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PHILADELPHIA (CBS 3)
In these tight financial times, you are probably watching every dollar. But are you watching your taxes? You should! 3 On Your Side's Jim Donovan shows us how you can challenge your property assessment and possibly save on your taxes.
Giuseppe Palmarini got both when he bought his Delaware County home in 2003. "We bought the house when the market was on the upswing, and then there was a collapse," said Palmarini. An attorney suggested Palmarini appeal his property assessment. So he did, and the county changed his assessment from about $393,000 to about $282,000. That cut his taxes by $3000 a year.
"Ecstatic," Palmarini said. "It's like money found."
For decades, county assessors have estimated how much your home is worth, then used that to set your taxes. But now that houses are dropping in value, your home might not be worth what the county assessor thinks it's worth. So people are appealing their assessments.
"They're successful quite often," said James Byrne, Jr., solicitor for the Delaware County Board of Assessment Appeals. "If you look at 2008, we had about 1015 appeals. Of those, there were 757 that were approved by the board."
Palmarini's attorney, Donald J. Weiss, says homeowners should review their assessments, especially if they have a newer home.
"The houses that are the worst ones are houses built since 2002," said Weiss. "They're almost all over-assessed."
Even though the deadline to appeal this year has passed in New Jersey and Delaware, you can start laying the groundwork now by getting your assessment. Weiss says the key to a successful appeal is a professional appraisal to determine your property's fair market value. It can cost several hundred dollars, but it might pay for itself.
"Because you're talking about a lot of money in my opinion," said Weiss. "If you're off by $200 a year, that's $200 a year."
To Giuseppe Palmarini, paying for an appraisal and an attorney was worth it. "Everyone should have to pay their taxes, but no one should have to overpay their taxes," he said.
In many counties in our viewing area, you can file an appeal any time, but they must be received by a certain deadline for each tax year. Appeals filed now in Pennsylvania can help cut your taxes starting in 2010. You'll be able to file for New Jersey until April 1 of next year. Each of Delaware's three counties has different deadline dates.
The exception to those deadlines: if your property has recently undergone an assessment revision, sometimes called an interim assessment. If you have recently been reassessed, check your assessment revision notice for the deadline to appeal your new assessment.