How to Appeal Your Property Tax Bill

To successfully appeal your property tax bill, you first need to do a bit of sleuthing into your real estate assessment.

It’s possible to trim your property tax bill by appealing the value the taxman assigned to your home. That “assessed value” is what’s used to calculate how much tax you owe.

One way to lower your property tax is to show that your home is worth less than its assessed value. You can do the initial research online in just a few minutes or by making a quick call to your Tucker agent.

If it turns out you’re right and your property is assessed at too high a value, the process for appealing can stretch out for months.

Read Your Assessment Letter

Local governments periodically assess all the real estate they tax. When your new assessment comes in the mail, it’ll list information about your property, such as lot size or a legal description, as well as the assessed value of your house and land.

Your property tax bill will usually be calculated by multiplying your home’s assessed value by the local tax rate, which can vary from town to town.

If you think your home’s assessment is higher than it should be, challenge it immediately. You generally have less than 30 days to do so, though each taxing authority sets its own timeline. Procedures are often outlined on the back of the letter.

Follow these five steps to challenge your assessment:

1. Decide if an Appeal is Worth Your Time

How much effort you decide to put into a challenge depends on the stakes. The median property tax paid in 2012, the latest available figure, was about $2,000. That’s about 1% of the roughly $200,000 median-value home.

Say you’re able to lower your assessed value by 15% to $170,000 and therefore save 15% on your property tax. That lowers your tax bill to about $1,700, a net savings of about $300.

In some parts of New York and Texas, for example, where tax rates can approach 3% of a home’s value, potential savings are greater. Ditto for communities with home prices well above the U.S. median.

2. Check the Data

Make sure the information about your home is correct. Is the number of bathrooms accurate? Number of fireplaces? How about the size of the lot? There’s a big difference between “0.3 acres” and “3.0 acres.” If any facts are wrong, then you may have a quick and easy challenge on your hands.

3. Get the “Comps”

Ask your Tucker Agent to find three to five comparable properties — “comps” in real estate jargon — that have sold recently. Alternatively, check a website like to find approximate values of comparable properties that are very similar to your own in terms of size, style, condition, and location. If you’re willing to shell out between $350 and $600, you can hire an appraiser to give you a professional opinion of your home’s value.

Once you identify comps, check the assessments on those properties. Most local governments maintain public databases. If yours doesn’t, seek help from a Tucker agent or ask neighbors to share tax information. If the assessments on your comps are lower, you can argue yours is too high.

Even if the assessments are similar, if you can show that the comparable properties are superior to yours, you may have a case for relief based on equity. Maybe your neighbor added an addition while you were still struggling to clean up storm damage. In that case, the properties are no longer comparable.

4. Present your Case

Armed with your research, call your local assessor’s office. Most assessors are willing to discuss your assessment informally by phone. If not, or if you aren’t satisfied with the explanation, request a formal review.

Pay attention to deadlines and procedures. There’s probably a form to fill out and specific instructions for supporting evidence. A typical review, which usually doesn’t require you to appear in person, can take anywhere from one to three months. Expect to receive a decision in writing.

5. Appeal if You Don’t Like the Review

If the review is unsuccessful, you can usually appeal the decision to an independent board, with or without the help of a lawyer. You may have to pay a modest filing fee, perhaps $10 to $25. If you end up before an appeals board, your challenge could stretch as long as a year, especially in large jurisdictions that have a high number of appeals.

But homeowners often do triumph. More than half the tax appeals in Seattle’s King County are successful.

There are a few things to keep in mind as you weigh an appeal.

  • The appeals board can only lower your real estate assessment, not the rate at which you’re taxed.
  • There’s a chance, albeit slight, that your assessment could be raised, thus increasing your property taxes.
  • A reduction in your assessment right before you put your house on the market could hurt the sale price.

An easier route to savings might lie in determining if you qualify for property tax exemptions based on age, disability, military service, or other factors.

This article provides general information about tax laws and consequences, and shouldn’t be relied on as tax or legal advice applicable to particular transactions or circumstances. Consult a tax pro for such advice.

