There can be no doubt – owning a home is a wonderful thing. It is a powerful feeling to reach a point in your life when you can purchase your very own home. But with great power comes great responsibility. Some of these responsibilities can be a bit wearing at times… one of those being property tax. Not unlike the prices of seemingly everything, they go up and up with no sign of relief. Even after your mortgage is paid off, those taxes are something you will be paying as long as you own your home. Here are a few simple tips that may help you lessen the pain of property taxes.
Go Easy on the Curb Appeal
The evaluation process that tax assessors use is made of a set of guidelines that have been put in place to be followed to the letter. That said, however, there is a level of subjectivity that can still be contained within those guidelines. A house that is not as appealing as the home right next to it will have a lesser assessed value than the aesthetically pleasing home. Sadly, that’s just the way it is.
The comparison to other homes in your neighborhood is what property tax assessments are all about. Because the assessor will likely schedule their visit in order to assess your home, you will know ahead of time whether or not you should be dressing up your home’s appearance. As unfair as it sounds, the fewer improvements you make on your home and the more you dress it down, the lower your assessment will likely be.
Should you sell your home, on the other hand, that is the time when you want to increase your home’s value with lots of pretty dressings and extras (stainless steel appliances, new countertops, shiny fixtures).
Take a Good Hard Look at Your Property Tax Card
Visit your local assessor’s office and request a copy your property tax card. Few people know that this is actually an option. What this card provides you with is the information about your home that has been gathered over time. It is the holy grail upon which your property taxes are based.
Included on this card will be your home’s type and number of fixtures, room count and dimensions, the lot size, etc. Additional information may discuss improvements that have been made to the home and any notes about them as well as a ‘special features’ section.
Do bring any issues and discrepancies that you see to the attention of the tax assessor. A re-evaluation may be scheduled. Mistakes happen, even with tax assessors, so do not ever take it for granted that everything on your tax card is gospel. Townships are under no obligation to fix discrepancies, even if they know something’s wrong unless you force their hand.
Take a Good Look at Your Bergen Neighbors
Your tax card is not the only tax card that is available for your perusal. Feel free to look at the tax cards of other properties in the area to see what you’re up against. What you’re looking for here are homes that are similarly laid out but that have huge differences when it comes to what they have been assessed at.
Granted, if two properties are laid out the same but one has a gorgeous swimming pool with Jacuzzi, a massive shed/man cave out back, and a spacious two-car garage – but the other home doesn’t have all that – yes, there’s going to be a considerable difference in what each of those homeowners pay for property taxes.
And again, if you see major discrepancies it’s good to bring it to the attention of the tax assessor. A reevaluation may be in order.
Accompany the Assessor through Your Home
When the tax assessor walks through your home, go along with them. It’s not that you don’t trust them to be alone in your home, but left to their own devices they may concentrate solely on all of the dressy, pretty aspects of your home. If your roof needs replacing or your appliances are out of date, feel free to bring that to their attention so that they notice things other than your beautiful fireplace or your fancy chrome faucets.
Tax Assessors Don’t Have X-Ray Vision
Do you have to let the tax assessor into your private domain? No, you do not. But if you don’t let them in to do the evaluation of your home more may be left more to their imagination than based on fact. They may assume that the inside of your house is new and shiny when in reality, you have kept improvements to a minimum.
Building Up Your Home Means Building Up Your Property Taxes
Again, this is the sad truth. Any addition of permanent fixtures to your home – i.e. a beautiful shed, a pool with Jacuzzi, a sprawling deck – these are all going to add to your assessment thereby adding to your property taxes.
If you really want to add to your home it won’t hurt to find out ahead of time just how much that addition may increase your property taxes. You should be able to research an estimate of how much improvements/additions would hike up your property taxes by contacting the local tax and building department.
Too many people the make the mistake of assuming that their tax bill is carved in granite. Some due diligence and a bit of research and you may be able to find some relief from the pain and strain of having to pay exorbitant property taxes. The different levels of property taxes as they apply to different Bergen neighborhoods is also something that you want to consider when you’re looking for a new home so feel free to discuss that concern and any other concerns you may have about the purchase of your new home, with your realtor.