Posted on Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Could You Sell Your Property for What the Tax Assessors Think It’s Worth?

That is a serious question. In 1998 the County of Delaware began a reassessment of all the real estate in the entire county. Hearings were held in 1999, and the new tax assessments went into effect with the tax bills from the county, borough, and school district in the year 2000. These assessments were supposed to represent the actual fair market value of each property at the time. Except for the property owners who have appealed their assessments since the year 2000, those original figures remain in effect.

Each year the county, school districts, boroughs and townships, adopt their budgets and base their millage or tax rates upon the assessments of all the properties in their jurisdictions. If your neighbor’s borough, or school district, tax bill is lower than yours, it is because his assessment is lower.

Real estate here in Delaware County, and in most of the nation, rose in price since 1999, up until the recession beginning in 2008. Then in most areas, including ours, real estate prices went back down. But the assessments stayed the same, except for those who appealed theirs. Some 1999 assessments were too high to begin with, and many of the appeals taken then and since have been successful.

For example, homes and especially business properties in Lansdowne, tended to be appraised, and therefore assessed, at higher figures than they could be sold for. Other states have regular reassessments, some as often as annually. But that is not so in Pennsylvania, and in Delaware County. If your county, borough, and school taxes are too high, it is because your assessment is too high.

How can you find out, and then what can you do?

Call for an appointment, bringing with you this year’s county or borough tax bill. After a preliminary investigation, for which there will be no charge, we can advise whether your particular property should be appraised, and then an appeal taken. We will then tell you the cost of an expert real estate appraisal, and the attorney fees and filing cost of taking that appeal.

Hearings will be heard in September for appeals on the year 2012 assessments. But the appeal must be filed, with a licensed appraiser’s fair market valuation report, by the end of July. In order to do a preliminary investigation, then have the appraiser inspect the property and provide a written report before the deadline, call Hennessy and Bullen soon, at (610) 623-3445.

No one knows what next year’s county, borough, and school district tax rates will be. But with the expected future loss of state and federal money to these local governments, it is unlikely they will lower their real estate rates for 2012. It is only prudent to take steps now to be sure that your taxes, based upon your property’s assessment, are fair and appropriate.

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