Auditor questions strange tax appeal letter

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UPDATE: 1/24/2013

Viewers have been e-mailing our newsroom once again to ask about a strange letter they received in the mail.  It claims they are overpaying on their property taxes.

The letter says "Property Tax Assessment Analysis".  It claims you are overpaying your taxes by $2,000, $3,000 or even more every year.   

And it wants you to sign up for something called "Value Appeal".

These letters previously went out to thousands of area homeowners in January 2012.

Is it legit?

Value Appeal is a legitimate Seattle-based company, with a satisfactory Better Business Bureau rating.

It helps homeowners challenge their appraisal, by giving them information on home sales nearby, and other helpful tips. 

Their "package" costs $99, and claims it is refundable if you get nothing.

County auditor raises concerns

However, Hamilton County, Ohio,  Auditor Dusty Rhodes is raising concerns about the letter.  His office has received many calls from homeowners asking about it.

Rhodes says homeowners can research their neighbor's home values at the Auditor's website, www.hcauditor.org , then file an appeal on their own free of charge. 

He says information on current home values is "free and easy  to access," and says you do not need a third party company to do it for you.

What should you do?

Value Appeal will not file the appeal for you: You still have to make a case on your own to your county. 

In addition, based on several letters we saw, their claimed assessment may be a "lowball" offer, giving a suggested value far less than what the county says it's worth, even after the housing downturn.

And if you get your home re-appraised at their low value, that could hurt your resale price if you need to sell in the next three or four years.

Prospective homebuyers will want to pay only the new, reduced assessed price.

But if you feel your current appraised value, and taxes, are much too high and you don't have time to do your own research, Value Appeal claims it has helped many homeowners lower their taxes across the country.

By the way, the Auditor's office says getting your valuation lowered is not that easy.

You can decide if it's worth it, so you don't waste your money.

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