UPDATE: 6/18/17 Hi, Angelo here, owner of Farlap & Associates. I have been going door to door in the area, warning our neighbors in Jefferson township and in other areas of approaching appeal windows. I am noticing something totally disturbing. Many homeowners tell me proudly "I'm doing it myself, no thank you". I then offer to double check their end result to make sure what they received was fair. They ALL say NO THANKS. They are so proud they didn't pay anyone a fee, they hi-five themselves blinded by the happiness of their own WIN. What they don't know is 90% just got taken for a ride, the county just threw them a bone hoping they'd go away and most of them do. They stop fighting assuming what they got was fair. They assume fair based on their evidence. This is not smart. We have a database that we spent a quarter million dollars designing which uses hundreds of fields of data we receive from the county to find comparable homes or to determine "fair" property taxes. Homeowner's should know this is a complex system which is setup to do one thing GET AND KEEP YOUR MONEY. While I am very much a Do-It-Yourself guy around the house, this is not kitchen tiles we are talking about. We are talking about thousands of potential dollars. This is best left to the experts, trust me on this! My hat is off to the owner who is appealing their own property taxes because they cannot afford to shell out the 33-50% our competition still charges. It's better than doing nothing. However, under our super low flat fee our clients pay as little as $75 a year there is no reason to DO-IT-YOURSELF. You will see on this website we talk quite freely because we are a family business. If you are doing it on your own or going to township / community meetings, you will usually get a reduction and that's better than doing "nothing". However, if we are allowed to double-check if it's a "Fair Reduction" you will probably be astonished with our findings. If we can find lower homes paying less we will show you and prove it. If we cant that means your are fair. That simple, so why not let us double check? If you take their reduction and rest, you will likely be falling for the old throw a dog a bone and hope he goes away trick. Guess what, it usually works. They are happy assuming the reduction received was fair, you are being dumb. We are not going to sugar coat anything, this is a very serious topic. If this is how you are getting your property taxes reduced you need to be shaken by the shoulders and told "Stop. You're being dumb". It is our opinion that these meetings are a good way to "get votes". We are going to tell you right here and right now that 90% of homes that let us double check their last reduction we will find they are still over taxed by hundreds or even thousands of dollars! Don't be dumb, even if you have another company doing it, let us check it. Most of our competition still only files for their clients every 3 years, this is old school. Things have changed. We reduce 92% of our clients each and every year, especially while property values are so horrible! Here is our FREE EVALUATION page use it, don't be dumb!
1 - What are the two most common ways of appealing your property taxes?
The most common way of appealing is called "Lack of Uniformity". It simply means "I am not uniform with similar homes in the area" and that's exactly what you use to get reduced. Similar homes, preferably newer or larger homes paying less is one of the best ways to prove your taxes are too high. Good comparable properties usually render great results. The second way, is often referred to as a "Sales Ratio Case", proving actual value with a Closing Statement (in the last 5 years, regular sale only, not foreclosure or short sale) or an Appraisal (maybe from refinancing) in the last 3 years. If you have the most recent 2nd installment tax bill, look at "Assessed Value", it should never be more than 10% of your Purchase Price or Appraised Value. We feel the following is the most beneficial information for the tax payer. purchase price or appraised value. For example: If you bought it last year (regular sale only) for $250,000 your assessed value should not be more than 25,000. If your assessed value is higher than than 10% give us a call or click FREE RESEARCH and tell us there, as you are probably over taxed! It's our opinion, that Sales Ratio cases are typically more successful than Lack of Uniformity. They county has a hard time keeping your value high when it's proven much lower with the right documents. Clear copies are essential, as these documents often have small text.
2 - Why do only 15% of property owners actively appeal their property taxes?
Many homeowner's read their "Property Description" portion of the Assessment Notice and notice some things are missing or incorrect. Such as "No Central Air Conditioning" or they read "Basement Unfinished". The home owner knows they turned the basement into a recreation room years ago or perhaps they bought it with a "finished basement". They are afraid to appeal because they think someone may come out when they appeal and add the basement or add another 1,000 square feet etc.
