Tag Archives: buying real estate

What you need to know about using an Attorney in a Real Estate Closing

Many of my clients ask if they have to use an attorney when buying or selling a home. While the answer is no you don’t have to but you need to use an attorney when buying or selling a home and here is why.
1. Who is going to explain all the paperwork to you at the closing? By law in Illinois, only an attorney can explain the mountain of paperwork from the mortgage note to the deed to the closing charges to ensure that you are getting what you paid for and that you understand everything you are signing. So unless you want to just sign a bunch of papers you don’t understand, you need a real estate attorney there with you when signing.
2. If you are selling property…there are a myriad of paperwork that needs to be completed for transfer taxes and there are documents to be reviewed like the title, survey, deed. If you don’t understand every word and paragraph, how do you know it is completed properly? How do you know that your error will not put you in future litigation?
3. Dealing with the other attorney…In Illinois, most sellers use an attorney, so if you are a buyer, you would have to deal directly with the attorney on everything, inspection repairs, extensions, title problems and review? While these things are not rocket science they do require a level of knowledge and experience to be successfully achieved. If the other side has it and you don’t…you are putting yourself at a disadvantage.
4. Are you sure you are protected and getting what you are entitled to? Buying and selling a home is complicated. The deed and title need to be reviewed to ensure there are no liens. The survey needs to be reviewed. Real estate taxes and exemptions can expose you to paying more taxes out of pocket than necessary. A real estate attorney will review all these items and protect your interests now and in the future.
5. Make sure it is a real estate attorney who has experience in real estate. You would not have a cardiologist perform brain surgery. Both doctors, but specific knowledge and experience are required. Same with attorneys, there are nuances that only attorneys who practice in real estate will know and recognize. This could be the difference between preventing or solving a problem or something you will have in the future.
6. Where do you look for a real estate attorney? Your Realtor and/or lender are great resources. They work with attorneys every day and can give you a personal recommendation. Then you should talk to them and ensure you feel comfortable with them. It is important that you feel comfortable asking questions and ensure they have time to help you and will communicate with you.
7. What should I expect from my attorney? Some attorneys are the “just see you at closing types.” You are better off with someone who is with you every step of the way, not just on the day of closing. They should review all the paperwork, communicate with the Realtors, lender, title company and other attorney. They should answer all your questions and keep you up to date. They need to protect your interests and do what is best for you. And they should work well with all the parties involved to make a smooth transaction. If they seem difficult to work with, they are likely not the right choice. Real estate transactions have a lot of moving parts, all parties need to work together to ensure a smooth and successful experience. And keep in mind, while an assistant or paralegal can do a lot of the paperwork, they should not be the one answering your questions and explaining paperwork. That is what your attorney is for.

8. What should you pay for a real estate attorney? You usually pay a flat fee, not by the hour, phone call or retainer for a real estate transaction. It is paid at closing. You can negotiate the fee, especially as the seller of the property, but again it is more important to get a good attorney than save a few bucks.

Simply said. You don’t know what you don’t know. In every industry there are experts that people rely on to protect, educate and inform them. Doing it yourself you could miss something that will cost you money, hassle and more in later years. Unless you understand all the paperwork and laws…get an expert. After all, this is not only your home, but your largest investment.

Creepy Distractions that Turn Off Home Buyers when Selling a Home


As a Realtor, I see a lot of unusual, even crazy things in people’s homes. If these silent idiosyncrasies could be explained by the home seller, I am sure they would make more sense. But in their absence and left to the imaginations of home buyers, these eclectic eccentricities can often creep home buyers out …distracting them from the advantages of the home and maybe completely turning them off.

I once entered a room with a full-sized child doll sitting in a rocking chair in the corner of the room. You could not see it until you entered the room. It surprised each and every person who came into the room and needless to say, no one really saw that room. Or the full-size “butler” statues – yes they scare you because they seem like a real person when you walk in the room. Startling to say in the least, creepy to say in the most. This goes for any personal possessions that may not be appreciated by the general public. Doll collections with eyes seemingly following you all over the room are not much lower on the creep-o-meter. Realistic stuffed toy animals of cats sitting on beds or a large tiger in the corner, are another eerie distraction.

