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Over-Taxed Homeowners Should Appeal Higher 2015 Real Estate Bills

Tens of thousands of Chicago and Cook County homeowners soon will receive the second installment of their 2015 property tax bills, and experts say they will be slapped with an average increase of 13 percent.

The owner of a single-family home with an average sale price of $225,000 should expect to see a property tax bill of $3,633—an increase of $413.

However, on the Gold Coast and in the South Loop, Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios boosted property value assessments by more than 50 percent in some cases, tax experts say. That could translate into a tax bill increase of $5,000 for some property owners.

Other hefty property tax increases are forecast for the North Side lakefront neighborhood of Old Town, Lincoln Park and Lakeview. Property owners in hot neighborhoods such as the West Loop, Logan Square, Bucktown, Wicker Park and Ravenswood also are likely to experience large tax increases.

The 2015 Chicago real estate tax bills reflect a $318 million boost to pay the pensions for police officer and firefighters. Another $45 million will go to pay for Chicago Public Schools’ construction projects.

With deadlines for filing a 2016 property tax assessment fast approaching, experts say property owners battle back by appealing the assessment now, even before they receive the expect higher tax bill.

“In 2015, thousands of property owners had success in filing tax assessment appeals with both the Cook County Assessor and the Board of Review,” said Michael Griffin, a Chicago real estate tax appeal attorney.

Even billionaire and Republican nominee for president Donald Trump has taken advantage of Cook County’s property tax appeal process. Trump’s attorney, Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) won a 70-percent assessment reduction for the Trump International Hotel and Tower when it was learn that county tax officials had miscalculated Trump’s 2010 bill.

An informal survey by The Home Front column revealed the following 2015 assessment reductions won by property owners battling assessment increases on Chicago’s North Side:

• North Lincoln Square. The owner of a 4-flat brick apartment building was elated when he won a 22 percent assessment reduction to $37,262 from $47,909. The reduction should help lessen the blow of the expected second installment 2015 property tax hike.

• Old Town. The owner of a brick Victorian 3-flat in the Old Town Historic District was happy when he won a 12.9 percent assessment reduction to $118,119 from $135,605. The reduction should help reduce the expected 2015 property tax hike coming in late July.

• East Logan Square. The owner of a vintage graystone 4-flat was pleased when his attorney notified him that the property won a 4.7 percent assessment reduction to $45,680 from $47,953. The reduction should ease the expected 2015 property tax hike coming on the second installment of the bill.

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.

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 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:, 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.

For more housing news, visit Don DeBat is co-author of “Escaping Condo Jail,” the ultimate survival guide for condominium living. Visit

“The book is Escaping Condo Jail by Sara Benson and Don DeBat. I would say that anybody thinking about buying a condo, or even anybody serving on a condo board, or anybody who has any connection to a condo, this is must reading—all 600 and something pages. Thanks a lot for a great book!”


Steve Sanders, “Your Money Matters” WGN TV, December 22, 2014

By Don DeBat

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