Money in Your Pocket - It's Real Estate Tax Appeal Season until April 1

Money HouseWant more money this year?  You may be entitled to a reduction in your property taxes due to a decrease in value in your property from general economic conditions.  Key points:

  1. You MUST file by April 1 

  2. You will need your real estate tax bill, and recent sales of comparable properties (try www.zillow.com)  

Got questions or need help? You can reach out to Steve Loeb, Esq. in our Tax Department.  I have added below some information about real estate tax appeals that Steve recently sent to our clients.

New Jersey mandates that an individual pay taxes based upon the fair market value of the property, not necessarily the assessed value.

The New Jersey laws governing tax appeals are found at N.J.S.A. 54:3 et. seq. and N.J.S.A. 54:4 et. seq. and N.J.A.C. 18:12A et. seq.

Property Taxes are the result of the local budget process and it may not necessarily be appealed, but the property tax assessment may be. A taxpayer considering an appeal should understand that he or she must prove that his or her assessed value is unreasonable compared to a market value standard.

According to New Jersey law, the current assessment set is assumed to be correct. The ability to overcome this presumption of correctness to obtain an assessment change is based upon fair market value.

In essence, an assessment is an opinion of value by a licensed professional. For an assessed value to be considered excessive or discriminatory, it must be proved that the assessment does not fairly represent one of two standards:

1. True Market Value Standards
2. Common Level Range Standard

In 1973, the New Jersey legislator adopted a formula known as Chapter 123 to test the fairness of an assessment. Once the tax board determines a property’s true market value during an appeal, they are required to compare true market value to the assessed value. If the ratio of assessed value to true value exceeds the average ratio by 15% the assessment is reduced to the common level.

In this time where assessments may be not in line with current market value standards, if you should have any questions or need assistance in filing a real estate tax appeal, please feel free to contact Steve Loeb, Esq. in our Tax Department.

Image: scottchan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I signed a contract to Buy my first House - Now What? The Attorney Review Process.

So you just took the plunge and signed a contract to buy your first house. Congratulations!  You sit around the kitchen table with your Realtor and sign "the papers".  Are you done?  Do you now have a deal?  Not exactly.  

Kristen Klics, Esq. of our Real Estate Department is our guest blogger today on the "Attorney Review Process", whereby your attorney represents you to take the deal you made at your kitchen table and modify and improve it so that it becomes the deal you happily live with at closing.

So you have been pre-approved for a mortgage, found your perfect first home within your price range, and your offer has been accepted… what happens now?

The contract you have likely signed is a Realtor Form contract. The terms of your contract may be changed and modified so long as the form of contract is disapproved within 3 days. The misconception is that attorney review lasts 3 days. This is not true. So long as the form of contract is disapproved within 3 days, attorney review lasts until both parties agree to all the terms. This could be 3 days or 3 weeks. During attorney review either party may cancel the Contract for any reason. It is always a good idea to hold off on doing your home inspection until attorney review has been concluded. You do not want to expend money on a home inspection only to find out that Sellers received a better offer and have canceled pursuant to attorney review.

During the attorney review period you need to call the municipality where the property is located. You should find out as much information about the property as you can: Are there plans for development within 200 feet, does the property have any open permits or violations, is the property a legal 1 family, has there ever been toxic substances found on the property, is the property located in a flood designated area? I always tell my clients, the nicer you are, the more information you will receive.

The important thing to realize is that the attorney review period is your time to negotiate the terms contact and find out basic information about the property. Don't be afraid to walk away if you find out information about the property that you are not willing to live with.