And Taxidermy…I have seen heads of nearly every animal on the wall, as well as various skin rugs on walls and floors, horns on walls and full-on stuffed formerly live animals. While these trophies are treasured by the home sellers, to a homebuyer who may not share this hobby, they are unsettling and unpleasant. When you are blindly entering a home, it can cause children to be afraid and many times scare even adults who are not expecting a “jungle room.” Home sellers, let’s put it this way, do you want the home buyers referring to your home as the “dead animal” or even the “jungle” house after their visit. No, that will not sell your home. Put them away in storage, boxes, etc.

Marked graves in the yards for pets or urns of grandma on the mantel are another turn off. While the urn will move with you, home buyers only can wonder how many fluffy and spot bones they will inherit if they buy the home. What is unseen….is the best answer for this.

Weapons in the homes, from samurai swords and cross bows to maces and guns are more common than you would believe. Best to keep the armory put away in a closet in a box, etc. Not only are they dangerous, especially for children viewing the home, but also could be a theft temptation you don’t want to deal with and a potential insurance nightmare you definitely don’t want to deal with.

And while the Nazi flag may be reminiscent of an inside joke or historical memorabilia or something to the home seller, home buyers could easily be offended enough to ignore the home’s attributes and head for the door. Or better yet, they may never come to see the house as they see the photography on the internet and in listings.

Snakes, tarantulas, hamsters, gerbils and lizards may be in cages, but do you want to take the risk that recoiled home buyers will not enter those rooms with their slimy occupants present. If they have to stay in the room, best to cover them …. out of sight, never in mind.

And “Friendly” cats and dogs may be fine for your guests while you are around, but home sellers need to cage or remove these residents and not leave for unsuspecting home buyers…and agents for that matter. You don’t want agents and homebuyers skipping your house when they go to the door and “spot” is barking his head off at the front door awaiting them.

Real life encounters are not limited to pets. Believe it or not, more than once, I have opened a bedroom door to see a lump in the bed that was not laundry, but a real person sleeping in the bed. Both the buyers and I couldn’t get out that room or that home faster.

Again, while it is your home, it also is a product. If you wouldn’t like it in a department store, don’t put it in a home you want to sell. Remember, first impressions last forever and are not easily erased.

Selling and Buying a Home with Home For Sale or Close Contingencies – Facts and Fiction

If you are selling you home, do you buy a new home first or do you wait until you sell and risk two moves and being homeless. It can be a dilemma and can be exacerbated by complications of a large family or work schedule, schools, transportation, etc.

Once upon a time, buying a home contingent on the sale of your home was normal. When the housing slump occurred, sellers did not have enough confidence in the market that the buyer could sell their home to risk taking their home off the market. Since 2015, that is beginning to change. Sellers are having more confidence in the market, but not total confidence. Here are some facts for buyers and sellers about contingencies.

. You can not purchase a foreclosure or short sale home contingent upon the sale or close of your home. And banks will not give you months to sell and close on your home.
. A purchase contingent on sale or close is a big seller concession, they need to be compensated with a better offer price to risk losing market time.
. Best time to ask for contingent on sale or close is during the winter months. Sellers are not risking as much. . You have better chance and price negotiation on that – still no foreclosures or short sales.
. Do the inspection up front, but not the appraisal. Yes, the inspection costs money but you need to show the seller good faith that you are serious about the deal. Inspection items are negotiable and need to be done within the 1st week of any contract so no one wastes their time.

. Never take a contingent on sale/close contract over a non contingent contract. Yes, you may get a little money more, but it is not a done deal and wasting precious market time can cost you more than you gain if it doesn’t go through.
. Your house is NOT SOLD. There are no sure things here, there is always a risk. Keep showing it.
. Your agent should do a market analysis of the buyer’s home to ensure their home is saleable or closeable to mitigate the risk.
. Don’t compound contingent on sales. So don’t you get a house contingent on sale/close when your buyer has the same situation. And don’t take a contingent on sale/close deal if the buyer’s buyer has the same. Just like dominos, too much risk, it could all come tumbling down.
. Not all sellers should consider a contingent on sale/close. Contingent on close is better, but if you are in a good market and getting tons of activity…..better not to risk it.

