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House: Quick Appraisal Rambling

I turned in my ptotest to my house's appraisal today.

They increased its appraised value by about $1,500, but part of that is based on the fact that half of the basement is listed as living space (i.e. it has heating and cooling). That's not really accurate and I'm going to try and get them to remove the basement from the living space calculations entirely. That should knock off 2-3k from the value and that would reduce my taxes for the year a decent bit. We're not talking a huge difference, but it would probably be enough to pay for my trip and that's reason enough to do it :).

I'll also be handling my dad's protest for his house. He got it appraised last year and it came out about $13,000 less than what they have with the county. It should be fairly straightforward to get it knocked down to the appraised value (I hope). It's funny, my house benefits from being in a fairly nice neighborhood but it's still in rough shape aesthetically. My dad's house is in pretty good shape (more or less) but it suffers from being in a relatively low value neighborhood. However, this year it'll be cool if we can pull this off because then my dad can file for his senior citizen exemption in October and the property taxes on his house won't go up anymore.... ever. That's kind of neat.

So we'll see when I get to go deal with this. This will be my first "real" protest of tax stuff although I did go a couple of years ago because they had made a mistake in how the split up some of our property. That protest didn't affect the amount we had to pay, it just split the amount from one lot onto two lots. Knowing me, I'll probably over-prepare and then find that the county folks dealing with this don't care all that much about what my protests are about.

Eh, anyways. The joys of home-ownership continue.


We generally have all of our properties assessed relatively low so it's rare that we protest.
Hmmm. They just upped the assessment for all the houses in our area by quite a bit, and I'm wondering if there's a reasonable way to protest. Of course, the assessment that went along with our refi came up with an even higher number, so that wouldn't help our case, but...

How do I figure out what stats they're basing our assessment on? Just go to the courthouse and ask for papers? I'd bet the sq footage is wrong, since we ripped out the 'finished' (read: moldy yuck) basement area.
Obviously the following is specific to El Paso County so you may get no mileage from it but:

I got a notice dated about 05/01 that said something like "this is the value that we're going to assess for your house. If you would like to protest our assessment, you must turn in the attache handy dandy protest slip within 30 days of the date of this notice."

So I took said slip and turned it in before the 30 days were up. This is important because if you don't get it done on time you're pretty much screwed until next year.

Here we have the "County Appraisal District" which handles all assessments for the entire county. It looks like you guys have to deal with the City of Somerville for your assessment stuff. I was actually surprised but the EP-CAD's site is much more useful than Somerville's. Here we can get a full breakdown of all the information they have for any given address in the county.

I'm guessing that you're going to have to go to city hall and have someone pull the information for you (we had to go the the CADs offices fairly often to do that until the current system came online). Then it's just a question of looking to see what they have listed and what rates they're charging you for different portions of the house. It's usually a good idea to check this out once in a while to see what they're charging you for, stuff like the basement coule be a big deal if it's doesn't actually qualify as living space (of course it's possible that it's not being counted too... that would depend on what permits were pulled etc...). Of course you'd also need to find out the details of how different structures (i.e garages, porches, actual living space etc...) on a property are taxed.

Here the general rule is that if you protest they'll usually knock off some amount from the assessment but Somerville may be pickier about those things. We also have the option of being selective about what we tell them. The appraisal I got when I bought my house was significantly higher than the assessed value but keep in mind that appraisals can always be slanted so as to come up with a value you need/want. If you got the appraisal for a refi, it's possible that they massaged the numbers so that it would come out high enough to justify the amount of the refi. As I understand it appraisors will play with the numbers just enough to get you what you want to see. They will rarely go much higher than the target value (even if it is worth a lot more) because that can cause problems for things like home sales.
I cannot believe that the basement is considered a living area!
Yup, it's trippy but (at least in this county) any area in the home that has heating an cooling is considered a living area regardless of what shape it's in.

Normally that means that so long as any given room has a register from the HVAC system it counts towards

In my house it's a bit more complicated because my A/C is on one set of ducts and the heating is on another. The basement has no A/C and it has a tiny (soon to be non-existant) heating duct. It's actually a pretty neat space, but it should be counting as a fully developed part of the house.