UPDATE: 05/01/18 Hi, I am Angelo, Owner of Farlap & Associates. First, if you haven't heard, we are the #1 place people are leaving. The county isn't going to lose the money, it's clear to us they are just transferring the tax burden to those who are stuck here with 31-41% increases over the last 2 years in most areas. They hit you every three years with a new property tax value (which has nothing to do with real value) on your tax bill and if they didn't hit you yet, they will. In the meantime I am seeing a dangerous new trend. The Do-It-Yourself Property Tax Appeal knowledge is spreading fast. Why is it dangerous? Because it's spreading too fast. I do believe filing your own appeal is better than doing nothing but here is what worries me. Just like that old school room test where the teacher whispers a secret in the first child's ear and ask them to repeat it in each other's ears until it reaches the last student. By the time it does, it is something completely different or missing the important key information. I like saving money with Do-It-Yourself projects for fixing a hole in the wall or a broken tile. It's an easy way to save a $100. When you try and juggle a Property Tax Appeal WIN, you are juggling with thousands of potential dollars. You will win some even with basic knowledge. The end result is always just that - a basic reduction. Do not trust your property taxes to a friend who won an appeal here and there. Do not trust realtors, they think they are experts but they really know just enough to make them dangerous. Political rallies that offer to help you and all your friends will usually not find you the evidence that warrants the "best possible" reduction, it gets you another basic reduction. A WIN makes the homeowner thrilled they did not shell out 33-50% to anyone. What they fail to realize is the average reduction on this type of help usually around $300 when you may have saved thousands with Professional assistance. In regards to these rallies, the sqeaky wheel gets the grease, more importantly they get your vote. That's all these rallies are really about. If you have been doing your own, it's better than doing nothing but now be brave enough to swallow some pride and let us double check your efforts with our Research Database. We will prove 9 out of 10 are still significantly overtaxed. Our Research Database instantly sniffs out the lowest comparable homes in 10 seconds. We spent over a quarter million dollars designing it over three and a half years and we spent ten to twenty thousand a year maintaining it, so it's very good at what it does. It also allowed us to help hundreds of customers at once and allowed us to convert to our flat fee. It is smarter than all of us put together. So smart that we are now able to offer a Guarantee. We also guarantee that if you do nothing, you'll get nothing.
1. What are the two most common ways of appealing your property taxes?
The most common way of appealing is called "Lack of Uniformity". It simply means "I am not uniform with similar homes in the area" and that's exactly what you use to get reduced. Similar homes, preferably newer or larger homes paying less is one of the best ways to prove your taxes are too high. Good comparable properties usually render great results. The second way, is often referred to as a "Sales Ratio Case", proving actual value with a Closing Statement (in the last 5 years, regular sale only, not foreclosure or short sale) or an Appraisal (maybe from refinancing) in the last 3 years. If you have the most recent 2nd installment tax bill, look at "Assessed Value", it should never be more than 10% of your Purchase Price or Appraised Value. We feel the following is the most beneficial information for the tax payer. purchase price or appraised value. For example: If you bought it last year (regular sale only) for $250,000 your assessed value should not be more than 25,000. If your assessed value is higher than 10% give us a call or click FREE RESEARCH and tell us there, as you are probably over taxed! It's our opinion, that Sales Ratio cases are typically more successful than Lack of Uniformity. They county has a hard time keeping your value high when it's proven much lower with the right documents. Clear copies are essential, as these documents often have small text.
2. Why do only 15% of property owners actively appeal their property taxes?
Many homeowner's read their "Property Description" portion of the Assessment Notice and notice some things are missing or incorrect. Such as "No Central Air Conditioning" or they read "Basement Unfinished". The home owner knows they turned the basement into a recreation room years ago or perhaps they bought it with a "finished basement". They are afraid to appeal because they think someone may come out when they appeal and add the basement or add another 1,000 square feet etc.
3 - How do I measure my house to double-check the Building Square Footage listed is correct?
Simple, these are the basic guidelines. It's easier with a partner but it typically takes only five minutes with a tape measure. To double check the building square footage on your property description simply measure "Length x Width" from the "outside". Living heated space only. Basically, you measure the front of the house from corner to corner and the side of the house from corner to corner, then multiple the two. If your house has more than one level and is the same size on the top and bottom, then its Length x Width x The Number of Floors. If the top is smaller than the bottom its LxW on the Top + LxW on the Bottom. Never garage (even when attached). Never basement (even when it's furnished). Never porch, unless it's heated and never attic unless it’s livable.
