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How to Lower Your Property Tax Bill

By Hal M. Bundrick

NEW YORK (MainStreet) The U.S. real estate market may be enjoying a bit of a recovery, but the fact remains that a lot of homeowners still have quite a bit of ground to cover before regaining their home's value lost during the recession.

And that may mean you're paying too much in property taxes. Your annual property tax bill may not truly reflect current and perhaps lower local home values.

Ilyce Glink, a personal finance expert and managing editor of the Equifax finance blog, says homeowners should be proactive and make a compelling case to their tax assessor's office if they believe, and have proof, that their property taxes should be lower.

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"If your home has lost value during the last six or seven years, you should be able to get your property taxes reduced," says Glink. "You can do this by creating a market analysis of other homes in the neighborhood that are in the same tax category as yours."

Most homeowners receive their local property tax bills just after the New Year and have a short window of only 30 to 45 days in which to file an appeal after receiving the notice.

Glink says that with limited time, you will have to get right to work, researching the recent sale prices for similar homes in your area and comparing each home's tax bill with yours. Taking an exterior snapshot of each "comp" can help you make your case to the tax assessor's office.

"Each real estate parcel is given a PIN, and this PIN is used when levying property taxes," adds Glink. "You'll need your PIN to assess the value of your home. You can look it up online or through your local tax assessor's office. You should also obtain the PINs of homes in the area that are comparable to yours."

She says you will also want to check with the local assessor's office to determine your county's specific property tax appeal rules before pitching the reassessment.

"It only takes one foreclosure in a neighborhood to drop property prices by 20%, 30%, or even 50%," says Glink. "If you have distressed homes in your area, it's certainly possible that your own home's value has also gone down and that your tax bill should be lower."

--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet

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