1. Look for obvious errors
in the description of your house in the official records, such
as incorrect age, square footage, condition or acreage. If you
find a mistake, document it with blueprints, surveys,
photographs and inspection reports.
Compare the assessed value of your house with the assessments
on similar homes in your neighborhood. This is public
information and is available at Web sites such as
www.domania.com or at your local property tax assessor's
3. Ask a
real estate agent or your assessor for a list of all sales
within the past six months in your neighborhood. Identify
three to six homes that are similar to yours and located near
your property. Ask if any sales were the result of unusual
circumstances, such as a property exchange or a sale among
relatives (assessors might throw these comparisons out).
for differences in lot size, floor plans, view and proximity
to adverse factors (such as a noisy superhighway) that could
influence value. Although only closed sales matter when
determining comparable value, visit open houses regularly in
your area so you know how they compare with yours.
a copy of your purchase contract to any hearing and, if
possible, copies of property-record cards for your house and
photos of your house and comparables -- and swallow your ego.
You want to show your house's warts, such as foundation cracks
or a sagging deck. Conversely, show what makes your neighbors'
homes shine. But don't get carried away with photos, or you'll
bore the board.
Get a copy of your most recent home appraisal, which was
probably done in connection with a mortgage. If it was for a
refinance, you might want to pay to have your house appraised
again. In a refinance, some appraisers have been known to
underestimate market values. Review boards know this.
for special homestead exemptions or tax reductions for the
disabled, senior citizens, veterans and low-income homeowners.
Historic or energy-conserving buildings may get a break, too.
Make sure you include all the breaks you deserve.
Calculate and put in writing the reduction you believe you are
entitled to, along with your reasons.
Don't let a technicality doom your cause. Use whatever forms
your jurisdiction requires and meet all deadlines. It's also a
good idea to watch the review board in action in advance, so
you get a feel for the kind of approach the members like and
the evidence they require.