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Dave Says: Question about Home's Value

by | Mar. 13, 2012

Finances

Dear Dave,

We keep getting offers in the mail from a law firm that offers to protest the assessed value of our home for property tax purposes. They say that we’ll pay them nothing if they can’t save us money, but if they do the fee is 50 percent of the property tax savings. Do you think it’s ethical to dispute these findings, and are these services legitimate?

Kristen

Dear Kristen,

There’s no real problem with this, so long as there are no up-front fees. The real question, though, is whether your assessment is accurate.

First, there would have be some kind of basis for the protest – like if your assessment is really out of line compared to similar homes in the neighborhood. Usually, they aren’t assessed at 100 percent. But if you discovered that a comparable home was assessed at 73 percent and yours was based on 82 percent, then you’d have both an ethical and legal right to protest the assessment.

I think one of two things will happen. If you talk to this firm, you’re either going to find out that there’s something going on with the tax base that makes them think they can actually reduce the numbers, or they’re going to try and hit you with a  “processing fee” or some other kind of garbage.

If this is the case, you should just walk away.

—Dave

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