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We got our 2009 Real Estate Assessment from City Hall Friday.

Last year, I didn’t understand property assessments, but now I think I do, kinda sorta, so I’m actually able to make some sense of this notice.

Last year, our assessed value was $720 (land) + $1000 (structure) for a total of $1720 — the entirety of which was exempt, being under the $7500 Homestead Exemption. We still paid a smidgen of property tax because we live in Orleans Parish and our firefighter tax is figured without regard to the Homestead Exemption, if I’m recalling correctly. Did I get that right?

This year, our assessed value is $1840 (land) + $15160 (structure) for a total of $17000. That means we now qualify for the full $7500 Homestead Exemption. The taxable total is the remainder, $15280. If we can assume a millage rate of .12920, that means we’d owe $1974 in taxes. Add another $160 for police and fire, and that gets us to $2134.

What confused me about this business in the past is the fact that assessments are 10% of fair market value. So these numbers imply that we’ve gone from an estimated fair market value of only $17,200 to $170,000. Now that I understand how this works, it’s clear that our 2008 assessment was low, way low. I don’t know if that was a Katrina thing or if it’s one of those houses that have been under-assessed for years. Our 2009 assessment is much closer to what I imagine the value of our house might be.

But actually I think it’s a bit high. We only paid $107K for the house. Our renovations have mostly just gotten it back to where it was before the Federal Flood, though the lead remediation was a substantial improvement. I’d love to think we could get $170K for the house. But I’m inclined to think it’s less, probably a few tens of thousands less.

Then again, I’m no expert on real estate. My feelings about the value of the house are pretty subjective. If this really is a fair assessment, we’ll pay it with no more grumbling than most taxpayers. If it’s high I’d like to get it adjusted. But how do I know the difference?

I’m wondering if I should make a trip down to the assessor’s office. I’ve got until August 15th.

Published inFinancial ShitNew OrleansOur House


  1. Lee Lee

    I thought property taxes in Indiana were messed up. You’ve got me lost on this one B.

    Our taxes are based on an assessed value which is multiplied by a factor, and tada!

    Perhaps those “low” numbers are the taxable value of the property? Just trying to help ya out there.

  2. celcus celcus

    I was in the grossly under assessed category as well, and found the correction to have been hard to swallow. But your purchase price should have been the basis of the last assessment, so you got off pretty good for a while.

    First thing I would suggest is try to find some similar houses in your vicinity in terms of size (square footage, size of lot) and condition and look them up on the assessors web site. You’ll get a pretty good picture if yours is out of line for your area. Also check to make sure your square footage and lot size are correctly estimated.

    And assessments are not sale price. There are simply too many variables that determine what someone is willing to pay for a house. It is a function of condition, square footage and rough location factor.

  3. Kent Kent

    Perhaps you could pay for an appraisal. Our taxes went substantially up, well above what we knew was an accurate appraisal of the house. I don’t recall, but I suspect we paid, perhaps, $200 for a professional appraisal, and our taxes dropped significantly after filing a petition with the tax board for reconsideration based on this appraisal. The Bloomington IN board was friendly, concerned and helpful.

    I like celcus’ idea of comparing your home to others that have sold of similar style and size, preferably in the same neighborhood. There may be real estate listings online, showing location, school district, sqaure footage, etc. for homes currently for sale. If these are substantially lower than your tax appraisal, then paying for your own appraisal may prove a good gamble for you. It worked for us.

  4. Are your appraisals public record? You might be only a few clicks away from looking up every property in your neighborhood and seeing how the numbers jive with yours. (Or, you might have to go to some office and wait 64 weeks for the photocopies to get back to you.)

    I don’t entirely understand how the numbers in assessments are generated, either. I have this land in rural Colorado that has had an average of about $6 in property taxes, and this year I got a bill for almost $500. I called the county and asked if maybe we were funding some NFL expansion team’s stadium I hadn’t heard about, but their only response was “well, we reassessed it.” I would love to dump the land at even 75% of their assessment, but that won’t be happening any time soon.

  5. Only the Goddess knows what our assessment will be now.

  6. mominem mominem

    $17,000 – $7500 = $9500, I think.

    Thanks for posting this we haven’t gotten our notice yet, so I looke it up online, and yet again the assessor has failed to post our homestead exemption.

    Back to City Hall.

  7. Hmm, mominem’s right. The taxable total of $15,280 just doesn’t add up. I guess I need to activate my basic math skills, because I didn’t catch that.

    So how did they get that number? I can’t help but notice that’s the difference between last year’s assessed value and this year’s assessed value. $17,000 – $7,200 = $15,280. That’s too weird to be a coincidence, right? But why would they subtract one from the other to derive my taxable total?

    Now I’m truly perplexed. Just when I thought I understood this thing…

  8. OK. So I called up my assessor’s office to ask about the discrepancy noted by Mominem. I was told that it was just a printing error, that the correct taxable total is $9500 just as Mominem said. The woman I spoke to was very apologetic. She said a bunch of these letters went out with incorrect totals, and they have no idea how it happened. Internally, their software does the math, and they have the correct amount listed in their records.

    This means my property tax will be $746.60 less than what I figured above. $1227.40 plus $160 = $1387.40.

  9. […] from City Hall estimated the fair market value at $170,000, which at the time I thought was a mistake: I’d love to think we could get $170K for the house. But I’m inclined to think it’s less, […]

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