As far as evidence goes, you should treat this like any other court proceeding and provide as much relevant evidence as possible. You're the plaintiff in this instance, so the burden of proof rests with you, not us. It's not enough to just say that your property's value is wrong; you have to prove it.
Here are some helpful tips for improving your chances of getting an abatement approved:
- Read the application and fill it out completely. Don't feel constrained by the application; feel free to attach any written explanation that you feel helps you explain your perspective more clearly.
- Get a copy of your property's record card from the Online Assessing Database and examine it thoroughly for data errors. Make specific mention of any that you find so we can review them.
- Cooperate when the Assessor calls to schedule an inspection of your property. We're more than happy to schedule outside of normal business hours to accommodate your schedule. This inspection is your chance to make your case in person to the Assessor.
- If you're claiming that your property is being overvalued, you must provide us with multiple comparable sales of properties similar to yours that sold during the relevant time period. For example, seeking an abatement on your Fiscal Year 2021 assessment would mean that you should be reviewing sales that took place in calendar year 2019. Your value was derived from analyzing comparable sales, so you should be prepared to do the same thing. These should be sales of properties as similar to yours as possible in style, age, acreage and condition. If you own a 2,400 square feet Cape-style home, don't submit comps for Ranches and condominiums.
Here are some common pitfalls you'll want to avoid when filing for a real property abatement:
- Don't apply because you think your taxes are too high. Your tax bill is a reflection on how much spending the town voters have consented to at town meeting and at the ballot box, not your property's fair market value. Complaints regarding how high or low taxes are should be addressed to the select board and to the town residents.
- Don't compare your property's value or change in value to your neighbors; your neighbor's larger house being assessed lower than yours is not grounds for an abatement. Different styles, ages, sizes and qualities of homes on a single street can and will change in value at differing levels depending on which characteristics the market places a higher value on. Such behavior is 100% market-dictated is completely normal.
- Per-square-foot (PSF) prices listed on your property record card are informational only. A similar property to yours having a higher PSF price is not sufficient grounds for an abatement.
- Don't challenge your square footage numbers by measuring the interior size of your rooms.
- Don't submit a bank appraisal that is less than 6 months or more than 1 year old, or one that is being used for either refinancing or a division of assets in a divorce.
- Don't submit value opinions from Zillow, Redfin, Trulia or any other third-party listing service. The algorithms that determine these estimates are based on current sale prices; your assessed value is not.
- Don't forget to state your opinion of your property's market value. Not stating your opinion of value on the application will usually guarantee that your application is denied. "It's too high" and "Well, I don't know what it's worth but it's not worth that much" are not acceptable responses.
- Don't refuse the Assessor's request to schedule a property inspection. Doing so is grounds for an automatic denial.