Our home values are on the rise
In Hennepin County Commissioner Linda Higgin’s recent News from District 2 email, she writes that “ … the foreclosure crisis recovery means that home values here [North Minneapolis] have increased at higher percentages this year than in other parts of the city.”
And the higher your home’s estimated market value (the value the City assessor estimates your property would likely sell for on the open market) the higher your property taxes!
You have a right to appeal
If you feel your home is over-valued based on your understanding of market conditions, you have a right to appeal. You don’t have to be a real estate expert. Nor do you have to go through a qualification process in order to be able to submit an application to appeal the City’s valuation. The paperwork is surprisingly straightforward. But your appeal must be submitted by the deadlines set by the City Assessor’s Office. Otherwise your property taxes will remain set until the following year based on the current valuation.
I was able to successfully appeal the City’s 2018 valuation of my home for taxes payable in 2019, and my property’s value has now been amended downwards. Here are some things I learned about this process.
Disclaimer: Every situation is going to be different depending on the property itself, the neighborhood and current real estate market. The source for some of the information shared in this article was from my City assessor based on her experience with the appeal process.
Step one: Pay close attention to your proposed levies & tax statement
When you receive your proposed levies & taxes statement from Hennepin County in November, make a note of any increase in estimated market value (which will typically increase the amount of property tax you will be paying). Decide now if you want to consider appealing your home’s market value. You will then have a few months to gather the information for your application so you can be ready to move quickly when you receive your Valuation Notice in March.
Step two: Start gathering your supporting information
For the appeal application form you will need:
- A list of any home improvements you have made, plus costs.
- Are you prepared to take your case before the Minneapolis Board of Appeal and Equalization should you disagree with the assessor’s re-evaluation of your home (this is a yes/no question)?
- The valuation you believe should be placed on your home.
- Supporting information that bolsters your case, such as, but not limited to:
- The market value and other details of yours and similar properties in your neighborhood. You can get an enormous amount of information from the City of Minneapolis website (gov/propertyinfo/propertyinfo_index) and the Hennepin County property tax pages (hennepin.us/residents/property/property-taxes). Tip: My assessor told me that value is placed on such things as more than one bathroom, a double garage, finished basement. I provided details on my application comparing my home to some surrounding properties that I had visited.
- Actual and pending sales data to find out what a similar property is selling for in your area. Tip: I asked my realtor to run a comparative market analysis which showed, for my pocket of Folwell, that sales were below market average. I used his estimated market value (lower than the City’s) for my valuation number.
- If you do not have a recent appraisal, consider having one done (although they are not cheap). Depending upon the results, this may actually lead to you deciding not to appeal, or, conversely, it could be a valuable piece of evidence that will support your case.
Step three: Watch for your Valuation Notice (March)
The deadlines for filing an appeal are communicated on the reverse side of the City’s Valuation Notice. This document arrived in late March this year with a very tight deadline of April 13 within which to submit the application to appeal your home’s value. Act immediately!
Tip: The City’s Assessor’s Office encourages you to resolve valuation disagreements directly with your appointed assessor. You will find your assessor’s contact information on the front of your Valuation Notice. But what the appeal instructions on the reverse of your notice do not make clear is that before your assessor can review your case, you must first complete and submit the appeal application form (they provide a link to this document). Only once the City receives your application, will your assessor start the process of re-assessing the value of your home.
Step four: Starting your formal appeal (before the April deadline)
Here are the steps I followed to successfully appeal my valuation upon receiving my Valuation Notice in March:
*Immediately called my assessor and left a voice mail saying I was prepared to appeal.
*Sent her an email delivering the same message.
*Emailed my application along with all the supporting documentation, copying my assessor. You can also mail your application, but it is not necessary to do both.
*Made an appointment for the assessor to visit my home. You do not have to let the assessor into your home and I am not familiar with how the process may be different if you choose to decline entry. However, in my case, I wanted an opportunity to personally show my assessor around the house and talk to her about issues that I believed warranted a de-valuation. I found her to be very responsive and flexible and was able to set up a visit within a week of starting the process.
*During my assessor’s visit (she took photos and measurements) I accompanied her into every room, pointing out aspects of my home that detracted from the value such as my ghastly bathroom, very unfinished basement, 1970s kitchen, painting that needed to be done, plaster damage, etc.
Step five: Re-evaluation results
Tip: When you receive the results of the re-evaluation (my assessor sent me an email within a week of her visit), you can elect to either accept your assessor’s findings, or go through the formal appeal process outlined on the back of your Valuation Notice. Important stuff I learned:
*If you tell your assessor that you are prepared to accept their findings, as I did, the City will send you an Amended Valuation Notice within a few weeks. Watch for this document and check that the amended market value is the same number your assessor communicated to you. My first Amended Valuation Notice had the original estimated market value that I had appealed (glitch in the system apparently). I have now received a corrected Amended Valuation Notice which will form the basis for my property taxes payable in 2019.
*My assessor told me that if I had rejected her findings (wanted an even lower valuation) and was prepared to take my case before the Minneapolis Board of Appeal and Equalization, the Board could either: let the assessor’s findings stand; reject the assessor’s findings and agree with the home owner and lower the valuation further; or (scarily) could find that the home’s value was higher than the assessor’s re-evaluation! This was not a risk I was prepared to take in my particular case.
In conclusion, I found the appeal process relatively simple and enjoyed working with my assessor. And most importantly, I now feel that my home has a fair market value base for taxation purposes. A happy ending!