Why I Won't Fight My Property Taxes This Year -- Even Though I've Done It Before and Won

A man and woman sitting on their couch looking through bills and signing papers.

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This year, I'm less likely to win that battle.

Key points

  • My property taxes will likely go up by about $1,000 this year.
  • Instead of arguing against that increase, I'll probably sit back and let it happen for one big reason.

I live in New Jersey, which has the dubious distinction of having the highest property taxes in the nation. When I bought my home 12 years ago, I knew full well that in addition to my mortgage payments, I'd be grappling with a large property tax bill. But I didn't expect my taxes to rise so dramatically.

Over the past decade and change, I've seen my property tax bill increase by about $8,000. And this year, my taxes will be going up again. I don't have the exact number of that increase yet, but based on my most recent property assessment, I'm thinking I'll see a jump of about $1,000.

Obviously, that's a lot of extra money to factor into my budget. And it's money I'd clearly rather not spend. But I don't plan to fight my property taxes this year -- even though I've done so in the past and come out successful.

Why appealing property taxes won't work for me this year

Years ago, I got hit with a large increase in my home assessment that drove my property tax bill way up. And so I took my town assessor to court and won, lowering my taxes a bit in the process.

Now as a quick refresher, your property tax bill is calculated by taking your home's assessed value (which can change from year to year) and multiplying it by your local tax rate. When I say I've successfully appealed my property tax bill in the past, what I really did was argue down my assessment by proving that my home was worth less than what my town assessor claimed.

To pull off that argument, I had to dig up details on comparable homes in my town that had recently sold. I found a number of properties that were similar to mine but had sold at lower prices than my assessment.

This year, my home assessment is way up, to the point where I anticipate a substantial increase in my property taxes. But I don't have any plans to appeal that bill.

The reason? Right now, home values are up across the board. While my home got a higher value assigned to it, so did most neighboring homes in my town.

Furthermore, the homes that sold recently in my area that are most similar to mine did indeed fetch prices that are in line with my current assessment. And so if I take my assessor to court again, I'm likely to lose.

Furthermore, since I'm self-employed, spending a day in court waiting to be called in front of a judge will also mean losing out on income. Since I don't think I have very good odds of winning an appeal this year, that's a loss not worth taking. To be clear, you don't always have to go to court to fight a property tax hike. But where I live, that's the process.

Finally, there's a cost to appealing your property taxes that varies depending on where you live and the value of your home. In my case, I'm looking at a $100 fee just to file an appeal. That's money I'd rather not spend when my odds of winning aren't so great.

You may need to settle for higher property taxes this year

Because home values are higher on a national level this year, a lot of people are apt to see their property tax bills climb. And while I'd normally encourage homeowners to fight those tax hikes, this may not be the best time to do so.

Instead of arguing my higher taxes, I plan to rework my budget so I'm able to cover them. It's not ideal, but it's a better bet than spinning my wheels and losing out on money and work time to fight a losing battle.

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