3 - How do I measure my house to double-check the Building Square Footage listed is correct?
Simple, these are the basic guidelines. It's easier with a partner but it typically takes only five minutes with a tape measure. To double check the building square footage on your property description simply measure "Length x Width" from the "outside". Living heated space only. Basically you measure the front of the house from corner to corner and the side of the house from corner to corner, then multiple the two. If your house has more than one level and is the same size on the top and bottom, then its Length x Width x The Number of Floors. If the top is smaller than the bottom its LxW on the Top + LxW on the Bottom. Never garage (even when attached). Never basement (even when it's furnished). Never porch, unless it's heated and never attic.
4 - When, where and how often can I appeal?
In Cook County there are two agencies that handle the majority of property tax appeals. The first agency to open for any given tax year is called the Cook County Assessor's Office. The second agency to open for any given tax year is the Cook County Board of Review (formerly the Board of Appeals). They usually open 4-6 months apart, each with a window of approximately 30 days in which you must submit your appeal. If you miss the window you are stuck for several months. If you make the window, each agency usually offers a re-review period. Re-review is a written request you can make asking either agency to take a second look at your appeal, but you typically have to make this request immediately upon arrival of your initial decision letter. Perhaps you were granted a reduction but don't feel it was enough? Then a re-review request is a good idea. You may notice your right to a re-review on the bottom of the original decision letter. Between the two agencies and two re-reviews, that is four attempts you can make per year! Do you have other alternatives to the two above mentioned agencies? Yes, you may have the right to appeal with the circuit court or PTAB (Property Tax Appeal Board) and you may need a lawyer to do so, we suggest you touch base with a lawyer for more information if you wish to pursue these avenues. PTAB can take several years. Appeals at the two above mentioned agencies may be denied if your case has been filed with PTAB, at least that's what we heard but you should contact a lawyer for certainty.
5 - Don't you have to be a lawyer to file a property tax appeal?
You are not required to have legal representation at most agencies. If you put your property in an LLC or Corporation the Cook County Board of Review requires you get a lawyer. We think this is political Bullshit. That's right we said it! (We are a family business and I have been wanting to talk to our customers like family, so employees and even other family members thought it best we keep things professional. So naturally, I took a survey and asked thousand of clients if they want us to talk to them like one family member to another "with the occasional profanity" or keep it totally professional? I was proud to see 94% voted for the family member and the occasional profanity. lol.
6 - How long does an appeal take, when will I see my savings?
Typically it takes 1 to 3 months to get a decision once the appeal is submitted. The savings is seen on the 2nd installment tax bill, as this is the only bill that shows your assessed value. When you appeal, you are challenging your assessment.
7 - If the property taxes are included in my mortgage what will happen if I appeal?
If your property taxes are included in your mortgage, a reduction in your property taxes may reduce your monthly mortgage payment! You need a health reduction for this to occur. If you get only a little reduction, the new annual tax rates and state equalizer may eat your savings and your mortgage may not drop. It's still better to appeal than to do nothing. In addition to the tax rate and state equalizer, Cook County will set a new Assessed Value on your property every three years. These Assessed Values usually go up! If your property taxes go unchallenged, you will likely see a significant increase in your property taxes and your mortgage payment. If you do construction or building permits, you may get re-assessed sooner than the normal three year cycle!
8 - I heard some companies have a guarantee, do you have one?
