Imagine buying a car without knowing the price of gas. Would you be more inclined to buy a sexier sports car or a more rugged SUV? I would.
How about buying an appliance without the salesperson telling you that you need to get it maintenanced every year for $50. Adds a lot to the cost, right?
So why do people buy houses without first checking what the property taxes will be? You can’t figure out your projected annual cost of ownership is if you don’t have all of the pieces to the puzzle. And if you don’t know what your expected costs are… you could find yourself in a bit of trouble. Imagine your astonishment when a $10,000 property tax bill arrives! But… but… it’s your dream home!
So, with that in mind, it is a good idea to check property taxes to get a better idea of annual costs (for either a business or a residence!) whether you are moving across county lines or across state lines.
Where Can You Get the Information?
There are a few routes we could go here. Let’s start with the direction everything is going.
Nowadays, you can find ANYTHING online it seems. And property tax is no different. And the data is more available than you would think!
First, you could go directly to the county or cities tax assessor tax recorder’s website. For example, in Washington DC you would go here and in Philadelphia you would go here. Enter the address of the property and voila, the information is yours! You get the assessed value of the property and the total amount due for property taxes. For your respective city or county, just Google “Property Tax Lookup .” Try slight deviations of that, or phrases like “ Tax Assessor.” I went ahead and did it for the county my parents live in and it worked perfectly. Some of you may already visit these sites because some locales allow you to pay your property taxes through the same sites.
Second, you can use a site like Zillow. Zillow is a wonderful real estate site that lets you check what houses are on the market, recent sales, property sales history, and property tax history. Check out this random house in Boise, Idaho. Over the past month, the estimate of the house’s value has gone down $6,000 (based on market trends). The property tax in 2008 was $1,007. This is a quicker way to get the information and I imagine it is all accurate anyways since the information is all public record. You should probably bookmark this site if you are in the market for a new home.
If you don’t have access to a computer for these intended purposes, you could contact the tax assessors office directly and request a hard copy of the property tax record via mail. They may have a form for you to fill out or they may just ask you to send a letter stating who you are and for which address you are requesting records. Once they process everything they should send you back the property tax record via mail.
Be careful to not use this data for reasons other than finding out how much property taxes were assessed on different addresses. The title information is not guaranteed, and you shouldn’t use the information for real estate or insurance purposes due to the un-guaranteed nature of the data.
Just use the data to gain insight into the property taxes!
Any Other Ways I Missed?
Are there any other ways that you can get the property tax information that I missed? I figured Zillow and the official tax assessor’s websites were pretty comprehensive and useful.
I look forward to your input!