Free Help Appealing Your St. Joseph County, Indiana Property Tax Assessment

by Nick Molnar on November 17, 2009

Editor’s note: Effective 11/26/09, I am closing new requests for assistance with appeals. If you have registered for assistance I’ll contact you by the end of the week with a report.

After writing about the recently mailed tax bills for St. Joseph County, which also served as notices of re-assessment, I’ve heard from a number of people who believe their assessment is inaccurate or inflated.

Warning, what follows is lengthy. I tried to make it as simple as possible, but St. Joseph County property taxes don’t lend themselves to clarity. If you are planning to appeal your assessed value I think you’ll find it helpful. But if your eyes glaze over reading tax deadlines and details you might want to skip it and look at photos of South Bend.

If you want to appeal your assessed property value, you have 45 days from the mailing date of the tax bill to do so. In my case the postmark is November 10th, but because I escrow taxes in my mortgage payment the bank received my bill and I received a duplicate copy which was apparently mailed later. The Date of Notice on my bill is November 3rd and the fine print defines that as the date the property tax bill was mailed. So I’ll need to appeal before December 18th.

While you can appeal with a letter, I’d recommend using appeal form #130 to be sure you have all the required information in your appeal. That form suggests an appraisal trended to the valuation date as “the most effective method to rebut the presumption that an assessment is correct.” They are suggesting you appeal with an appraisal. But a report by a licensed appraiser will cost in the neighborhood of $300 for a typical South Bend home.

The form also lists a few other forms of evidence that are considered valid:

  • A sale of the subject property adjusted to the valuation date (January 1st, 2007)
  • Income and expense information, if the property is an investment
  • Sales or assessments of comparable properties if the taxpayer can demonstrate the similarity between the appealed property and the comparable properties.

That’s not an exclusive list if you have some other evidence of your homes value, but those are the primary means to appeal your homes tax value. If you didn’t purchase your home in the last few years, the sales price isn’t very helpful. If you live in the house you won’t have income and expense information – think collected rents and maintenance costs. That leaves the typical taxpayer two options: pay for an appraisal or find the sales price of similar homes to justify your appeal. Unfortunately it’s difficult for people not in the real estate industry to find the actual sales prices of homes.

Boiled down, this leaves most appealing taxpayers two options – pay for an appraisal, or find a realtor to look for comparable sales for you. I can’t help everyone, but I do like to help people who visit this web-site. To that end, I’m offering free assistance finding comparable sales for tax appeals to the first twenty people who ask for it. Having sales data for other homes doesn’t ensure a successful appeal, especially as the value in question is for January 1st, 2007, but it is sure to stand a better chance than an emotional appeal to the county treasurer.

Just follow the link below and submit the form to get started.

Tax Appeals CMA Request


{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael Webb November 17, 2009 at 5:47 pm

My wife and I failed to file for mortgage and homestead exemptions last year after moving to Indiana and purchasing our home on February 4, 2008. I received the full year tax bill last week in the amount of $4,110.93 and choked! Yesterday, I visited the tax office in downtown South Bend and filed for both exemptions. Before doing this, I checked with a couple of my neighbors who also have Windsor Model homes on my Street. These models, built by Weiss Homes, are identical. One of my neighbors has a full finished basement. My basement isn’t finished; however both neighbor properties are assessed less value than my property. There is disparity ranging from -$6,000 to -$10,000. So, I’m filing out form 130 right now; but, I don’t have any comp values for other homes that have sold or are currently selling like mine.

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Nick Molnar November 17, 2009 at 6:32 pm

Not filing exemptions to which you are entitled can turn out to be a costly oversight.
I don’t know why the same house on the same street would vary in assessed value – if you want tax or sales records for the neighborhing homes to include with your appeal, fill out the form above and I’ll try to get them to you quickly.

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Susan Chipman November 18, 2009 at 12:06 am

great stuff! I’ve been getting calls also looking for comps…I’m going to forward your post to them as well. My tax bill jumped also, but the assessed value looks right…crazy stuff!

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Cindy November 19, 2009 at 3:09 pm

I bought my house in March 2009, and I was sent a copy of the bill for 2009 pay 2008. Since I didn’t own the house in 2008, do I have to pay the 2008 taxes??

Also, my assessed value is $136k, the appraised value was $129k. Is it worth appealing?

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Nick Molnar November 19, 2009 at 3:48 pm

You still have to pay.

Because Indiana property taxes are billed in arrears it’s common for the seller to credit the buyer the estimated amount of accrued-but-not-yet-billed taxes at closing. Depending how you bought the home, and on the terms of your contract, you may have received a credit at closing which lowered the amount of money you needed to close on the purchase, but which you have to pay now.

If that sounds confusing it’s really even worse when you consider that exemptions often change when a property changes hands, and assessments and tax rates can also change each year. New construction adds its own set of issues I won’t delve into here.

The only way to be sure taxes that accrued before you buy a property are paid by the seller is to have the seller escrow an amount more than sufficient to pay the anticipated bill, wait until the county mails the bills, pay the bill from the escrow account, and return any overage to the seller. Title companies will do this for about $100. But it is often impractical or impossible for a seller to tie up funds for a year or more and many sellers won’t do so. Because of this, taxes are usually estimated based on the last bill, prorated to the day of closing, and credited to the buyer. But it doesn’t always happen, and the estimates are not always correct.

An appeal is free except for your time. $7,000 in value at 3% (that may not be the rate you pay but it’s probably close enough for this line of reasoning) would be $210. Is a few hours work worth a chance of retaining a few hundred dollars?

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Thomas Andrus March 22, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Dear Sir,
My appraisal notice states that my assessment has increased $7300 (121,900 to 129,200)
My address is 1611Southbrook Dr. in Twyckenham Hills.The selling prices for homes on my street
are running 120,000 or less.My next door neighbors house is presently on the market for $114,000 ,same size same ammenities.The house three doors up was on the market for 117,000 .It didn’t sell and was taken off the market.
Do I have any chance of justice in this bureaucratic cesspool ,I meant South Bend.
Sincerely, Tom Andrus

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P Slott August 24, 2016 at 9:05 am

My assessed value went up $26000.00 and land $4000.00. How is that possible? Taxes are all over the place in the subdivision at Natures Gate. Same model can be thousands different in assessed value.

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