A blog about the restoration, remodel and renovation of a 1929 Chicago-style brick bungalow

Reducing Cook County Property Taxes, part 3

Over the past few days, I’ve been writing about the very boring, but very important property tax appeal process in Cook County. Apologies if you don’t live in Cook County — I’ll get back to more fun things soon.

For those interested homeowners who do live in Cook County, there are several ways to try to reduce your taxes. The Assessor’s office states that “no one knows a property better than you, its owner. Our goal is the fairest valuation of your home.” Note that we’re just talking about paying no more than you’re required based on the fair valuation of your property compared to similar properties in your neighborhood. If your house already has a lower valuation than similar houses in your neighborhood, congratulations — it probably won’t get any better than that.

So…first and foremost, if you own and live in your home, be sure you have the Homeowner Exemption.

If you received a letter from the Assessor with the proposed valuation of your home and wish to appeal, the most common reasons are based on:

  • Lack of uniformity: the value assigned to your home is higher than similar homes in the immediate area
  • Overvaluation: the assessed value is higher than the market value of your home according to your recent purchase price or what similar homes have recently sold for
  • Property description error: the details, like your lot or home square footage, are incorrect

In our case, we’re appealing based on property description error. As I wrote yesterday, I believe our home’s square footage is less than the assessor thinks it is and I’ve been gathering evidence to prove it.

I picked up the official, stamped letter from our surveyor today, which sure enough stated our official square footage is more than 300 square feet LESS than what the assessor claims. That is for the original footprint of the house, before our renovation. That means in addition to appealing for this year, we’ll be filing for a Certificate of Error for the previous three years to hopefully receive a refund on the taxes we paid for 300+ square feet we don’t own.

The reason our square footage didn’t bump up until this year, even though we did our renovation several years ago, is because of a Home Improvement Exemption, which allows you to increase the value of your home with up to $75,000 worth of improvements without increasing your property taxes for at least four years. It’s a very vague exemption that I never really understood. According to the assessor’s website, “You will automatically receive the exemption when our office field checks the building permit for the improvement.”

Our bump in square footage is the sole indication our exemption for that is over, because our classification has been changed from a 2-03 residence (One story residence, any age, 1000-1800 SF) to a 2-04 residence classification (One story residence, any age, 1,801 square feet and over). 

From what my neighbor and I found out regarding the finished attic space, they follow the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards, which includes square footage with a ceiling height of 7 feet or more only. Our architect’s plan provides that number for our finished attic space, so I will be including that as evidence as well. Between that and the surveyor’s letter, we should have a strong case.

Unfortunately, the township assessor told me that we first have to appeal to get re-classified as a 2-03 residence before we can appeal based on Lack of Uniformity. If we present them with PINs of similar homes that are classified as 2-03 (because that’s what we’re asserting our house is), he said they’ll deny us because in their eyes we’re a 2-04 classification. I guess that makes sense, but it looks like this may be at least a 2-part process.

I haven’t researched yet if we’d even have a chance of winning on that basis, but if you’d like to appeal based on Lack of Uniformity for your home, read my first post for links, tips and resources on how to do it (sorry, I can’t help you any more than that, so please don’t even ask!).

I only have until Thursday to get this done, so time to stop blogging and start appealing!

1 Comment

  1. Chris Cole on October 4, 2016 at 7:42 pm

    This is great information. I will keep it mind she I start dealing with Cook County next year. Good luck on your appeal(s).