Posts Tagged Pennsylvania

Tax Appeal Season Starts Soon

3884570701_a11181115e_o Beginning May 1st and through the first business day of August, Chester County Board of Assessment Appeals opens the window once again for the citizens of Chester County, PA to appeal their real estate tax assessments. This is a potential opportunity for people who own homes in Chester County to reduce the annual cost of home ownership through the reduction of their property taxes.

How Taxes are Calculated

Tax assessments in Pennsylvania are calculated as a ratio to fair market value. The ratio is called the Common Level Ratio (CLR) and is determined by the Pennsylvania State Tax Equalization Board. The CLR varies by county and is adjusted and published annually at the end of June. The CLR for Chester County for tax year 2008 is 53.0%. Applying the CLR to the fair market value of real estate results in the Assessed Value.

County, Municipal governments and local School Boards determine taxes by applying millage rates to the assessed values. For example, I live in North Coventry Township. The 2009 millage rates for the County Tax is 3.9650, The Township Tax is 1.6000 and the Owen J. Roberts School Tax is 25.5000. Add this all up and the total millage for my township is 31.0650. Multiply the millage to the assessed value of your and divide by 1000. The result for my home is a total annual property tax of $7147.

Who Will Benefit from a Tax Appeal

Anyone may appeal their property tax appraisal. There is a minimal cost associated with the appeal so you may first want to determine if you will benefit from a tax appeal.

It’s no secret. The housing boom is over. If you purchased a home during the height of the boom, it is pretty likely that the fair market value of your house is less than what it was when you bought it. The question is, when was your last tax assessment? If your home was assessed in the height of the boom, and since assessed value is a function of fair market value, you are probably over assessed. So, here are a few guidelines:

  • If you purchased new construction in the last 10 years and never appealed your tax assessment, you are probably over assessed.
  • If you appealed your tax assessment during the height of the housing boom, the fair market value of your home is probably less than it was when you appealed so you are probably over assessed.
  • If your home was interim assessed during the height of the housing boom due to a home improvement project you may have performed, you could be over assessed.
So, Should YOU Appeal your Taxes?

If you live somewhere other than Chester County, please contact your local county government offices for instructions specific to your county.

You should first determine the fair market value of your home. Many real estate agents will perform a Comparative Market Analysis of your home for free. This will give you an idea of approximate fair market value. The assessed value of your home is easily available through Government public records. Your agent should have access to the public records and should be able find that out as well.  Apply the Common Level Ration for your county to the fair market value of your home. If the result is less than the assessed value, you are over assessed. The percentage difference between your result and the assessed value in public records roughly corresponds to the percentage of savings on your annual tax bill. You can decide at this point if the savings is worth the time, cost, and effort to proceed.

If you live in Chester County and you are unable to find an agent to help you with this, call me at (484) 948-0936 or email jsheehan@chestercountychronicles.com with your address, phone number and a convenient time for me to call and I’ll help you.

How to Appeal Your Taxes

The process of appealing your tax assessment involves the filing of a notice of intention to appeal with a non-refundable filing fee of $25.00. This filing will result in a hearing with the board of tax assessment to show evidence that your assessment should be adjusted. There are two types of assessments but both processes are very similar.

Interim Tax Appeal

An Interim Appeal results from a change in the assessment based on some type of new construction or improvement. The construction could be anything from the addition of a deck to the construction of a new house. An interim assessment notice can be received at anytime in the year and if the homeowner wishes to appeal, he has 40 days from notification of the assessment change notice. After filing the appeal, you will be notified of the hearing date. You should make 3 copies of the HUD-1 Settlement sheet and bring that to the hearing along with pictures of all four sides of the house. The appeal board will review the document, ask any questions they may have (usually none), and thank you for appearing. You’ll hear from them soon after with the new assessment value of your property and your taxes will be adjusted immediately.

