Home values have risen across Cook County which means property taxes are going up as well. Many homeowners were shocked when they recently received their second installment of the 2018 bill with a 30 – 40% year-to-year increase. While it is too late to get a reduction of the 2018 bill, you can file an appeal for your 2019 taxes. Any reduction will be reflected in the second installment which will be mailed in the summer of 2020. Homeowners can represent themselves when appealing the property tax. If you decide to do it on your own, you will need to build your case.  Hiring an attorney is a good alternative, but for those who independently choose to go through the process these steps will ensure your best shot at success. 

Step 1: Educate Yourself 

Check the deadline for challenging the value in your township.  That information can be obtained from the assessor’s office. Cook County Assessor’s Office has a strict 30-day window for each township to appeal. If you lose your case, you can still appeal your property assessment with the Board of Review. It is recommended to file an appeal the same year the property is assessed to maximize savings.

Step 2: Tax Breaks

When you receive your property tax bill, look at the bottom of your bill and make sure you are getting all of the exemptions that you are entitled to.

  •   If it’s your primary residence, you are entitled to a homeowner’s exemption.
  •   If you’re a senior citizen, you are also entitled to a senior’s exemption.
  •   There are also exemptions available for long-time homeowners and veterans.

If you have not received your exemptions, you can file a certificate of error. For more information on exemptions, contact the Cook County Assessor’s Office. 

Step 3: Property Record

Check your property description on the assessor’s site. Is the square footage and the exterior type correct? Are the number of bathrooms accurate? Is the building currently vacant? These type of inaccuracies could be grounds for an appeal. To prove your case you may have to order your Property Record Card by contacting the Freedom of Information Department at (312)-603-5307. The card contains your property identification, construction details, and other elements that are used to describe and value your property.

Step 4: Compare 

Real estate tax is based on the market value so use the tools available on the assessor’s site to compare your home to similar properties and see if the taxes are in the same range.  If you refinanced, submit your last appraisal as evidence of value. Hire an appraiser with a national certification who will provide the strongest evidence of your property’s worth.

You can also research comparable properties with lower assessment rates using sites like Zillow. The comparable homes should share key characteristics such as age, square footage, or the number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

Step 5: Build your Case 

If the assessor has valued your home higher than the recent prices of comparable homes, you can make an argument for reducing your valuation.  Even if the assessment falls into the middle range of the homes you compared it to, it is not necessarily a fair taxation. The assessment should be based on the market value of your home. If your place has deficiencies affecting its value, it could be beneficial to your appeal case. 

Step 6: File An Appeal

File your appeal on the Cook County Assessor’s Office website.  Submit comparable properties, photographs, blueprints, and other documents. Keep copies of everything – this process will take months. For best results, research additional property value data after you filed your appeal. If similar homes near you appealed at the Assessor’s Office and won, use those comparable properties and submit to the Board of Review. The assessor’s website to file your own residential appeal is http://www.cookcountyassessor.com/Appeals/Appeal-Search.aspx.

Step 7: Lawyer Alternative

For homeowners who simply do not have the time to go through the tax appeal process on their own, I recommend hiring a lawyer who specializes in tax appeals. Contact me for a referral of attorneys who have successfully won appeals for me and my clients. 

Missteps to Avoid

  •   Choosing the wrong appeal basis
  •   Assembling the wrong evidence or submitting insufficient evidence
  •   Failing to take the time to understand the factors that affect your property taxes