How-To: Challenge Your Property Taxes

It’s been tough to post here and at Rain City Guide because of work and family obligations, but here is some helpful information about petitioning to reduce your property taxes:

In escrow, now is the time we start seeing some (not all) 2009 property tax assessments show up in title reports when working on transactions.   Do not be confused.  These are in fact 2009 assessments that were formulated in 2008.   The new assessments for 2010 are what this post is about.  What?  2010?  But I need relief now!  Sound odd?  That’s how taxes are done.

And, a snippet from the Snohomish County Assessors office:

Snohomish County updates all taxable real and personal property assessed values annually as of Jan. 1st of each year. The next update will be mailed for most properties in June of 2009 and the assessment date will be as of Jan. 1st of 2009. The 2009 assessments will be used to calculate property taxes owed in 2010.

Since real estate market values have been dropping, it’s high time to put some change back into your wallet where it belongs.   The links below are for the assessor’s offices and the forms needed to submit to challenge/petition your property tax bill.

There have been very few conversations I’ve had with recent clients that have not circled back to “the market.”  I don’t bring up “the real estate market,” the client does.  A few times I have mentioned that they may want to take the time to fill out the forms and petition the property tax bill.   Cool, they say.  How do I do it?  Here’s how:

  • Find out what property type you have:  is it a rambler?  How about a Tudor?  Two story with basement?  Or, a garage house like The Tim’s (couldn’t resist Mr. Ellis)
  • Go to Redfin, or Estately website or any other website that posts sales data that is searchable by your zip code, neighborhood or any other mechanism.  Or, call your Realtor and have them pull comps (comparable) to see if they can find a few homes that have sold that would be a good case to show the assessors that they need to humbly reconsider the property tax valuation, downward.
  • Always spy on what sales comps are in your neighborhood.
  • When valuations drop, get moving and petition your tax valuation.

Being complacent will cost you money.  Take the time to do this.   Typically (check your own county assessor rules & regulations) you must file your appeal/petition by July 1st or within 60 days after receiving your tax assessor notice (see your county petition rules).

I did this and saved $1,000 per year for the 2009 tax year.   That’s nearly $100 off my monthly mortgage payment (for those that include tax impounds in your monthly mortgage payment).

On a side note, it is pretty tough for anyone to not be personally impacted by this difficult economic and employment environment we find ourselves in, either by knowing of someone or a family member with job loss or equivalent (or impending job loss), but it is important to keep in mind that if you have the means to reach out and support them, do it.   The smallest thing can help reduce someone’s stress.  It could be me or you that needs it next.

-S Crow

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About S-Crow

"S-Crow" (Tim Kane) is co-owner (with spouse Lynlee, LPO-Designated escrow Officer) of Legacy Escrow Service, Inc., an authentic independent escrow firm closing residential purchase/sale and refinance transactions.


  1. 1
    Scotsman says:

    I wonder how long this will be possible. Eventually the county will recognize that declining values and the resultant declines in revenue are going to put them in a fiscal bind. I know that the law is the law, but something’s going to have to give.

  2. 2
    ElPolloLoco says:

    In other news, the WSP is starting to do something I’ve never seen them do before: hide. Pretty clear what their marching orders are.

  3. 3
    James Lupori says:

    I would be curious to see how successful property owners will be in fighting city hall about property taxes. I wrote a quick post on my blog at the end of January:

    The Assessors office seems to be sending a message that our taxes are not going down any time soon.

  4. 4
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    I had a pretty strong case for appealing, because the valuation went up by about 10% over what I paid less than 2 months prior to the valuation date (January 1, 2008). But for me it wasn’t worth it because if I’d succeeded I would have only saved less than $600.

    Also, don’t assume that your taxes will go up by the amount of your assessment increase. It doesn’t work that way. The property tax assessment on my house went up 9.98%. Despite that, my real estate taxes will be only going up 4.48%. The reason? My tax rate will be actually declining from 1.198% to 1.138%

    You can determine your own situation by looking at the 3rd and 4th links from the bottom here:

    and by determining your tax area here:

  5. 5
    David Losh says:

    “if you have the means to reach out and support them, do it.”

    This is the best thing this site has said.

  6. 6


    Not more property taxes causing rent increases too.

    Its time for our local government to start laying off teachers, police, office administrators, etc, just like the other 90-95% of the non-government workers are getting laid off. NYC is already slated to lay off 19000 teachers.

    Taxing the remaining workres and the unemployed in Seattle to keep local government in business is simply phony stimulus relief and “We the people” are offended..

  7. 7

    Tim, this info is so important for home owners… I know the assessed value is based on “past values” so for a while, home owners had lower assessed value than what their home would have appraised for. Now appraisals are coming in lower than assessed value.

    Home owners should create their own personal stimulus and contest their tax assessment if it’s overvalued (and it probably is).

  8. 8
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    Rhonda, when you consider the fact that the current assessment amounts are based on 1/1/2008 values, there are not really that many assessments that are grossly high. Mine for example is about 10% high, which I would consider on the edge of being grossly high.

    I happen to look at a lot of assessed values reviewing bankruptcy matters, and what I find shocking is how many assessments are grossly low based on prior sale prices. Much more than 10% low! Given the way our tax system works (tax rate determined based on total assessments for all properties), that means the rest of us are paying more for real estate taxes than we should be. But there’s no way for anyone to challenge that. The only ones that get challenged are the ones that are high.

    Zillow seems to look at sale prices when determining their Zestimates. Near as I can tell, the King County Assessor does not. So if they’re wrong on a property, that continues after a sale.

  9. 9

    […] any Seattle Bubble readers that are considering appealing their assessment that S-Crow posted a useful “how-to” on this process that would be a good starting […]

  10. 10
    joanie stevens says:

    If Snohomish County Assessor’s Office took the time to do a property values, they could done the math and decrease the property tax right now, or if it increase. And it could of been in their official notice. So we could have a preveiw so if we need to appeal we could do so.

  11. 11
    S-Crow says:


    Snohomish County Property Tax assessments just hit the mail. If you wish to appeal your property taxes as I do, refer to the links in the article for Snohomish Colunty. It is not as arduous a process as people think.

  12. 12

    Does service Snohomish County?

    BTW, I was just thinking yesterday that Snohomish County has to be a hotbed for appeals, because they always have been high (or at least for the past 4 years). I just looked at one this week where they were off by about 40% (although my valuation was today, not 1/1/2009).

  13. 13

    […] assessment is too high? We have covered this topic a couple of times in the past, with posts from our local escrow expert Tim Kane and a guest post from ValueAppeal CEO Charlie Walsh. If you think your assessment is too high, […]

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