Westchester Tax Grievances

Properties located in New York which are currently being over-assessed can have their taxes lowered by filing a Tax Grievance.  With the softening of the real estate market many properties’ assessments are higher than their respective market values.  When this case is present and by following the proper procedures, the real estate taxes paid on these properties can be reduced to the level that reflects their actual market values.  Westchester County is one of the highest taxed counties in the Country in terms of Real Estate Taxes.  Homeowners, or their designated representatives can file Tax Grievances to the governing bodies (usually the Tax Assessor’s office located in Town/City/Village Hall).

The process of Grieving your property’s taxes does vary between communities, but this process does have an overall consistency.

(1)  The first step is to determine if your property is actually being assessed correctly or not.  This can be done by checking on your property’s current assessment.  In most cases, the current assessment is not equal to the market value, as their is a ratio (Residential Assessment Ratio or RAR) that needs to be applied to the assessment to convert it to a market value (what your property would sell for).  Your property’s current assessment can be found on your most recent tax bill or by contacting your local Tax Assessor.  The Tax Assessor will also be able to provide you with the most recent RAR.  Many Tax Grievance Representatives/Consultants, like Domus Appraisals, will calculate your assessment to market value ratio by performing some preliminary research, typically at no cost.

(2)  Once your property’s assessment is determined & converted into a market value, the next stage is to have a Real Estate Appraisal performed on your property to determine the exact market value of your property.  It is extremely important to have a qualified Appraiser, who is licensed/certified within the State to complete this valuation.  In many cases, the appraisal may come under scrutiny & need to be reliable with supporting the derived value. Most Appraisals hold a fee which is collected at the inspection, so it beneficial to have an idea prior to ordering an appraisal whether or nor your property is possibly over-assessed.

(3) If the Appraisal shows that the market value of the property is lower than the full market Assessed Value, then most likely the property is being over-taxed. From this point, Formal Grievance forms should be filed within the Tax Assessor’s Office. The burden of proof is placed on the homeowner to show that their property is being over-assessed. Support must be submitted along with the necessary forms to successfully grieve your property’s Assessment. The most effective and accepted form of support is a Real Estate Appraisal, which hopefully you have already obtained. Tax Grievance deadlines are set typically once per year and differ between communities. You should check with your local Tax Assessor to find the designated deadline for your community.

This is a brief synopsis of the steps taken to submit a formal Tax Grievance. Unfortunately, the process does not always end here. Please look out for the follow-up posting of Grieving your Property’s Real Estate Taxes for a guide to the remainder of the process and other helpful hints for lowering your property’s Taxes.

Real Estate Market Conditions in the New York Metro Area

Appraising real estate in the metro New York area can prove to be much different than in other areas of the Country.  The real estate market in New York, particularly in areas proximate to New York City, is more self contained and has shown to be stronger than most other markets throughout the USA.  While most real estate markets are showing serious declines in property values, New York City and its surrounding areas have been less affected with property values maintaining for the first half of 2008.

Despite this market stability, there are some signs which indicate a potential decline in values. Outside of Manhattan, statistics are showing an oversupply of properties being actively offered for sale. In fact, the number of properties listed for sale in almost any given community is outweighing the number of sales over the prior year.

The increased difficulty in obtaining financing due to more stringent qualifications has also affected the state of the local real estate market. Buyers are now becoming more focused on competitive pricing and the condition of properties as the market is shifting towards a buyer’s market.

There is still a steady volume of properties being purchased, yet homeowner’s must price their properties realistically or be prepared for price reductions and/ or prolonged marketing times. The increased supply gives buyers a higher number of properties to choose from & therefore presents an increasingly competitive marketplace, which is a 360 degree turnaround from only 3-4 years prior.

With foreclosures on the rise in most areas and more weary buyers in the marketplace, the outlook for the real estate market remains uncertain. While New York City has remained strong due to an increased International presence of property buyers, most other surrounding areas are experiencing a change in the overall real estate marketplace.

Seeing that the remainder of the Country has been experiencing declining values for the past year or longer, there are already some steps that have been taken to help increase values and “rebound” the slumping markets. Real Estate markets that are just now showing signs of declining values may not see prolonged exposure to these conditions due to the efforts in place which are expected to assist the overall Real Estate market in the Country (ie: lowered interest rates, increased FHA funding, etc..)

All of these factors play into an Appraiser’s ability to value properties. An appraiser must not only be able to have knowledge of the current changes in their marketplaces, but they must also have the ability to anticipate future market reactions from statistical analysis and other pertinent indicators.

Comments regarding your opinion of the current, local Real Estate markets (New York City, Westchester County, Long Island, etc.) are welcomed. Please check back for postings on other related topics such as: Tax Grievances, Various Types of Appraisal Assignments, and How to Become a Real Estate Appraiser.