4 - When, where and how often can I appeal?
In Cook County there are two agencies that handle the majority of property tax appeals. The first agency to open for any given tax year is called the Cook County Assessor's Office. The second agency to open for any given tax year is the Cook County Board of Review (formerly the Board of Appeals). They usually open 4-6 months apart, each with a window of approximately 30 days in which you must submit your appeal. If you miss the window you are stuck for several months. If you make the window, each agency usually offers a re-review period. Re-review is a written request you can make asking either agency to take a second look at your appeal, but you typically have to make this request immediately upon arrival of your initial decision letter. Perhaps you were granted a reduction but don't feel it was enough? Then a re-review request is a good idea. Between the two agencies and two re-reviews, that is four attempts you can make per year, each and every year!
Are there other alternatives to the two above mentioned agencies? Yes, you may have the right to appeal with the Circuit Court or PTAB (Property Tax Appeal Board) and you may need a lawyer to do so. We suggest you touch base with a lawyer for more information if you wish to pursue these avenues. PTAB can take several years. Appeals at the two above mentioned agencies may be denied, saying “we see you filed at PTAB please wait for PTAB decision”.
5 - Don't you have to be a lawyer or get a lawyer to file a property tax appeal?
You are not required to have legal representation at most agencies. If you put your property in an LLC or Corporation the Cook County Board of Review requires you get a lawyer.
6 - How long does an appeal take, when will I see my savings?
Typically it takes 1 to 3 months to get a decision once the appeal you submit your appeal. The savings is seen on the 2nd installment tax bill, as this is the only bill that shows your assessed value. When you appeal, you are challenging your Assessed Value.
7 - If the property taxes are included in my mortgage what will happen if I appeal?
If your property taxes are included in your mortgage, a reduction in your property taxes may reduce your monthly mortgage payment! You need a healthy reduction for this to occur. If you get only a little reduction, the new annual tax rates and state equalizer may eat your savings and your mortgage may not drop. It's still better to appeal than to do nothing. In addition to the tax rate and state equalizer, Cook County will set a new Assessed Value on your property every three years. These Assessed Values usually go up! If your property taxes go unchallenged, you will likely see a significant increase in your property taxes and your mortgage payment. If you do construction or building permits, you may get re-assessed sooner than the normal three-year cycle!
8 - I heard some companies have a guarantee, do you have one?
Whether you chose the 1 year or 3 year service package, we guarantee you will get a reduction in that time frame because we only take homes we know we can help! Otherwise, we will not ask you to renew service until you get a reduction, no matter how long it takes. That simple. Unfortunately, we cannot put our Guarantee on Condo's. Condos have about a 60-65% success rate in buildings with less than 20 units. If you live in a condo the best way to win an appeal is to do the building as a whole (all units). The guarantee requires you file your appeals online. Our Guarantee requires you give us the whole tax year to work with you. Some people who take the 1 Year Service Package half way through the year and that takes them halfway into the next, this year would not be covered under the guarantee. If you filed on your own and we are coming in later, we obviously can't guarantee what you submitted on your own. We have seen as much as a 22% greater success rate for appeals filed online vs. mailed in or walked in. You can also mail in your appeal package the old fashioned way, but this way is not covered under our guarantee. Filing online is easy and only takes a few minutes with our simple to follow instructions and screenshots! We also have another guarantee in this industry, "Do nothing, get nothing. Guaranteed". The first step is to get informed with a free evaluation, the second step is even more important "take action" and enroll. You may want to educate yourself on our Videos Page watch "How It Works + Our Guarantee" or submit your Cook County property for a Free Evaluation if you haven't already done so. Once you have, go ahead and hit our Sign Me Up page, we have packages as low average out to only $75 per year.
9 - Do I have to go downtown or make an appearance?
