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Should You Appeal Your Allegheny Property Reassessment?

court-house.jpgYou just received the notice of reassessment for your Allegheny County property, and the assessed value went up significantly. You no doubt have a lot of questions on your mind. How much are your taxes going to go up? Should you file an appeal? Should you file an informal or a formal appeal? How do you know whether your appeal case is strong? What kind of evidence is persuasive at the appeal hearing? What are the risks with filing an appeal? The Kisner Law Firm is representing homeowners from all over Allegheny County, helping them to answer these questions.

How much will your taxes increase?

It is difficult to say how much your taxes will change until the new millage rates come out for each municipality. It is probably safe to assume that the millage rates will be adjusted, though. In most areas, assessed values went up, which means the taxing authorities are required to adjust their millage rates down. For many property owners, even though their assessed values went up, their taxes will actually go down because of the millage rate adjustments. See a previous article with examples using estimated millage rates for the City of Pittsburgh.

What makes a strong case for appeal?

Appealing a property assessment is a complicated legal action, but some general principles apply to most cases. These are the most common factors that we see that contribute to the strength of a case:

  1. The recent sale of the subject property. If you recently (within the past 2-3 years) bought your house for an amount less than the assessed value, that is a great argument for reducing the assessment. If, however, you recently purchased your house for an amount greater than the assessed value, that will be strong evidence against any reduction. It's hard to argue that you bought a property for one price, but it is actually worth less than that. It's not an impossible argument, though, and an attorney can help make that case stronger.
  2. Recent comparable sales. The recent sales of comparable properties is usually the backbone of a strong appeal case. If we can find issues to critique with the comparables listed in the county database, we do that as well. We like to find comparable sales that:
      • are within the last 18 months from the appeal date
      • are within .8 miles distance from the subject
      • have similar physical characteristics (frame/brick, stories, year built, bedrooms, bathrooms, condition, etc.)
      • are the same type of building (rowhouse, condo, multi-family, etc.)
  3. Defects in the property or mistakes in the county data. Physical defects in the property are important, but may not be recorded in the county database. If a roof is damaged and in need of repair, or if there are other issues, those can be evidence of a lower value. Sometimes the county data is simply mistaken on a statistical issue like the square footage. In that case, correcting the mistake can support a lower value.
  4. Appraisals. If good comparables and other arguments are not available, it may be a good idea to order a professional appraisal of the property. This involves an additional cost, typically a few hundred dollars, but it can be persuasive evidence for a lower value.
Should you file an informal or formal appeal?

If good evidence like the kind described above is available to support a lower assessed value, it may be worth it to appeal assessment by Allegheny County. Both informal and formal appeals are availableand effective in getting assessed values actually reduced. For several reasons, retaining an experienced real estate attorney can improve your chances of success at an appeal hearing.

Receive a free initial evaluation from the Kisner Law Firm

If you are thinking of filing an appeal, the Kisner Law Firm can provide you with a free initial evaluation of your property and the kind of case we can put together for your appeal. Our firm has a powerful real estate database powered by RealSTATs that allows us to analyze any property in Allegheny County by looking at the statistical information and comparable sales data. Find out today if you can save money by appealing your property assessment. Contact the Kisner Law Firmfor an evaluation of your property.

Remember the deadline to file an appeal is April 2, 2012.

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