Shawna O’Brien
F.C. Tucker Geist
The Tumbarello Group

The 4 Most Trending Home Decor Styles

The 4 Most Trending Home Decor Styles

Have you been looking around your home lately and feeling like everything you see is somehow tired and dated? It happens. That’s usually a sign that it’s time to do some updates.

Whether you’re ready to ditch the Millennial Pink paint and the seashells in the bathroom or just want to be rid of the word art on your walls from trends past, updating your home doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task. The real challenge is to know what’s trending now — and likely to keep your home looking current and fresh for a few years to come.

Here are some of the top home decorating trends of the past year (along with what’s passing out of favor) and predictions about what you’ll see more of in the future.

Bold, Primary Colors

A few years ago, every home decor magazine featured lots of grays. Ranging from dusky slate tones to almost-silver, gray was part of clean, minimalist designs in kitchens and bathrooms everywhere.

The problem is that those shades can also easily look sterile or clinical over time — which may be why there’s an emerging trend in home decor toward bold splashes of color with a vintage feel. Think rusty reds the color of old velvet, adobe orange, midnight blue, and mustard yellow.

If you embraced the grays of previous trends, you don’t have to worry about trying to overhaul your entire look. Instead, just add accent pieces in your chosen color scheme through vintage rugs, interesting glassware or ceramics and a few vibrant pieces of art to your existing space.

Mix-And-Match Furniture and Accents

Gone are the days where everything in a room had to match. Perfectly matching furniture and matchy-matchy hardware all-around can make your living room feel more like a showplace than part of a home. And who wants to sleep every night in a bedroom that looks like it’s inside a suburban hotel? Aside from being uncomfortable, it can also leave your space feeling devoid of any real personality.

The new trends focus on adding personal style to every space through the use of casually mixed pieces of furniture that have been acquired a piece at a time and quirky accent pieces that are full of charm. Mixed-up metals are also a top trend: You no longer have to pick between brushed silver knobs and copper-edged lighting — you can have both!

The Organic, Natural Look

The industrial look, full of straight lines and indestructible-looking metals, introduced a raw, unfinished look to many homes over the last decade. Industrial materials and Edison bulb lighting were incredibly popular — but those also had a somewhat sterile, unfinished feel to many.

Today’s homeowners are reaching out to the natural world for new inspiration in their home decor. They’re also reaching into the past to embrace handcrafted items and custom-made materials instead. Organic materials are growing in popularity as consumers increasingly reject plastics, pressed-wood pieces, and other mass-marketed items.

Wood floors, especially those ethically sourced from reclaimed wood, have become incredibly popular and are likely to withstand the test of time. Hand-woven or crocheted blankets can enhance a color scheme and soften a room’s look. Rag rugs also evoke the American past and provide a little touch of whimsy in a room.

Big, Beautiful Pieces of Art

A decade ago, gallery-style walls full of small pieces of art and family photos (with a few pieces of word art mixed in) were everywhere. Over time, however, many people have come to feel that a wall full of frames simply looks cluttered. There’s so much to look at that nothing is really noticeable — which kind of defeats the point of having all of that on the wall in the first place.

Today’s homeowner is going big and bold with their art. Regardless of whether you like the lush, Pre-Raphaelite works of John William Waterhouse, the sleek, Art Deco style of Tamara Lempicka or the playful, kaleidoscope of patterns that go along with your Bohemian instinct, ditching a dozen small frames for a few large focal pieces can breathe new life into any room.

Aside from adding pieces that reflect your chosen accent colors, this is also a chance to experiment with mixed metals and vintage looks. Antique frames in brushed gold or silver can help tie the look you’re aiming for all together.

How Do You Know What Home Decor Styles Will Last?

What goes around in fashion often comes around again a few years later, so the most important part of home decor is seeing to your own comfort. If you make your decorating choices around what you find cozy and calming, you can rarely go wrong. You’ll also find it easier to update your look without any great effort or cost.

But what if you feel like your home needs more than a superficial overhaul? If you have linoleum on your kitchen floor that’s been there since the 1970s or flowered wallpaper that went up in the 1980s, it might be time for a bigger overhaul. In that case, you could consider looking into some professional help. There are plenty of reputable, experienced home service providers available who can redo your floors and repaint the walls for you — leaving you free to concentrate on adding the details that reflect your personal touch.

