Home Work

The Property Tax Grinch

I was surprised at the results of a local TV news program phone survey that asked the following question: Did you receive what you wanted for Christmas? In excess of 50 percent reported no, they didn't get what they really really wanted. I was amused because even with all of our advancements in communications technology our ability to communicate interpersonally hasn't kept pace.

For those homeowners who are proud members of the "I got what I wanted" club, your 15 minutes of holiday joy might be ending. Soon all Hamilton County property owners will be receiving their revised and updated property values, which will reflect increases from 2 percent to 48 percent. The reasons for these variations are many, beginning with that old real estate favorite and standby: location, location, location.

If you're interested in knowing why your tax bill is what it is, you need to look at the property values of the blocks that surround you and your street in particular — an evaluative process that any Realtor® can assist you with. If, for example, homes on your street are selling for more over the past three years than those a street over, chances are your tax bill will reflect more of an increase.

If you disagree with the Hamilton County Auditor, you can appeal to the Board of Revision — but it's important to keep in mind that if your value was based on an older value you might be confronted with an even higher increase.

A more detailed analysis as to why your bill is what it is reflects a mixed bag of good and bad news.

Every three years the county auditor is required to physically view and assess the value of each property. After the property value has been established, the auditor then applies the current millage rate, which falls as property values increase (because the money collected under older levies increases as property values increase). It is without question an obfuscatory process that can't be easily deciphered by anyone.

But like a late-night infomercial, the mathematical foibles doesn't end there. There's more to your tax bill than just the property valuation component — don't forget all the individual tax levies that were passed in recent years.

Spend a dollar here and spend a dollar there and, sooner and in this case later, we're talking about spending real money for schools, the elderly or mental health — all of which adds up. If you ever want to see whom the real property tax Grinch is, all you have to do is remember who grabbed your hand in the voting booth and made you vote for the issues.

Yes, you've found the ASSessor, and it is you. That's probably not exactly what you wanted for Christmas, but now it's time to pay.

THIS WEEK'S TIP: Owning a home offers several advantages, among them:
· Your home can provide you with pride and security. The pleasure and satisfaction you get from owning a home is something that can't be measured.

· It means you become a part of a neighborhood and a community.

· It also allows you to create an atmosphere of your choice by deciding how your home will look. You can choose the colors and the landscaping and make remodeling decisions to personalize your home. If done well, improvements such as adding a deck, a yard fence or new carpet will increase the value of your property.

Home Work is a weekly column geared toward residential real estate.

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