Helping home owners appeal their tax bills can be a lucrative side business for real estate practitioners - particularly this year when legions of home owners are considering appeals after prices have crashed.

The going rate for a property tax consultant, who makes the pitch to the appeals board on behalf of the home owner, is often 25 percent to 50 percent of the amount saved in the first year.

Winning an appeal requires persuading an assessor or appeals board that the current assessment is inaccurate or outdated. Often the window for appeal is very small, so it pays to have key information gathered and ready.

The National Taxpayers Union offers these tips for filing an appeal:

  • Check the assessors' information on file for accuracy, including lot number, zoning category, sales records, land value and dimensions, and significant features.
  • Make sure that defects like a leaky basement that could lower the value of the property are on record.
  • Provide three to five comparables that prove the point that the property is over-assessed.
  • Get a full appraisal if the information on file appears to be hopelessly incorrect.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, M.P. McQueen (07/16/2009)