Yes, we do as of 6/18/15! See our Guarantee Page. However, no one can guarantee a reduction on the very first attempt. You should know that sometimes it takes a more than one attempt per year. You have up to 4 attempts to make per year. Sometimes you get some relief and some times you get none. If you get none, you mad and keep making attempts. You do not stop, you keep fighting! The county wants you to stop. The whole system is setup "to get your money". You have to keep fighting to win! Some times you get a little bit on multiple attempts and you become fair by the last attempt. Sometimes the year ends and you only get half of what was fair. All the more reason to fight the another year! Stay on top of it and keep your money in your pocket instead of the theirs. You may also remember some letters from our competition who all use great psychological marketing terminology that registers as a guarantee. Such as, "Only pay when you get reduced!". It sounds like a guarantee right? However, you will never read "We guarantee a reduction" on solicitations because they simply cannot. No one can. The competition should be happy to show you a comparable property or two in order to prove that you have good reason to appeal. The guarantee in this business is this "If you do nothing, you will get nothing". One of my favorite quotes "If you keep doing what you've been doing, you will keep getting what you've been getting. If you want something different, try something different". Approximately 270,000 appeals are filed each year and rising if you join the battle! Even when you take on professional assistance, they often need to make more than one attempt to get your property taxes down to a fair level. Many of our competitors make claims to have a connection to someone "on the inside", this is usually far from true. See the FBI website for this article. "Two Cook County Board of Review Analysts Charged with Accepting $1,500 Bribe to Facilitate $14,000 Property Tax Reduction".When the competition makes multiple attempts they will keep billing you for all the successful ones and typically for any related refunds they obtain. Once you get a property lowered through appeal, you may be entitled to refunds on previous years that you have already paid!
9 - Do I have to go downtown or make an appearance?
Never. If you become one of our clients, you will never have to make an appearance if you do not want to make one. You review then sign your appeal form, mail it in or walk it in when your area is open for appeals. In some cases it can all be filed online! You may request a hearing at the Board of Review. However, decisions do not usually occur at these hearings. The decisions come in the mail 1-3 months later in most cases. You will have to represent yourself should you go to the Board of Review or hire a lawyer. If you go in yourself or mail your appeal to the Board of Review, the results come back to you. When you use a lawyer, the results usually come back to the lawyers office and they soon forward it to you along an invoice (33-50%) for any reduction savings. The greater the reduction, the greater the invoice, as most charge a percentage of your savings. You can be billed multiple times a year under a percentage basis too because they can submit it multiple times a year!
10 - In the past another company billed me 50% ($600.00) saying they reduced saved me $1,200 but my taxes did not go down $1,200, in fact they went up! Did I get ripped off?
This is a tough pill to swallow, but it's usually covered in the small print on most of their contracts. All the fliers you get in the mail sound like "only pay when you go down". The homeowner thinks "I only pay when my tax dollars go down". However, when they mail you the contracts there is no mention of "tax dollars" you pay on a percentage of reduced "assessed value". Here's what often happens to people who do sign contracts. Every 3 years the county throws out new values on every single property. Sometimes these values hike higher than 30%! The county warns you in a "Notice of Proposed Assessed Value". The bill will come out about a year later and your check book will surely suffer if it goes unchallenged. You usually have a year to beat that value down several times before the bill comes out, through the appeal process. So let's say you just received a notice that you going to get a 30% increase, you are going to go up that much in about a year if you do nothing. You decide to fight with a company charging a percentage. You signed a contract and they brought you down 25%. This means you're still going up 5% in a year (You went up 30% and only came down 25%). The contracts are for fighting the Assessed Value not the actual "drop in dollars". The lower the assessed value the lower the actual taxes. Your dollars will also go up about 5% or more. Basically you paid to absorb a shock wave that would have certainly come. In a reassessment year, the above 25% reduction could cost you $1,100 on the average size house and yous still go up 5%. You are most safe with us and our flat fee especially in a reassessment year when the nasty hikes typically occur.
11 - If it is a three year cycle in Cook county, why do my taxes go up almost every year?