Annual Tax Appeal

The Real Estate Professional who helped you with the Comparative Market Analysis may be but probably isn’t a licensed real estate appraiser. The CMA data may be adequate evidence that your home is over assessed but a bona fide real estate appraisal prepared by a licensed real estate appraiser will carry a great deal more weight with the tax appeal board. So, I recommend you engage a licensed real estate appraiser to prepare an official report for the appeal. The cost will probably range from $350 – $500 for an appraisal. The appraiser should be current, I recommend that it be prepared within the past 6 months.

Annual appeals are accepted between the first of May and the first business day of August. YOU MUST FILE YOUR NOTICE OF INTENTION TO APPEAL BETWEEN THESE DATES OR YOU WILL MISS THE OPPORTUNITY UNTIL NEXT YEAR. NO EXCEPTIONS!

Soon after you have filed your intention to appeal, you will receive notice of your hearing. You must appear at your hearing, THEY WILL NOT RESCHEDULE IF YOU MISS YOUR DATE. If you can’t make it, you can authorize in writing for someone to appear in your stead.

Make at least 3 copies of the appraisal, one for each board member. The appraiser should have included photos in his report so won’t need more pictures. At the hearing, the board members will review your evidence, ask any questions (usually none) and thank you for appearing. A few weeks later you will receive notice of the result of your appeal.

Good Luck

The hearings are pretty informal. The appeal board are nice folks. No need to be nervous. You should be in and out in about 10 minutes.

If you have a legitimate reason for the appeal, you should have no problem and the result should be favorable to you.

Because of falling real estate values and the fact that we purchased our home at the peak of the market, I have personally saved thousands of dollars annually in taxes through the appeal process. I have helped friends and neighbors through the process and they have had similar results.

I wish you all the best, feel free to comment or ask questions here on this blog post, or contact me directly if I can be of assistance. For more information, you can also visit the Chester County website.

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There’s Still Time to Qualify for the Tax Credit

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I had a conversation yesterday with one of my seller clients. He was concerned. The home he is selling is a perfect opportunity for a first time home buyer but he was worried that he and his yet unknown buyer would be unable to settle the transaction before the April 30th deadline for the home buyer tax credit.

Well, to qualify for the home buyer tax credit the deadline is under contract by April 30, 2010 with a settlement date by June 30, 2010.

If you are a home buyer who thinks that you have missed the opportunity, I have good news. Time is getting short, but there is still time to get under contract by April 30th, 2010. Call your real estate professional today!

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“I Thought the Seller Pays the Commission…”

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This is a question that came up in one of the online forums this week. I thought I would take a moment to explain this aspect of the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors Business Relationship Between Broker and Buyer, also known as the Exclusive Buyer Agency Agreement.

Paragraph 1 of the agreement discusses the term of the agreement. This sets the Starting Date and the Ending Date of the agreement.

Paragraph 2 of the agreement discusses the Broker Fee.

The first thing this paragraph establishes is that no Association of REALTORS® has set or recommended a Broker’s fee. This means there is no fixed industry-wide price for services and that the fee could be established through negotiation.

The second major point states that your broker will accept compensation from the listing broker. However, if the compensation offered by the listing broker is less than that negotiated between the buyer and his broker, the buyer will be responsible for the difference.

The third major point is the same as the second only it pertains to sellers who are unrepresented by a real estate professional.

Lastly, paragraph 2 of the agreement states that if the buyer enters into a sale of a home that resulted from the Broker’s actions during the term of the contract OR the property was seen during the term of the contract AND the buyer is not under an exclusive agency contract with another broker at the time of the Buyer enters into a sale contract.

So, how does one avoid having to pay a commission to their buyer agent from their own funds? Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Ask your agent to inform you when properties of interest are not offering compensation to satisfy your buyer agency agreement.
  • Ask your agent to accept the amount offered by the listing broker.
  • Your agent can ask the listing broker to make up the difference.
  • You could make a term in the agreement of sale that the seller should compensate you for the difference. Note that this solution must be acceptable to your lender under the terms of the mortgage agreement.
  • REALTORS® are bound by the National Association of REALTORS® Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice to  “cooperate with other brokers except when cooperation is not in the client’s best interest.” A REALTOR® may not withhold listings from you that meet your specified needs, requirements, and criteria, unless you request not to be shown properties that would require you to compensate your agent from your own funds.
  • Finally, and very importantly, is the issue of what is called procuring cause. If your broker’s action during the term of the contract results in your purchase of a home, your original broker is the procuring cause. If you have entered into an agreement with another broker, you may have to pay the commission twice! Make sure you explain to your new agent about homes you looked at during your previous relationship with the previous agent. It will allow your new agent to resolve problems before they happen. It could save everyone, especially you, some major headaches when you actually buy the home.

