Ask Andy: ValueAppeal property tax appeal service - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Ask Andy: Property tax appeal services

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By Andy Wise - bio | email

MEMPHIS (WMC TV) - If you own a home in Shelby County, you should know by now that you can appeal your property tax assessment ANY year, even though by state law, official reappraisals occur every four years (the last one was 2009).

I'll be the first to say the Shelby County property assessor's website (http://www.assessor.shelby.tn.us) is a wonderful -- and FREE -- resource. That's where you can double-check square footage, property measurements and sales data, including comparable sales ("comps") and values of other homes in your neighborhood.

I've reported many stories of Shelby County homeowners who used the assessor's site to catch the assessor's own mistakes on their property assessments. Those homeowners were able to arrange a free review with the assessor's office and win an adjustment on their taxes.

But it helps to have other resources to keep the assessor's office honest. Enter ValueAppeal.

The Seattle-based service (www.valueappeal.com) claims for $99, it will collate data on your property, comps, etc. and evaluate it against your tax assessment. If ValueAppeal determines you've been over-assessed, it will calculate an estimate of what it believes you could save in taxes, lay out the Shelby County forms for you to start an appeal and sell you a package that can help you fight that appeal.

"Our success rate nationwide is approximately 80% so far," said ValueAppeal's CEO Charlie Walsh. "Our average customer nationwide has saved $839 on their property taxes."

The thing is -- we already have a service similar to ValueAppeal. And it's based right here in Memphis.

Chandler Reports (www.chandlerreports.com or www.shelbytaxappeal.com) offers a $49 tax tool kit.  In addition to sales comps, the kit includes a foreclosure effect report that analyzes the impact of foreclosures over the last two years on home values within a quarter mile of your house. 

Wendy Greenlaw, Chandler Reports' business development manager, said its data analysts will even help you find sales comps in your neighborhood that the assessor's office might have missed.

"This year, Chandler Reports has been providing free property analysis at www.shelbytaxappeal.com to assist homeowners with determining if they even have a chance of a successful appeal before purchasing our $15 sales comparables or our $49 2011 Tax Kit," she said.

Last year, Anne Caraway of East Memphis used Chandler Reports to fight her property appraisal. According to comps data, her White Station-area home was over-valued by more than $15,000.

After she followed the Chandler Reports tool kit, she said the assessor came back with a more reasonable value -- and a lower tax burden.

"The assessor came back with a $1,000 savings for us over a four-year period, so it was really nice to get that break," said Caraway.

I tested both services on my property. I discovered both maintained accurate information about my home's specs and assessed value.

ValueAppeal determined I had been over-assessed and suggested I could save $1,300 over the next two years using its report of sales comps and other data should I decide to appeal. However, not one of the comps was within a block of my house. Sure, they were comparable homes in my subdivision, but each was a half-mile or more away.

Chandler Reports, at half the cost, also suggested I had been over-assessed, but said my potential savings was $904, less than the savings suggested by ValueAppeal. But at least one of the homes in the comps was one within a block of my house.

"I can argue an appeal for my clients with either one of them," said Memphis attorney Paul Billings. "They're both very good. ValueAppeal's report format lays out the differences in various properties very concisely and clearly."

Greenlaw said ValueAppeal attempted to purchase Chandler Reports' proprietary software a few years ago, but the deal was refused.

Both seem to be worthwhile services to consider to compare the data they have on your home and property taxes against the Shelby County assessor's database. 

One word of warning:  ValueAppeal's privacy statement indicated it does share your e-mail and certain registration information with third parties.

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