampton Counties.  Call us at 215.836.5500 for more information.


The Importance of Listing Appraisals

Last week temperatures in the Philadelphia area flirted with 70 degrees.  Spring fever was definitely in the air.  People were out and about; and for a day or two everyone forgot that it was still February.  It got me thinking about the upcoming Spring Selling Season. 

Traditionally, Spring is when the Philadelphia real estate markets start to shake off the Winter sluggishness and things start to pick up again.  However, I can’t help but think this year may be different.  Given accumulating inventories, high unemployment, impending inflation and the lack of a tax credit, the 2011 Spring Selling Season could be a challenge.  Sellers and Agents alike will need to rethink their marketing strategies and pricing in order to be competitive enough to attract Buyers.

Pricing will be the key this Spring. 

For Agents, this year more that ever it will be important to make sure listings are priced to compete.  Not only will you have to compete with the older listings that are out there, you will have to go up against fresh, new listings that will be priced to move.  If you haven’t thought about getting a Listing Appraisal, now is the time to act. 

More and more, Agents and Sellers are having Listing Appraisals completed to aide their decisions about pricing and marketing strategies.  They realize that in this market not only do you have to price a house to sell, you have to price it so that it will appraise, as well.  Other Agents (your competition) are getting Listing Appraisals.  Frankly, if you are relying on the same old CMA these days, it’s like bringing a knife to a gunfight. 

Aside from helping to price a house properly, there are several benefits to having a Listing Appraisal done:

  • Demonstrates to the Seller that the Agent is committed marketing the house effectively
  • Sets realistic expectations for Seller
  • Provides Seller with an unbiased opinion of how their home compares to others on the market
  • Helps maximize the asking price without overpricing or under-pricing
  • Can help identify potential problems, repairs or issues present at the house that may cause delays or make the sale fall through
  • Gives the Agent/Seller an indication of how a potential Buyer’s appraiser may view the property which could have an affect on the Buyer’s ability to obtain financing
  • Can help reduce days on market, resulting in higher selling prices and possibly eliminate unnecessary negotiations 
  • Saves time, money and effort

Selling a home can be a very emotional process.  Perhaps the most important benefit of a having a Listing Appraisal completed is that it allows Agents to maintain client relationships without having to be the bearer of bad news.  The Appraiser is the one to present any unpleasant or “bad” news to the Seller.  The Agent is there to aide the Seller with interpreting the news and devising a strategy to sell their home. 

Listing Appraisals can also provide some level of defense against issues arising from the HVCC Guidelines; namely, appraisers who are unfamiliar with your market, inexperienced appraisers and appraiser who may not have access to the best data for your market.  The Listing Appraisal will provide a benchmark against which any subsequent appraisals can be measured. 

So, as the Spring Selling Season begins to heat up, it is time to invest in your own success and that of your Sellers.  Get a Listing Appraisal from a Certified Real Estate Appraiser.  For $300-$450 depending on the size and complexity of the property being appraised, Agents and Sellers can get a solid understanding of the value of a property and use that information as a tool to develop the best pricing strategy possible for the property. 

For more information on Listing Appraisals please contact The Coyle Group at 215.836.5500.