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January 30, 2010

P R O P E R T Y   S E A R C H

R E S T I V O – H E C H T M A N    T E A M

Contributed by Phil Spool –  Tax Appraiser and Contributing Writer for MiamiRealEstateCafe

While your tax assessment notice (TRIM) will not be made available to you until this August, now is the time to prepare for a possible tax assessment appeal based on market value gavelprices in your area as well as the physical condition of your property.  If you purchased your house toward the end of 2009, be sure to file for Homestead Exemption if this is your permanent home and  you have no other house or condominium unit declared as your present homestead.  But for all other properties, you need to pay attention to the assessment the property appraiser will place on your property.
There are several ways you can appeal your assessment:
1.    Request a reduction to the overall assessment of your house based on recent sales through January 2010;
2.    Pay attention to the Improvement portion of your assessment.  The assessment of your property is based on the land assessment plus the improvement assessment.  If the improvement portion increases every year and if you have not made any improvements to the house, file the petition and base your appeal on the improvement portion of your assessment indicating that the improvement portion should be decreasing each year, not increasing; and
3.    If there was any physical damage to the improvements prior to January 1, 2010, take photographs of the damaged areas now and get cost estimates for the repairs.  Use the photographs and cost estimates to further support your reduction in the improvement portion of your assessment.
How can you appeal your tax assessment?  There are basically two ways. 
1) One way, the easiest way, is to hire a tax appeal agent and let them do the work.  They will represent you at the Value Adjustment Board hearing and if they are successful in getting a reduction in your assessment, a refund check will be mailed to you from the tax collector.  This might take time but it will be worth it.  The only cost initially is the $15 filing fee plus a possible $5 handling fee by the agent.  If the tax agent is successful, you will be sent a bill from the tax appeal agent for their share in the reduction in taxes you saved.  The cost is usually a percentage of the reduction, anywhere from 20% to 50%.  You need to discuss this prior to signing with the agent.  Obtain a written engagement letter with the terms involved.
2) The second way, is to represent yourself at the Value Adjustment Board hearing.  If you are successful, you are only out of pocket the initial $15 filing fee and you keep all of the tax savings, again, providing you are successful.
Remember, more than likely you will have your case heard in 2011 and possibly up through the beginning of 2012.  So when you receive the notice for the hearing, you need to bring with you “evidence”, which basically means “sales” that support a reduction in the 2010 assessment.  This also means your comparable sales you will show the Special Magistrate will have to come from 2009 as each tax year is based on the assessment at the beginning of the year.
Right now the Value Adjustment Board is still hearing 2008 cases, which means property owners must show sales that have occurred in 2007!  I have seen property owners not understanding the system bring in sales (called evidence) that are current sales, and not the old, stale dates of up to January 1 2008.
And if you missed the previous article, read:  7 Reasons to Get a Property Appraisal …  Phil Spool interviewed by Vicki Restivo, Realtor with Esslinger Wooten Maxwell.
This article was written by Phil Spool, a state-certified general real estate appraiser, who is also a Special Magistrate with Miami-Dade County.  The article represents the opinions of the author and not the Value Adjustment Board or other Special Magistrates.  For questions, he can be reached at pgspool@bellsouth.net
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