As this blog has discussed before, one thing all property owners have to look forward to twice a year is paying their property taxes. We previously outlined the way in which Cook County collects property taxes each year, mentioned that they are paid in arrears, and even demonstrated how each installment payment is calculated.
However, another important aspects of the process is how the value of the property, to which the tax rate is applied to calculate the tax obligation, is decided. Indeed, the tax value of a particular property is the starting point for all tax calculations and will therefore have an impact on all aspects of an individual’s ultimate tax obligation.
The tax value of a parcel of real estate is determined when the taxing authority performs and assessment of the property. Because the amount of property taxes to be paid are based on the assessed value of the real estate, it is in the owner’s best interest to ensure that the assessment is accurate.
In Cook County, real estate assessments are performed by the Cook County Assessor’s Office. According to its website, the Assessor’s Office is “responsible for setting fair and accurate values for 1.8 million parcels of Cook County property.”
The manner in which properties are assessed typically varies by location. In some areas, real estate is assessed at its full market value while in others only a percentage of actual value. Cook County uses a technique called multiple regression to perform its assessments. The multiple regression technique “creates a type of sales comparison average” which is a mathematical relationship between the value of different homes. The Assessor’s Office maintains that this technique “ensures that similar properties are assessed similarly,” and therefore accurately.
Usually, taxing authorities perform periodic assessments to account for changes in property values. Reassessment of real estate in Cook County is done on a triennial cycle, or every three years. If a property owner feels that the assessment of their property is too high, they can appeal the determination by submitting a formal objection along with evidence supporting their position.
Common evidence used to support a change in the valuation of a property includes:
- Establishing an error in the information related to the property such as improperly listed square footage.
- Information regarding sales of comparable properties in the area establishing a lower market value for the property.
- Unknown or concealed defects in the property, such as structural problems that negatively impact the property’s value.
Generally, the most successful way to challenge a tax assessment is based on the sale prices of similar homes in the neighborhood. However, because one home might have been sold at less than market value, information on several sales will strengthen the case supporting a reassessment.
Challenging a tax assessment can be a difficult task, especially for those inexperienced in dealing with real estate issues. If you have questions regarding property tax assessments or believe your property assessment is too high, contact the experienced real estate attorneys at The Slater Firm, Ltd. today.