The county sets the values every three years but every year there is a new tax rate and state equalizer. When these two items go up they can cause an annual increase of approximately $200 to $500 each and every year. Also, the amount of the exemptions also typically change year over year. Such as the home owner's exemption. Several years ago it was worth over $1,200.00 and lately it's been under $600.00. When its value drops your checkbook usually picks up the difference from one year to the next. These factors can also cause your lender to mess with your payments when the taxes are included in the mortgage.
12 - I filed on my own appeal and received a reduction, so that means my taxes are fair now, right?
In a perfect world, yes. However, this is not a perfect world anymore. When given the opportunity to research a property after a successful reduction, we often will determine your property taxes are still too high. The reason being, professionals will typically find additional savings for 9 out of 10 property owners who gathered their own evidence. Most homeowners simply do not know what is actually fair. In regards to filing an appeal all on your own, without any help, "You can drive a car with your feet. It doesn't mean it's a good idea" another favorite quote that was actually on the back of our business card for a while.
13 - Why did we stop charging our clients a percentage of their savings?
We wanted to be the first in the industry to remove our percentage all together. While most of our competitors still charge 25%-50% of your savings. We adopted a manageable flat fee policy because we have realized that many of our clients have fallen upon harder times in light of the new economy. We know these people need help and many are trying to save their house. Thus, the decision was made to no longer charge a percentage for residential properties. We offer the same pricing for up to six unit buildings.
14 - I heard if you appeal they will only raise you more in the future so it's better not to appeal. Is that true?
Absolutely not. This question does circulate a lot though but it's being circulated by people who did not have a full understanding of the appeal process before, during and after. We reduced the Sergio the Librarian (library by our office) 66%. His taxes fell from $5,053 to $1,879 in the last year of the cycle. I warned him that because he got such a huge reduction in the last year of the cycle he would probably be the lowest home in the new cycle and we would need an appraisal to help him get reduced in the new cycle. This is exactly what happened only he did not want to pay for an appraisal. Since there were no comparable homes for him at the beginning of the new cycle he was raised along with all of his neighbors to over $6,000. The shock felt worse for him, meaning the increase from $1879 to $6,000 but he still benefited BIG TIME. His property taxes in 2014 were $1,879 when his neighbors were in the $5,000 range. He is still benefiting the next three years 2015, 2016 and 2017 as long as he doesn't do any construction with building permits. of the new cycle as the ABSOLUTE LOWEST HOME. Our database sniffs out the lowest taxes on a per foot basis and "He's the Man!" the hero for all his neighbors. He still failed to ACT by getting an Appraisal, failing to act gets costly and causes huge increases. Fighting your property taxes now does not cause you harm in any way. Sergio's home is below on our storefront windows.
15 - If you are not charging a percentage of my savings, what do you charge?
We charge a low flat fee of $125 per year. You can stop any time you like but we know you will stay! Every year thousands of people successfully appeal and the tax burden they were relieved from, will only get shifted to those who do nothing or those who give up. You never want to be the person doing nothing! Also, when your bank pays your property taxes, they pay them whether your exemptions are there or not. When exemptions go missed, that's money out there that is just waiting to be claimed. If too much time goes by, the county may keep this money. We will help you by staying on top of your property taxes as well as your exemptions year after year. When you get a reduction you will no longer have to worry about paying a percentage. Our fee is just $125 per year, which less than the cost of cable TV. Again, in some cases you may be entitled to up to several years of refunds on property taxes you have already paid. See this TESTIMONIALS PAGE Vietnam Vet Video we helped him get $864 dollars and he did not even have to become a client! There are no other hidden fees or costs. We hope you will stay on year after year. The benefits of appealing each and every year are quite simple to understand. When you come down so will hundreds of others, we now look who has the best deal this year and use them to help support a further reduction in your taxes. If you are ready to get started click here for a FREE EVALUATION. Let's find out if you are indeed over taxed. We will research your property, free of charge, and email the results as well as the estimated savings within 24 hours. You are then free to decide if you wish to become a client. Your property taxes are in good hands with Farlap & Associates.