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“Advice for appealing property tax assessment – new homeowner”

by Prince Of Petworth March 21, 2017 at 1:45 pm 13 Comments


“Dear PoPville,

I just closed on a new condo and would like to appeal my DC property tax assessment. It’s a three-unit building (all units are brand new construction with same materials), and they’ve assessed our unit as the most expensive by far ($120K more and $76K more than the other two units) even though ours was the mid-priced one in terms of the list price and the eventual purchase price when comparing the three units to each other.

I am definitely going to appeal the assessment and have read many threads on this site and others about how to do it. My remaining question that I hope to have answered here is:

I see that I have to check a box on the form indicating the basis for my appeal. If I appeal on the basis of equalization, comparing my home to the other units in the building as well as comparing it to other properties in the area, and then lose at the first-level of the appeal, can I appeal at the second level on the basis of estimated market value, using the appraisal from my settlement? I’d rather not use the appraisal yet because I feel that we could get a fairer assessment if we succeed on an equalization argument. But IF is the key word. If we don’t succeed on the equalization argument, I want to be able to bring in the appraisal at the second level of review.

Also, I would appreciate any other advice on the appeal, as this is my first time going through the process. Thanks in advance!”

  • JS

    Q: what floor is the unit on? Does it have additional beds/baths? Does it have dedicated parking that the other units lack? What about private outdoor spaces, or a roof deck?
    I feel like you have a case, but would like more info.

  • wobber

    In my experience the appraisal is a pretty solid argument for an adjustment.

    • ah

      I’m guessing the OP doesn’t want to use the appraisal because it shows a higher value than an equalization argument would show (i.e., the other two apartments).

  • LCinDC

    I assume this is not the issue, but by any chance are you not receiving the Homestead Deduction on your assessment?

    • Tsar of Truxton

      I had the same thought.

  • Anonymous

    You may have just upped your neighbor’s tax bill (the person(s) who purchased the most expensive unit).
    OTR probably confused your unit with the most expensive unit in the building. It’s definitely worth an appeal.

  • GS

    The appraisal from your settlement would still be subjected to up to 10% (capped) escalation, depending on when you received your appraisal. So if your assessment is within 110% of your purchase price/appraisal, then you probably will not have much luck going the appraisal route.

  • d

    I’ve appealed twice in 8 years under similar circumstances, where my 1BR was assessed more than a 2BR in the same row house. Both times denied without explanation, but both times the following year’s assessment came in much lower in line with market value. Just an anecdote, but my takeaway was that they’re loathe to accept appeals but then consider your argument with the following year (assuming the assessor has that in their files). Or maybe there’s just no method to the madness and it was coincidental…who knows?

  • Chai

    Anecdotally speaking, I had the same issue where my condo was asessed at around $80k more than I paid for it. I don’t remember which box I checked but I basically threw the purchase appraisal docs at them and they came back with a reasonable number fairly quickly.

    In talking to other ppl who have done it, it’s an uphill struggle without the documentation and they would definitely question why you didn’t give it to them at first, especially if you were asking for a valuation lower than your appraisal.

  • anon

    I succeeded on a second-level appeal last year, introducing an appraisal I had had done in between the first and second appeals (I had it done coincidentally, for a refi). I introduced the appraisal at the hearing; the Appeal Commission offered the inspector an opportunity to object to introducing it (since it wasn’t part of the original appeal), but he said it was fine. The Appeal Commission made the final assessment at the value of the appraisal (which was a little more than my original appeal but a lot less than the original assessment).

  • KY Ave

    I had a similar situation in Columbia Heights. I was the lower unit of a 2-unit condo conversion and paid significantly less than the upper unit. I had slightly more square feet but they were the upper unit with a roof deck. After a year or two, my assessment jumped $200k; theirs was stable. I appealed with all sorts of data, including purchase prices, comps from neighboring condos and houses, and everything else I could think of and got a 5% reduction. A second appeal netted an additional 5%. It was still really out of whack with the upstairs unit and market prices but they beat me down. I paid a lot in property taxes that just wasn’t warranted. And of course, when I sold I couldn’t even get the price I paid.

    So good luck!

  • InTheGaP

    Don’t know much about appealing, BUT make sure you register for the Homestead Deduction. Agent is supposed to tick a box at closing, or you can send in paperwork later. I missed it and paid an extra almost 5 grand in taxes before catching it. Appraisals keep going up, but tax increases are capped. If you fix it later, they will not refund the overpayments.

  • Neil

    I wouldn’t worry too much about which box to check and I’d include any information that supports your case. The year we bought our house our assessment was quite a bit higher than our purchase price. When the assessor called, I got the impression he hadn’t looked at what I had written before calling. I told him “We paid X and house prices haven’t gone up 25% since” and he agreed and lowered the assessment. Last year we tried to appeal based on comparable sales and equalization but were not successful – it seems easy for them to say you aren’t picking the right group of comps, though you may have better luck if the other units have better stats, are in the same building and are the same age.


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