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How To Challenge Your Property Assessment

If you think your assessment is wrong, I suggest you file both an informal hearing and formal appeal.

My expectations for any resolution on my were pretty low when I entered the county building on Forbes shortly before noon Monday.

But by the time I left my informal hearing about 15 minutes later, those low expectations turned into total bewilderment about what would be happening next.

Living in a townhouse community, I figured should be practically identical. But after receiving a number that was 5 percent higher than a neighbor three doors down, it seemed like a no-brainer to appeal.

I presented my information, photos and four comparables to one of the many real estate agents hired to listen to our complaints. While she thumbed through my comparables, I asked her why the county didn’t just hire them to do the assessment in the first place. She said many realtors are asking themselves that same question.

After reviewing all of my “evidence” and tapping at her keyboard for a few minutes, she handed back my information and told me I should get them scanned at a room down the hall. That took a few more minutes and the process was completed.

So what does that means to my assessment? Who knows? The realtor told me she couldn’t wave a magic wand to fix the potential errors. In other words, she couldn’t perform magic on this entire debacle.

That’s funny, because I’m pretty sure the company that conducted the reassessment, Cole Layer Trumble, pulled their numbers out of thin air and made them magically appear in our mailboxes.

The realtor told me someone will review my files and make a recommendation about my grievances. I have no clue what that meant, so I grabbed a 2013 Formal Appeal, filled it out and handed it over to the county’s assessment office. They’re supposed to contact me to schedule the formal hearing when I’ll present my evidence and argue that the assessment got it wrong.

I’m not really sure what argument will work because no part of this process has made any sense.

Regardless, if you think your assessment is wrong, I would strongly suggest you file both an informal hearing and formal appeal. Your tax bill depends on that.

Do you plan to challenge your assessment? Why do disagree with your assessment and what advice do you have for others who are unhappy with their numbers?

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Bill February 28, 2012 at 01:15 PM
I plan we appeal my assessment. My assessment is forty thousand dollars above what the county has identified as my comparable properties. My assessment went up Over sixty thousand dollars. Scott Township total assessed values went up by thirty three percent but mine went up over fifty percent. This has to be wrong!
Mike Jones (Editor) February 28, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Bill... I find it laughable that the county thinks people should get certified appraisals to bring as evidence in their appeals. As if the diligent work of an appraiser is going to make any sense in this foggy debacle. The county and contractor owe us an explanation how they came to these figures. If they don't, I'm not sure how they can reject any assertion that they're wrong.
Michelle February 28, 2012 at 09:38 PM
What do you suggest we take to our informal appeal?
Mike Jones (Editor) February 28, 2012 at 10:39 PM
I printed off the new assessment information for four homes I consider comparable to mine (since the county didn't assign any comparables) and my information. I also photographed the four homes and mine. They typed all of that info into some system and then scanned the photographs.
Ryan Neve February 29, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Mike, I am a certified Appraiser and have been working with home owners to fight their assessments. Having a certified Appraisal done is the only way to find the true value of your home. We have had great success when the owners bring an Appraisal into the hearing. I take offense to you stating that the work of an Appraiser is going to make any sense in this debacle. As an Appraiser I can supply you with a certified Appraisal of your homes value. By supplying that value, it clears the muddy water to show your home's true value and not some " assessment" done by a Mass Appraisal. The county absolutely used the wrong system , it was court ordered. If they wanted the right values, they should have hired LOCAL Appraisers to get the job done. They could have helped the local economy and had correct market value's of the homes. I applaud your effort and platform but you may be a little off base in your opinion of Appraisers. As I stated in another post I am always willing to offer comments or advice on this topic, please feel free to reach out. I am a local Appraiser in Bridgeville.
Mike Jones (Editor) February 29, 2012 at 01:54 PM
If people think they need to have an appraisal as evidence in their appeal, then that's absolutely what they should do. But my contention is that just because a correct market value is placed on your home doesn't mean you're paying your fair share. Will assessors be able to go back and re-value everyone who was under assessed? No. So even if your assessment appears right, it doesn't matter if everyone else on your street, in your town and in your school district was under valued. My point is that appraisers can't fix every mistake in this whole flawed assessment.
MD March 01, 2012 at 02:32 PM
ONE comment TAX REFORM ! We will dispute the FAIR MARKET VALUE till the cows come home.The more people get involve,the quicker this will end. MD
Mike Jones (Editor) March 01, 2012 at 02:41 PM
MD... Be careful what you wish for because tax reform might mean less local control for school districts and towns. An increase to sales taxes would have the state doling out money instead of it coming from municipalities. An increase to the 1% local/school earned income tax might work, although voters vetoed that idea in 2007.
MD March 02, 2012 at 01:10 PM
Mike, To me that's a good thing,they control us now with property tax increases when they spend to much.( School District ).Example: Montour High School paid out $800,000.00 of taxpayers money on a lawsuit,the company they originally hired for the designing for there NEW HIgh School.The company claimed they had preliminary expenses for the work and school district decided to use another company.Now they are spending 13 million more for Sports Facility and renovating the pool,etc.I though property taxes were for education,not all this elite schools sport complexes.You wait till next year they will need too raise taxes !
Mike Jones (Editor) March 02, 2012 at 01:36 PM
As someone who owns a house in South Fayette, you don't have to tell me about elite school sports complexes! Their football stadium looks like Heinz Field and their schools are like being on a college campus. We're getting taxed out of our gourds over here.
Mike Jones (Editor) May 15, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Just got my informal review decision in the mail today and the county lowered my assessment by 0.000000%. I'm eagerly looking forward to my formal hearing that will now be scheduled.
Becky Brindle May 16, 2012 at 01:54 AM
Wow, I'm sure you are!

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