Now, the many different real estate professionals implement this in many different ways. Some agents don’t use buyer agency at all. As always, you should make sure you understand what it is your agreeing to before signing anything.

I personally think that suing my current or past clients is bad for business. I am also flexible in my compensation expectations on a case-by-case basis. I think you will find that most REALTORS® operate that way.

There are some though who will hold you to the letter of your agreements. Be sure to ask questions, make sure you understand what your obligations will before you make your offer. By law, your real estate professional is required to give you an estimate of your costs before you make an offer on a home. Make sure you get that estimate and make sure you understand each line item.

I wish you all the best. Good hunting!

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/julishannon/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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There is Something for Everyone

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I think back to some of the places I have lived. Strange and scary places indeed! I shared my first apartment with five other beer guzzling, pizza eating, college students. We could barely scrape the rent and utilities together each month. There was nothing left to pay the cleaning lady to come in. You can imagine what that place looked like. On the other hand, maybe you can’t.
My first wife and I lived in an apartment above a pharmacy in the downtown area of a NYC suburb. This place defined the term “deferred maintenance”. One day, one of the windows over the street actually fell out of the window frame and crashed to the sidewalk below. Thankfully, no one was hurt.
In the past 35 years, I have probably moved 10 times. I have purchased a few homes in my life and I think I have become a little more conventional in my taste.
I love my job as a REALTOR® and have shown a few homes in my career. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to believe what I am seeing. What the heck were the homeowner’s thinking?!? When I turn around and look, the first-time home buyers I am guiding through the process are walking around this house, hand-in-hand, with a starry look in their eyes. They are not even seeing the same house I am looking at. There is nothing they don’t like about this place. They turn to me and say “We love it, we’ll take it”.
It’s very important for real estate professionals to keep an objective eye open for issues and problems that may make the difference between a nice house and a disaster waiting to happen. It’s equally important that we hold our tongue because we don’t like the mauve carpet or the lime green kitchen fixtures. That beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. Everyone defines their own happiness.
The guy who conducted my pre-license courses when I got into the business told me that if he only sold houses he likes, he wouldn’t sell many houses. I know what he means.

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Spring is Inching Closer

The weather has been quite pleasant over past couple of days in Chester County. After an extraordinary series of snow falls, the county is starting to thaw and the snow is melting.

Our good friends at Brandywine/Springfield Waterproofing offers the following great advice to avoid flooding problems and keep your basement dry through the spring thaw.

WATERPROOFING PREVENTIVE MEASURES AFTER HEAVY SNOW FALLS and BEFORE HEAVY RAIN

Sump Pump Discharge Line – check for no snow/ice blockage (especially if discharging into the downspouts)

Pump Electrical outlet – fuse may have blown if pump discharge was blocked and the pump overheated

Window Wells – clear Snow build up as House heat causes fishbowl effect which collects water causing window leakage

Sill Plate leakage – clear away high snow which allows water to spill over the Sill Plate

Base of house – Clear and Trench drainage for roof melting/heavy rain run off

Brick Veneer Walls - high snow blocks the low drainage ports and heavy winds blow water into the higher ports dropping water down on the sill plate

Outside Basement Door Drains – remove snow/ice blockage  which allows water entry under door and causes rotting

Internal Sump Pump – install to help relieve upward hydrostatic water pressure from flooding the floor

Battery Backup systems – should be considered depending on content risk and especially if a finished basement

Brandywine/Springfield Waterproofing is a preferred vendor of The Chester County Chronicles. If you have signs of a wet basement or leaking foundation, give Bill or Sean Worthington a call at (610) 280-7775. They are the best in the business!

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