Appealing a Property Tax Assessment - need advice in King County WA
September 1, 2009 7:45 PM   Subscribe

Property Tax filter: In August I bought a house in King County WA. The county's assessment of the property is very high. I would like to appeal for a review of the assessment. The desired result is a lower tax bill. I would be grateful for any strategy or advice.

Details:
- The house is in the City of Shoreline, WA (north of Seattle).

- The August 2009 sale price of the property was over $200k less than the 2009 assessed value, and $40k less than the 2010 assessed value.

- The bank's appraisal, done prior to sale, estimated the value as just slightly higher than the actual sale price.

- House and yard are in good clean condition.

- The County's "parcel viewer" assessor information database states that the house has 4 bathrooms. Not true. It has 2 full baths, 1 half bath, and 1 water closet without sink. There is also a "roughed in" bathroom without any fixtures.

- The assessor database states that we have half a finished basement. Not really true. The basement has four small rooms. Three rooms are unfinished with concrete floors and no finishing over the wall and ceiling framework. The fourth room has ancient carpeting, a couple sheets of old wood paneling, one wall covered in old wallboard, no finish on the ceiling.


QUESTIONS:

If I understand it right, I can appeal either to the King County Dept of Assessments or to the Board of Equalization . Which one is likely to give me better results?

Apparently I just missed a July 31st deadline for 2010 appeals with the board of equalization. Is there any lee-way for me to get an appeal in, since I didn't own the house until August?

Would it help my appeal to remove the old carpet in the basement and expose the concrete floor? Should I take down the wood paneling?

Is there an easy way to measure the square footage of my house?

Any other tips on get them to re-evaluate in my favor? Is there a way to get it done quickly? TIA.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total)
 
There are attorneys who specialize in this and they are not that expensive. This is your best route depending upon the level of your tax bill. Around here even a moderate house has property taxes approaching five figures so a few grand on attorney fees often pays off. The biggest benefit of using an attorney in this situation is not their specialized knowledge of the law so much as their experience in what is reasonable, and how to work the system.
posted by caddis at 9:19 PM on September 1, 2009


I am sitting in front of my property value notice sent from King County. Mine was mailed on 8/20 and it says I have 60 days to appeal after the mailing date. If you didn't get a card, then I would think that you would have some room to negotiate since I imagine that I am not the only homeowner receiving a valuation this late. On the card, it says you have to call the BOE at (206)296-3496 to begin the appeal process.
posted by crazycanuck at 10:24 PM on September 1, 2009


Try ValueAppeal.com. I think they help homeowners with this exact situation - plus they are Seattle-based.

Disclaimer: I've never used them, but went to school with one of the people involved in the site.
posted by nyc_consultant at 4:36 AM on September 2, 2009


You should use the sales price and the bank appraisal as your primary arguments. The appraisal should document the state of your basement and bathroom. In addition, the appraisal will have recent comparable properties that support the value listed. All of this evidence would be hard to refute.

I do not know how the King County appeals process works, but I don't believe that anyone is going to come see the state of your basement, bathroom, carpet, or paneling.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 6:16 AM on September 2, 2009


A "finished basement" means floors, walls, electrical outlets etc, & ceiling. There must also be an emergency exit to qualify.

As opposed to an "unfinished basement", which is a hole under the house that may or may not have cement foundation walls which support the house.

It doesn't mean "finished the way you want to live in it".

However, King County is in the process of correcting property tax assessments, which were recently jacked way up based on home values of early 2008. My property was just adjusted $80k downward. Check with your local assessor for more info.
posted by Aquaman at 7:47 AM on September 2, 2009


I successfully appealed a King County tax assessment in 2002 based on the then recent (Oct 2001) sale price of my home. It was a straight forward process, and I did not involve an attorney or need other assistance.

I appealed to the Board of Equalization, which required only completing a two page form. I received a response acknowledging receipt 8 days later. Then about 4 months later I received a "stipulation agreed to by the taxpayer" lowering my assessment. They lowered the assessment to the purchase price I had paid ($23k less than the assessed value).

I agree with others that minor modifications to your home aren't likely to change anything.

When did you get your 2010 assessment? Mine was dated in late July and, as crazycanuck notes, allows me 60 days to appeal. If you didn't receive the assessment because of the recent purchase, I would call the Dept of Assessment at (206) 296-7300 for a copy or at least the mail date of the original.
posted by rube goldberg at 9:03 PM on September 2, 2009


[This is a followup from the asker.]
Thanks to all you savvy mefites for your suggestions. I learned that I have until the end of the month to appeal. I will appeal based on recent appraisal and sale price. ValueAppeal.com looks like a great resource for the areas that they cover.
posted by cortex at 11:44 AM on September 6, 2009


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