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I received an unsolicited offer from Cooligan & Assoc. to appeal the
tax assessment on my property on a success-only fee.
I'm curious if anyone has a) appealed their property tax assessment
recently and how it went and/or b) if anyone has used one of these
firms to do the appeal for them what the experience/outcome was.
I appealed to Alameda County last year and was successful. You
just get the forms off the Alameda County website. To find the
information I needed to appeal, I went on Zillow and found
lower sale prices for property within a three-block radius that
had about the same square footage and bed/bath as our place.
That was it. I don't think the process is complicated enough to
hire a firm, which will take half of your ''winnings.''
I fell into the trap of responding to one of those mass
mailings offering to submit a tax assessment appeal on my
behalf earlier this year. The assessment they sent back to me
was worthless, and in fact could have subjected me to
significant liability had I submitted it and attested to my
belief that it was valid (they used vacant unimproved property
as comparable properties (my house is only three years old and
in a development with some empty lots) and came up with a
number that was $650,000 less than the assessed value. They
also used the wrong forms, as Alameda County had its own form
that has to be completed, and I doubt that Alameda county would
have accepted the useless form the assessment by mail company
sent me back. I ended up tossing the forms from the mass-
mailer Tax Assessment Corp. and using the Alameda County form I
printed online at the Alameda County Tax Assessors office
website instead. I completed it online, and found the
comparable properties myself using SFgate.com and realtor.com.
I also sent a letter to the assessment company refusing to pay
their fee, and succeeded in getting them to waive the bill (I
threatened legal action). The bad news is that I lost my appeal
(the assessor told me that they only consider comps close to
December and that several sold in my neighborhood close to the
assessed value late last year.), but I am hopeful that I will
succeed next year. My advice - do it yourself. There was an
article in the Chronicle about the process a few months back
you may be able to find online, and the tax assessor's office
has advice online. But don't respond to those mailers and
waste your money. It's a scam.
You can contest your property tax assessment yourself, for free.
You don't need to pay anyone. Find some local recent
''comparables'' (homes similar to yours) that have sold recently
for less than your house's assessment. Your property tax
assessment notice that you get in the mail tells you where to
contact and what to do.
Has anyone gone through the process of having their house
reassessed to lower their property taxes? On the Contra Costa
website, it says we have to demonstrate the market value of the
house--what's the best way to do that? Can we use zillow.com or
one of the other house-value website?
We bought our house in 1990, and within a few years, since 1991
was a peak, we had it ''reassessed''. This simply meant writing in
and requesting that our tax be lowered. Nobody ever contacted us
or visited the house--they knew what the average decline was and
I presume just used that. You could submit zillow--why not?
They did lower our taxes, pretty much automatically. If zillow
is not sufficient, I'm sure they will let you know, and I don't
know of any reason why you can't try again.
If you have some specific amount in mind and it is arguable, I
think it would be more complicated. But if you are willing to
take what they are willing to do, and you bought your house in
the last few years, I don't think it will be any trouble. There
are all kinds of ads and stuff for companies that will help
you--but they make it seem much more complicated than it is. The
tax assessor, after all, is supposed to assess your house and
know its value.
Now, we have owned our house since 1990. NO WAY would we be able
to get our assessment lowered even though the house has declined
in value in the last 2 years, because due to prop 13, our taxes
are based on a much lower value than what it is worth now. So
only if you bought your house recently, and its current value is
less than what you paid, will this work.
I was hesitant to do this but did it anyway. I am so happy I
did because our property tax was lowered by over $1100. All
you have to do is send in a letter to the County Assessor. I
first called and they told me what to do. They said that it
may take some time as a lot of people were doing it, but it
only took one month and I received a revised tax statement. I
plan on doing it again if prices keep falling.
This is what I wrote:
Due to the current housing market, I disagree with the current
assessment of our property and would like to request an
assessment review of our property at XXXX Street, City, CA
this page was last updated: Oct 8, 2008
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