Property assessments sink
If you're among the one-third of Maryland homeowners due to get your reassessment notice in the mail soon, odds are good -- very, very good -- that the state has revalued your property significantly downward.
As Larry Carson reports today, assessment values decreased for 93 percent of reassessed residential properties. Average drop: almost 20 percent. The state Department of Assessments and Taxation values homes once every three years, so that change is aimed at reflecting what happened to the housing market between the end of 2006 and now.
The result: smaller property-tax bills due next July ... unless the amount of your homestead credit is so large that a significant decrease isn't enough to affect your tab. In which case you'll actually see an increase as you continue to close the gap between the amount you're paying taxes on and what the state says your home is worth.
The homestead tax break, which all owner-occupiers qualify for after a full fiscal year in their homes, limits the annual property-tax increase you see. In Baltimore, for instance, the cap is 4 percent.
Thus, property-assessment decreases will most affect homeowners who bought in the last few years and the people who don't live in their properties, such as investors.
In the Baltimore metro area, the smallest residential property assessment decline came in the city -- down 5.5 percent -- and the largest in Howard County (down about 23 percent). Anne Arundel County fell almost 20 percent, Baltimore County almost 18 percent, Carroll County just under 22 percent and Harford County about 15 percent.
Allegany County was the only spot in the state with rising assessment values, though barely -- 0.1 percent.
As assessment values drop, appeal numbers probably will too. If you're unhappy with your reassessment, though, you'll want to read up on the state's instructions for appealing (and check out this how-to post I wrote a few years back).
If you're not being reassessed but want to appeal, you can do that too -- but hurry, because the deadline to be considered for the next tax year is Jan. 1. Details about this "petition for review" process here.