The Flip Side: Lowering your tax bill

Written by on August 1, 2012 in Blogs, Real Estate - No comments

In last week’s column I mentioned that the higher taxes in the city are factor for people who are thinking about moving into the city.

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So lets put it out there and talk about property taxes, why you should appeal them, and the appeal process.

With the increase in distressed property sales, short sales, and bank-owned foreclosures, there has been a steady decline in values in Baltimore City. Why not use that decline to your advantage and see if you can lower your property tax bill?

Did you know you can appeal your property taxes regardless of how long you have owned your home? Whether you bought your home 20 years ago or during the 2005-2007 boom, the assessments have most likely changed dramatically in the last few years. Look up your home’s assessment in the Real Property Database, and, if you think the assessment is greater than the values in your neighborhood, you have nothing to lose by appealing your assessment, which is officially updated every three years.

Keep in mind, the assessment does not necessarily determine what you might sell your home for in today’s markets. In fact, it’s a great selling point if the assessment is on the lower side.

If you have questions about your home value, have a realtor prepare a 90-day market analysis.This report will show the active, closed, and pending sales in your neighborhood and will give you a realistic idea of your current market value

If you are buying a foreclosure the taxes may be a greater issue, since the taxes are based on the last sale price. Again, you have to qualify to pay the taxes at a more current rate, but you have a pretty good chance of getting a reduction.

I spoke with  Christopher Breck, VP & Director of Marketing at Advantage Title Company and he said, “Even though assessments have been reduced throughout the city, anyone that purchases a short sale, foreclosure, or intends to rehab a property should seriously consider an assessment appeal. These properties tend to be the best candidates for reduction. With Baltimore having the highest tax rates in Maryland, even the slightest reduction can save a homeowner hundreds of dollars a year.”

Brigitte Williams, a realtor with Prudential Homesales in Federal Hill, tells prospective  homebuyers: “You have to qualify based on the current assessment; there is no way around it. However you have 60 days from the time you settle to appeal, and you will most likely get something. Since you pay one-twelfth of that bill every month, you will see some savings after the first year.”

The Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation states appeals can be filed on  3 occasions: upon receipt of an assessment notice; by a petition for review; or upon purchase of property occurring between Jan. 1 and June 30.

You can file a petition for review before Jan. 1 during the two years your property is not valued, if events affecting value have occurred since your last assessment.  You may also petition for review within 60 days of settling on a new purchase.

If you have questions about the tax appeal process visit the SDAT website at www.dat.state.md.us or talk to a tax specialist.

Marci Yankelov is a local realtor and Baltimore native. She works at Century 21 Downtown in Federal Hill.

Has Baltimore City property tax affected you? Let us know how in comments.

by Marci Yankelov
Special to The Baltimore Guide

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