Shawna O’Brien
F.C. Tucker Geist
The Tumbarello Group


Finding the Perfect “Kid-Friendly” Neighborhood

kidFast forward a few years and imagine that your kids have grown up. They’ve come back to the “old neighborhood” to reminisce. What will they remember? The playground where they hung out with their friends? The quiet cul-de-sac where they learned to ride their bikes? The park where they picnicked and flew kites?

Lasting memories are built in neighborhoods where amenities match lifestyles. When shopping for a new home, evaluate a prospective new neighborhood against the following 3 E’s:

Education: What resources are available in the neighborhood to help with your child’s education? Are there schools and other services, such as libraries or art studios? How do they rate?

Environment: Is it safe? Do your kids need to cross busy streets to go to parks or to school? Are there other families with kids the same age?

Entertainment: Swimmers need pools and soccer players need a field. Are the right facilities, programs, and leagues available for your kids? Where will you play as a family?

Keep the 3 E’s in mind when choosing your next neighborhood. You’ll start a lifetime of wonderful memories for you – and your kids.

Shawna O’Brien
F.C. Tucker Geist Fishers
The Tumbarello Group

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Will Your Furniture Fit?

couchWhen shopping for a new house or condo, most buyers consider factors such as neighborhood, proximity to schools, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, size of the kitchen, and more.

These are, of course, all important considerations. But, there’s one question that few buyers ask until it’s too late: “Will our furniture fit?”

This may seem like a trivial concern. But, if you’ve invested thousands of dollars in a new living room set, you’re going to be very disappointed if it looks too crowded in your new home.

Here’s a tip: measure rooms in your current home that contain the furniture you like most. This could be the living room, rec room, master bedroom or even the patio. Then imagine how much smaller – if at all – that room could be while still accommodating the furniture.

When you view properties on the market, take those measurements with you. That way, you’ll be able to quickly determine if room sizes are going to be an issue.

Shawna O’Brien
F.C. Tucker Geist Fishers
The Tumbarello Group

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Are You Ready to Buy Up?

buy upNo matter how much you love your current home, you may still be dreaming of the day you can buy up into a better home in a better neighborhood.

Here’s a quick way to make that assessment.

First, make a list of all the practical reasons why it might be time to move up. Those reasons might include features such as: more bedrooms; proximity to work and school; a larger backyard with trees; nearby parks and walking paths; and, better access to things you enjoy, like theater.

Next, make a list of the emotional reasons for making such a move. Those reasons might include memorable get-togethers with friends on a more spacious deck; an easier and less stressful commute to work; more family time with the kids; and, enjoyable Saturday golf at a nearby course.

Finally, take a financial snapshot to determine if you can afford to move up. You’ll need to get a good idea of what your current property will sell for in today’s market, the average price of homes in your desired neighborhood, and how much mortgage you can afford.

Once you have all of that down on paper, you’ll have a clear picture of your readiness. If the practical and emotional reasons for buying up are compelling, and you can afford to make the move, then, you have your answer.

The time to move is now!

By the way, if you need help in making this determination – especially figuring out what
your home will likely sell for, call today.

Shawna O’Brien
F.C. Tucker Geist Fishers
The Tumbarello Group

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It’s no secret that Indiana’s real estate market is affected by the 4 seasons.  Although there are wonderful available homes on the market now and there are many great reasons to list your home in winter, this time of year can be a little quieter in the marketplace overall.

For all of us, I believe this is an excellent time to “prep”. If you are preparing to buy this year you should be evaluating your finances, budget and speaking with a lender.  If you are preparing to sell this year, you should be working on the projects you’ve noted to make your home show ready.

For me, in between helping my clients, I “prep” year round by attending industry trainings; meeting with builders and lenders to educate myself on their new products; and I attend many events held by the networking groups in the city in which I am a member. I also enjoy catching up with my clients and friends so don’t be surprised if I call and ask you for a coffee date. 🙂

What can I do to help you? I’m available any time you need me for advice, a question, a contractor recommendation, design feedback or anything else real estate related – or not.

So, please don’t hesitate to give me a call if you need anything.

Shawna O’Brien
F.C. Tucker Geist Fishers
The Tumbarello Group

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