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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

As a professional real estate agent and homeowner in Teaneck, my experience of reducing assessments has been consistently successful. Certainly, when one can prove a home’s assessment is higher than the value, the homeowner will be paying less in yearly property taxes since the amount of taxes is calculated by multiplying the assessed value by the town’s respective rate. Please note that the tax rate is set by the town on a yearly basis to maintain a “0” balanced budget. It is the town’s responsibility to adjust the rate to ensure that their budget is balanced so the town does not operate on a deficit level.

After the recent Teaneck wide re-assessment of last year, many situations occurred. Some residents had an increase in taxes while others were pleasantly surprised since their tax amount was reduced or stabilized. If taxes were reduced, the assessment value report from the town decreased significantly, whereas if the tax amount stayed the same, the amount of assessment decrease was offset by the increase in the higher tax rate, so the final tax amount might have stayed constant after all.

In my case, both the assessment was increased and the rate set by the town for all was increased so I faced a double whammy. It was time to start appealing. I was ready for the fight and put on my boxing gloves to begin the process. Deadlines for tax appeal vary from town to town, and in Teaneck, my application for the tax appeal was secure by the April 1 deadline. After many months, I was finally granted an appeal court date in the summer in the Bergen County courthouse. Since I am familiar with market values as a real estate agent, I was able to pull sold comparison comps within a reasonable period of time to substantiate my reduction appeal. My motto is “If you don’t ask, you won’t get, and you can bet your bottom dollar that unless you appeal, your assessment will remain fixed until the next town reassessment, whenever that will be, and/or unless you have applied for permits to improve your home. If you are wondering, when a house sells and title is transferred from the previous homeowner to the next owner, please be aware there is no change of assessment at the time of sale!

Of course, the effect of overall appeals and reductions by the residents, which is their legal right to do to ensure that their assessment is not exaggerated to reflect the market, is that the rate will need to be adjusted on the yearly basis to maintain the balance aforementioned. However, your number one issue is your own home and your tax obligation that is commensurate with value. To further pursue the issue, I again contested the reduced assessment that was successfully granted on the Bergen County level and decided to pursue the appeal further on the state level as well, which is the homeowner’s right as part of the process. Why not? I diligently filled out another application to appeal to the State of New Jersey. We were successful again and the courts offered further assessment reduction, which ultimately means that my taxes were lowered twice within a given tax period!

Of course, an attorney can also be hired to orchestrate the reduction if a consumer chooses to be legally represented as well.

Now getting back to assessments—the rate amount fluctuates from town to town. At this time, Teaneck, at a rate of 3.143, has the lowest rate in comparison to the contiguous towns of New Milford at 3.38 and Bergenfield at 3.222, which was not always the case many years ago.

Successful tax-appeal reductions allow for retroactive credit for the period of the appeal and an adjustment of your tax bills.

Have I made you dizzy yet? It’s really quite simple and forward. By the way, real estate is not a science, it is an art. The true value of the home is set between the synergy of the buyer and seller, which also typically reflect market values. Offers do vary and sometimes offers come in over the town’s assessed value while others come in lower, so it is not the full barometer of the home’s actual exact value.

By the way, when purchasing a newly built home, the taxes may not indicate the final taxes since the assessment period may only reflect the stages of the house development without its full value reported as of yet. Taxes can even be based on the land itself, depending on the time the assessment was recorded, so be aware what your final obligations will be.

Just to assure you, home ownership is the paradigm of pride, a place where you will be spending the majority of personal time of laughter, joy and difficult times as well. Whether there is fluctuation in assessment, taxes or interest rates affording more buying power while the rates are lower, purchasing a home provides the quality of life and nest egg we all aspire to have.

Good luck to all! Home ownership will always be a beautiful thing.

By Ruby Kaplan

Ruby Kaplan is a realtor with V & N Group LLC, licensed in both New Jersey and New York. Her passion is to help people meet their housing needs and goals. Having bought, sold and built homes, she has acquired an expertise to represent both sellers and buyers. She is sensitive to her clients’ needs and has a driven commitment to oversee all her transactions with honesty, integrity, knowledge and dedication. Ruby can be reached at her office at 201-692-3700, at the company’s website at www.vera-nechama.com, on her cell at 917-576-4177 or at [email protected]