Savvy Homeowners Should Appeal Higher 2014 Real Estate Tax Bills
Tens of thousands of Chicago and Cook County homeowners recently received the second installment of their 2014 property tax bills, and with tax rates creeping higher, many property owners will pay more on this tax bill.
For 2015, all of Chicago is being reassessed. Lakeview, Rogers Park and Hyde Park homeowners have already received the new assessments. For many of the properties the assessments have large increases.
Experts say property owners should appeal the assessment now before they receive next year’s tax bill where it would be too late to appeal the 2015 assessment.
Chicago’s 2014 tax rate declined slightly to $6.808 per $100 of assessed valuation down from $6.832 per $100 of assessed valuation in 2013. However, the countywide state equalization factor (multiplier) rose to 2.7253 in 2014 from 2.6621 in 2013. The multiplier is designed to equalize tax assessments across Illinois.
The main factor that drives up property tax bills is the amount local government spends. Homeowners who read their tax bills will see increased spending for schools and community colleges.
“While the tax rate in Chicago is lower, the increase in the state equalization factor could offset some of the tax-rate decrease for Chicago taxpayers,” said Michael Griffin, a Chicago real estate tax appeal attorney.
As a result, most Chicago tax bills could be relatively flat or slightly higher than 2013 if the assessment and exemptions stayed the same. However, some homeowners still were hit with hefty real estate tax increases because of the assessment increases especially in the south suburbs, which were reassessed in 2014.
An informal survey by The Home Front column revealed the following tax bill increases on Chicago’s North and Northwest sides:
• North Park. The owner of a newer 2-story frame home in the North Park neighborhood on the Northwest Side saw his 2014 real estate tax bill increase to $10,306 from $10,091. The tax rate in this neighborhood was $6.833 per $100 of assessed valuation because of a special charge levied for the North River Expanded Mental Health Service.
• Old Town. The 2014 tax bill on a graystone Victorian 6-flat in the Old Town Historic District rose to $17,237 from $16,886 as a result of increased governmental spending and the higher multiplier.
• Lincoln Park. The owner of a brick Victorian 3-flat saw her 2014 tax bill rise to $17,488 from $17,131 as a result of higher governmental spending and the new multiplier.
• North Lincoln Square. The 2014 tax bill on a 4-flat brick apartment building rose to $6,324 from $6,188 as a result of increased governmental spending and the higher multiplier.
• West Ridge. The owner of a 2-bedroom, 2-bath condominium in West Ridge skyrocketed to $1,838 in 2014 from $1,403 in 2013 as a result of higher governmental spending and the new multiplier. However, not all city property owners were hit with increases, especially if they filed an appeal.
• Logan Square. The 2014 tax bill on a vintage graystone 4-flat in the Logan Square neighborhood declined to $6,178 from $6,323 because the owner filed a tax assessment appeal and won. Griffin advises that every property owner who believes they are over-assessed should file an appeal especially if the homeowners believe their house is worth less now than several years ago.
“It is now easier to appeal since all the data about other homes in your neighborhood is online,” Griffin said. “You do not have to go to the library to look up the information or ask your neighbors about their assessment.”
Property owners do not even have to go the county offices to research comparable properties or file an appeal since homeowners can easily file their appeal online at the Assessor’s or Board of Review web sites, Griffin noted.
“Even though most home resale values generally are lower because of the recession and the home-foreclosure crisis, some Cook County homeowners saw assessment increases in the 2014 South Suburban Township reassessment,” Griffin said.
The Assessor’s office reassesses the value of each of the 1.8 million parcels of property in Cook County every three years. The reassessment is on a rotating basis among three regions of Cook County—north suburbs, south suburbs, and the city of Chicago.
For 2015, Chicago currently is being reassessed, and the bill will come due in August of 2016, when the second installment of the 2015 tax bill arrives.
For residential properties, the Assessor has determined the assessment by comparing each property to similar properties in a given area.
What can a property owner do to control real estate assessment increases and tax hikes? First check how your property’s assessed valuation compares with similar properties in your neighborhood.
Visit the assessor’s website: www.cookcountyassessor.com, or call 312-443-7550 to find comparable properties.
Also check to see if the assessor has listed all the exemptions for which you are eligible, such as the Homeowners Exemption, Senior Citizen Exemption, and Senior Assessment Freeze Exemption. These exemptions can save you hundreds of dollars in taxes.
Two important grounds for a reduction are finding a significant error in the description of your property, or lack of uniformity, which means your home’s assessment is not in line with the assessed valuation of other similar homes in your neighborhood, Griffin said.
The Assessor also grants reductions based on the evaluations approach. Homeowners may file an appeal and submit a recent closing statement for their home and/or purchase prices of homes similar to yours to show that the assessed value is greater than 10 percent of the purchase price.
If you feel you have grounds for a reduction, file an appeal with the Assessor or the Board of Review. The appeals can be filed in person at either office or at either office’s website.
If an initial appeal at the Assessor’s office does not lower the assessed value, there are two other appeal options: the Cook County Board of Review (312-603-5542), and the Property Tax Appeals Board (217-785-6076). Or, call Michael Griffin, a tax assessment lawyer, at 312-943-1789. Don DeBat is co-author of “Escaping Condo Jail,” the ultimate survival guide for condominium living. For more information, visit www.escapingcondojail.com.