Suffolk County Real Estate Downturn Can Be a Good Thing

*This article has been updated on March 2, 2012 in order to reflect the latest important information issued by NYS. It will be a two-part blog posting…

Suffolk County’s crippled real estate market should make almost every homeowner’s property value take a nosedive this year.  The one silver lining – you might have a great opportunity at lowering your property taxes.  If you think you have been over assessed, you have a right to protest the assessment – which could mean tax dollars in your pocket.  Let’s face, it every dollar counts in this economy.

Suffolk County property tax grievance information:
Below are answers to five questions that are commonly asked about filing a Suffolk County property tax grievance (later this week will be six more):

1. What is a property tax assessment?
Every year each individual town assessor’s office in Suffolk County determines a value of your property. This serves as the basis for what your property taxes will be in the coming year – the 2012 filing period is for the 2012/2013 tax year. In Suffolk, generally speaking your assessment should reflect property values in your neighborhood as of July 1, 2011 for your December 2012 tax bill.

“You want to make sure that your assessment reflects the fair market value of your house,” says David Clausen, Co-President of The Heller & Clausen Grievance Group, a leading Long Island property tax grievance company located in Suffolk County.  “The higher your assessment, the higher your property tax bill – it’s that simple,” says Clausen.

2. What is fair market value?
That’s how much the town assessor says your house is worth as of a certain taxable status date – March in most of Suffolk County’s townships.

3. What are the levels of a property assessment?
This is the percentage of market value at which properties are assessed. In Suffolk, the level of assessment varies by town. Last year, the levels of assessments were the following for each township:
•    Brookhaven       .90%
•    Huntington        .77%
•    Islip                     12.38%
•    Smithtown         1.28%
•    Babylon              1.13%
•    Riverhead          13.68%
•    Southampton   100%
•    East Hampton  .76%
•    Southold           1.11%
•    Each year a new level of assessment is released by New York State for each individual township, usually in February.

4. How is a property assessment calculated?
If the fair market value of your house is assessed at $500,000 and the level of assessment is set at .87 percent, your tentative assessed value is equal to $500,000 multiplied by .0087 percent, which equals $4,350. This is then calculated by your tax rate, for this example, let’s say 3% of your total tax bill, without any exemptions, would then be $13,050 (4,350 assessed value x 3%=$13,050).

5. If my assessed value goes down, will I pay less in property taxes?
“If you think your home is assessed too high, and we successfully prove that the value is less, then your tax bill will go down,” says Jennifer Bortnowsky, office manager of The Heller & Clausen Grievance Group, a property tax-reduction company in Rocky Point Long Island. Under NYS law your assessment cannot go up; it can only be decreased or remain the same.

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