It’s worth how much?

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It has been a real roller-coaster ride for the real estate market over the past five years.

Until 2008, it appeared that real estate prices only moved in one direction: up.

The subsequent financial crisis and real estate crash provided a painful lesson that this is not the case.

The good news is that there have been some recent signs that prices are starting to rebound in the North Atlanta area as the foreclosure process has weeded out much of the excess inventory.

In fact, the market is currently in an absorption state, with insufficient inventory of homes to meet demand in some areas. However, there are very few areas in North Atlanta where home prices have reached or exceeded their pre-crash levels.

Given this, it may be a good idea to take a close look at your property tax assessment to see if your county has accurately assessed the current value of your property — and, hence, determined your property tax accurately. We discussed this topic recently on the Rich Life Real Estate radio program with Stan Anderson, who specializes in helping owners appeal their assessments and obtain reductions in assessed property values and taxes.

“This isn’t a matter of trying to not pay property taxes,” Anderson said. “These taxes go toward many good things, like helping pay for local schools and police and fire departments. But you shouldn’t have to pay more than your fair share of property tax based on an inaccurate assessment.”

According to Anderson, counties are required to send all property owners a notice of value.

“After you receive your notice of value, you have 45 days to file an appeal with your county if you think your assessment is inaccurate.”

An appeal is filed by filling out form PT-50R, which you can download from your county government’s website. Your county then has 30 days to either accept or reject your appeal. If the county accepts it, you’ll receive a letter telling you by how much they are reducing your assessment. If they reject it, you can appeal further to a board of equalization, which will make a final decision.

So how do you determine whether or not your property is accurately assessed?

The first step, according to Anderson, is to gather information on comparable sales (or comps).

“These comps must be from sales before Jan. 1 of the current year, and the property should be located as close to your property as possible.”

Naturally, owners want to point out sales that are lower than their property’s assessed value, while the county will want to point to the opposite.

“The truth is that most values are somewhere in the middle,” said Anderson, who notes that counties consider foreclosures and auction sales when assessing values. “But if you have a valid reason to believe your property should be assessed lower than the comps, include pictures with your appeal to help demonstrate this. County assessors don’t physically look at the property, but rely on data — so a picture really is worth a thousand words.”

Brian Patton, CCIM is a commercial real estate broker, author and radio show host. Call 770-634-4848. Listen on WDUN, AM 550 and FM 102.9, or stream from www.RichLifeRealEstate.com.