Never. If you become one of our clients, you will never have to make an appearance if you do not want to make one. Both local agencies allow you to submit your appeals online from home. You may request a hearing at the Board of Review. However, decisions do not usually occur at these hearings. The decisions come in the mail 1-3 months later in most cases. You will have to represent yourself should you go to the Board of Review or hire a lawyer. If you go in yourself or mail your appeal to the Board of Review, the results come back to you. When you use a lawyer, the results usually come back to the lawyer’s office and they soon forward it to you along an invoice (33-50%) for any reduction savings. The greater the reduction, the greater the invoice, as most charge a percentage of your savings. Remember we said above there are up to 4 opportunities to appeal each year. The contracts usually say “33-50%percentage of the first year’s tax savings only”. Since there are multiple opportunities to appeal each year, you can be billed multiple times the “first” year.
10 - In the past another company billed me 50% ($600.00) saying they reduced saved me $1,200 but my taxes did not go down $1,200, in fact they went up! Did I get ripped off?
Cook County uses a 3 Year Triennial Reassessment Cycle. Every three years the Assessor rolls out new Estimated Market Values on the tax bills. They have nothing to do with real value. In most cases, they are lower than the home would sell for. Thus, the owner stays quiet, thinking they’re getting a deal and never fights. It’s one of the county many tricks. If you were told you won a $1,200 reduction but the taxes still went up. This is usually one of three reasons. Most commonly, the company did not make it clear to you that you were in a reassessment year. In this year, if the county hikes you 40% and a company lowers you 30%, this means you are still going UP 10%. It’s still a win because the neighbors likely went up the full 40%. The other reason could be that while values stay the same for 3 years, every year the county gets a new Tax Rate, State Equalizer and they get to mess with your Exemption Values. They pick these things right before the 2nd installment. If the township needs more, your exemptions are less. If they need less you get more. This is also why you can never estimate a 2nd installment. These three things can cost you to go up $50 to $1,500 a year, even with the same value for 3 years. Even seniors are subject to this. The third and final reason could be Building Permits or construction.
12 - I filed on my own appeal and received a reduction, so that means my taxes are fair now, right?
In a perfect world, yes. However, this is not a perfect world anymore. When given the opportunity to research a property after a successful reduction, we often will determine your property taxes are still too high. The reason being, we now use a Research Database. When you got reduced, 15% of your neighbors were opening the same decision envelope because 15% of neighbors are always fighting, even when you’re not. There are now lower homes are there. A challenge of learning to appeal on your own is that most homeowners simply do not know what is actually “fair”. In regard to filing an appeal all on your own, without any help, "You can drive a car with your feet. It doesn't mean it's a good idea" another favorite quote that was actually on the back of our business card for a while.
13 - Why did we stop charging our clients a percentage of their savings?
We wanted to be the first in the industry to remove our percentage all together. While most of our competitors still charge 25%-50% of your savings. We adopted a manageable flat fee because we have realized that many of our clients have fallen upon harder times in light of the new economy. We know these people need help and many are trying to save their house. Thus, the decision was made to no longer charge a percentage for residential properties.
14 - I heard if you appeal they will only raise you more in the future so it's better not to appeal. Is that true?
Absolutely not. This question does circulate a lot though but it's being circulated by people who did not have a full understanding of the appeal process before, during and after. We reduced the Sergio the Librarian (library by our office) 66%. His taxes fell from $5,053 to $1,879 in the last year of the cycle. I warned him that because he got such a huge reduction in the last year of the cycle he would probably be the lowest home in the new cycle and we would need an appraisal to help him get reduced in the new cycle. This is exactly what happened only he did not want to pay for an appraisal. Since there were no comparable homes for him at the beginning of the new cycle he was raised along with all of his neighbors to over $6,000. The shock felt worse for him, meaning the increase from $1879 to $6,000 but he still benefited BIG TIME. His property taxes in 2014 were $1,879 when his neighbors were in the $5,000 range. He is still benefiting the next three years 2015, 2016 and 2017 as long as he doesn't do any construction with building permits. of the new cycle as the ABSOLUTE LOWEST HOME. Our database sniffs out the lowest taxes on a per foot basis and "He's the Man!" the hero for all his neighbors. He still failed to ACT by getting an Appraisal, failing to act gets costly and causes huge increases. Fighting your property taxes now does not cause you harm in any way. Sergio's home is below on our storefront windows.
15 - If you are not charging a percentage of my savings, what do you charge?