CINCINNATI — If you live in Ohio, get ready for sticker shock when it comes to your home, if it hasn't shown up in your mailbox already.
As many homeowners are learning this holiday season, their values -- and next year's tax bills -- are heading up.
Along with their Christmas cards, homeowners in Hamilton, Butler, Warren, and Clermont counties have been receiving letters from the Grinch in recent days, showing an increase in the value of their home.
Christy Combs is among them. She owns a 1,500-square-foot home on Cincinnati's East Side.
"I am assuming that like most people ours went up substantially," she told WCPO.
Her home's value is jumping from $304,000 to $346,000 for the new year.
That's another $40,000 in property valuation, during a holiday season when many families are struggling.
"To do a re-evaluation when there is a global pandemic, I think, is a little bit unfair to everyone," Combs said. "There are a lot of people out of work or not getting their typical salary."
Why the new valuations during a pandemic?
While the timing for these letters is not ideal during the holiday season, it's all due to Ohio state law, which requires county auditors to re-assess values every three years.
And this latest assessment comes after a big surge in home prices.
Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes says its all based on real estate sales.
"Recent arms-length sales are what we use," Rhodes said. "That is the only thing we've got to go by, the sale info from the Multiple Listing Service."
He says the average Hamilton County, Ohio, home value is up 14 percent over 3 years ago (some areas are much lower, but some neighborhoods are up 20% or more, based on recent home sales).
That is great news if you plan to list your home for sale soon, but not so great, however, when it comes to your property tax bill.
But Rhodes says taxes should increase only 3 or 4 percent, much less than the valuation increase, because schools cannot take more tax money without a vote.
"People often say we are just trying to raise money for the county or the schools. We can't do that. It's against the law," Rhodes said.
What you can do
Want to see your new value and taxes?
Go to your county auditor's website, look up your home, and click on the "taxes" tab.
You can see what you have paid in property tax each of the past five years, and compare with your new tax bill.
You can also see a history of your home's valuation (sometimes it is shocking to see how cheap homes were in the 1980s).
For many homeowners, your tax bill may be up just a couple of hundred dollars a year, or less, Rhodes says.
Feel your home's new value is unfair?
You can contest the new numbers by filing a dispute with your county Board of Revision between January 2 and March 31. (Visit your county auditor website to learn more about how to file a dispute.)
But Christy Combs feels Cincinnati-area valuations and taxes are just too high, period.
"I just think they are going to price people or tax people out of their current living situation," she said.
As always, don't waste your money.
Don't Waste Your Money" is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. ("Scripps").
Follow John on Instagram @johnmataresemoney
Follow John on Twitter (@JohnMatarese)
For more consumer news and money saving advice, go to www.dontwasteyourmoney.com