How to Lower Your Property Taxes (Part 5)

by The Real Estate Faction on September 13, 2011

Hiring a Firm

Finally, some homeowners choose to hire a property-tax consultant to do the appeal. These firms typically charge a flat, upfront property-analysis fee to determine whether they want to take your case, in addition to any filing fees.

Yet some appraisal offices frown on such services. “We give you the ammunition to beat us up,” says Bernardo J. Garcia, director of legal services at the Harris County Appraisal District in Texas, which includes Houston. He says his office gives people a copy of all the comparable-sales data they need to use to make an assessment. The appeals process is straightforward, he adds.

Property-tax consultants say they can often get customers a better deal—and save them time spent in making court appearances.

“We know all the ins and outs of the process,” says Paul Henry, a principal at Tax Reduction Services in Greenport, N.Y. “The process is cumbersome and riddled with paperwork that needs to be precise, so petitions are not thrown out.”

Experts warn that homeowners should be cautious. “One must always be wary of scams in these areas,” says Richard Roll, founder of the American Homeowners Association, a Stamford, Conn., homeowners’ membership group. He recommends getting local references and checking the consultant’s credentials before signing a contract.

In the last three years, the Better Business Bureau has received nearly 650 complaints nationwide about property-tax consultants. More than half of the complaints involve advertising and refund problems.

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