Fulton County property tax calculations, like most states, are based primarily on the use of a mass-appraisal system that incorporates a variety of data to determine property values, which are then assessed to calculate property tax amounts. It isn’t a perfect system and mistakes do happen, of course, so property owners need to be aware of their ability to file an appeal when they feel that their taxes are out of line.
The first step in filing an appeal with your county tax assessment office is gathering information to build your case. After all, in order to prove that they are wrong, you have to find information that backs up your claims. In addition to checking your own real property listing that is filed in the county records, you also have other information to gather along the way. For many property owners, comps are the hardest piece of the puzzle to find.
What are Comps?
Most people know the term “comps” from real estate. Comparables, as they are also known, are homes that are similar in size and price to your property. For example, if you have a two-story, four-bedroom home that is 2,200 square feet and you purchased it for $175,000, you’ll be looking at houses in your neighborhood or local area that follow this or similar criteria. The main focus is that they need to be apples-to-apples comparisons so that proper values can be assigned.
Where Can I Find Them?
Some people think that comps come from some magical place that only real estate professionals have access to. The reality is that anyone can look up comparable sales online, provided that they know what they are looking for. You can use websites like realtor.com to check values of similar properties that have recently sold or visit your local county auditor or property website to look up property records in your area.
If you prefer, you can work with a tax valuation expert that will help you not only find comps in your area but understand them and how they affect your own property value. Once you are sure that the numbers match up in terms of sales data, you should look at the tax assessments on the comparable properties. Make sure that the taxes are similar for both properties because they should be unless there are extenuating circumstances.
Also, make sure that the comps are still, in fact, comparable to your home. If you were lumped in with your neighbor across the street last year and they recently added a 1,500 square-foot addition, you aren’t in the same category anymore and the tax assessor should make notes and make the necessary adjustments.
Recently Sold Homes
One of the best ways to check out local comps is to look at recent sales in the area. Listings often remain online for a few months after the sale, or they will go back to “unavailable” status and have the most recent sale information and the amount provided for people to compare. You can use online real estate websites like Zillow to filter options and get as close to comparable as possible before looking at the results.
You will probably find dozens of recent sales that seem similar to your home. Now is when you need to get picky. Start with square footage and recent sales price. Then, factor in the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. Do you have an attached garage? Is your basement finished? Maybe the site offers neighborhood information or amenities that can narrow down the gap, such as school scores, crime data, and nearby police or emergency services. Take advantage of every detail you can find to get the most accurate comparison.
What to Avoid
Don’t use active listings for comps when you are preparing your appeal. The prices may change before the sale is finalized, which can affect the property and neighborhood values. Stick with recently sold homes or sales history for the area to get the information that you need.
Don’t assume that the final sale price is the actual price paid. A lot of contracts come with cash-related concessions. For example, if the buyer has the seller paying closing costs, the true price of the property will drop significantly. If you call agents, they can often provide you with a list of seller concessions or a fresh set of their own comps to help you in your appeal.
Don’t drive across town just to find comps. There are plenty within a short distance of your property that will have similar sizes and features. It’s not about having identical properties, but about how similar properties compare and affect the overall value of the neighborhood, which relates back to keeping your comparables close by.
Other Information for Fulton County Property Tax Appeals
The appeals process is rather simple, but it’s also a tedious and detailed one. Therefore, while property owners can survive on their own, it might be better to hire a professional property valuation team or tax assessment expert to represent you in your appeal. They’ll take care of reviewing your property information, finding potential tax savings, and even collecting the best local comps to ensure that your property is valued accurately for tax purposes.
There are a number of reasons that you can choose to appeal your property taxes. For many people, it’s less of an obvious error and more of a way to see if perhaps the information was not accurately assessed. The biggest part of proving your case is getting an accurate value of your property for the taxes to be calculated from. Without the right comps, that can be nearly impossible.
If you think your Fulton County property tax is too high or your property was valued incorrectly, we can help. Fair-Assessments.com is experienced in all kinds of tax assessment appeals throughout Fulton County and Georgia and can help you through the appeal process to ensure that you get the best outcome and the best chances of reducing your property taxes.