The property ladder can not move without someone taking a risk. Contingencies on sale/close can work, but due diligence is required to calculate the benefits and risks. Many sellers and buyers benefit from this, but both must be realistic.

Millennial Buyers – How to Live for Free

I blog a lot about Millennials because they are very important to every aspect of our economy and housing recovery. One of the millennial trademarks that is unique to this generation is the “boomerang” or “failure to launch” effect of millennial graduates moving back in with mom and dad.

Let’s face it, after the taste of freedom in college, living with your parents as an adult is a little awkward and can be difficult to conduct your life on your terms and spread your wings.

It can have the same difficulties to your parents who don’t keep the same nocturnal calendar as their adult children and are tired of having to tell an adult to pick up their things.

To solve all of those problems and plan for the future, several of my millennial buyers have come up with a new idea that I am calling the Millennial Boarding House.

Instead of living with mom and dad, this formula can be used by smart millennials who don’t want to waste money on rent and want independence. You can be a first-time buyer and create an investment nest egg to move up in the housing market, get government grants and most importantly LIVE FOR FREE. Here is how it works….

1. Use your good credit rating and income to qualify for a nice starter home that has a good price, good area, good schools and is in an accelerating and not a declining area and has potential for future resale. You can do some work updating it if you like or not. The idea is good for now and easy to sell in the future. There are still deals out there and we are in an accelerating marketplace. Interest rates are good. Waiting will cost more.
2. Use government grants through the @Home Illinois program to get $5k in free down payment and/or closing costs.
3. Find a few friends to be roommates and charge them a few hundred dollars each month. Cheap for them and they get independence from their parent’s house or basement.
4. You can live for Free. If you have two or three extra bedrooms, you can charge friends enough to cover your monthly payment and you pay nothing or next to nothing each month to live.
5. You save money by not having to pay anything each month to live, building your nest egg for the future.
6. In a few years when you are ready to get married or start a family, you sell the house for a profit and a nice down payment on your first family house. Or, you keep the house as an investment and rent it out for future income.

There it is, an easy formula for success to start saving money, not waste money on rent and plan for the future. Do yourself a favor and call a Realtor – call me – and get on the path to future equity and success.

4 Bedroom Home in Orland Park with Enviable Outdoor Garden and Living Area

Yes, Winter in Chicago is here and the “white stuff” SNOW is already starting to make an appearance. BUT it is only 136 days to Spring flowers. This 4 bedroom home in Orland Park offers exceptional landscaping with great outdoor space to remind us of warmer days and outdoor living with barbeques, bonfires and enjoying a warm sunny day. This 4 bedroom home in Orland Park is for sale at $509,900 and offers easy ranch living with an open floor plan with 3 bedrooms on the main floor, including the master suite, plus a loft suite with full bath, bedroom and sitting area and a full related living suite with full kitchen, 2nd laundry, two additional bedrooms and huge open living area.

The Outdoor Garden in this 4 bedroom home in Orland Park includes an electronic Sunsetter retractable awning to shade the patio area. The patio area is surrounded by brick paver wall and decorative iron fencing.

Included Planter boxes on the brick wall of this 4 bedroom home in Orland Park can be filled with perennials or colorful annual flowers as seen in this picture.

Perennial plantings in this 4 bedroom home in Orland Park surround the patio area and exterior perimeter of the home featuring multi-seasonal plantings which will give color and look elegant and manicured in every season. This is the back yard everyone wants. It is available in this 4 bedroom home in Orland Park for $509,900 along with a 3,100 square foot upgraded executive ranch home. With granite counters, hardwood flooring, volume ceiling and decorative custom features, this home is beautiful and elegant inside and out. deerpoint garden 14

Veterans Benefits can make Homebuying Easier

Today on Veterans Day, we celebrate and thank men and women vets past and present for their service and sacrifice. But there are more tangible 24/7/365 benefits offered in housing that give an advantage to veterans buying a home.

VA loans are a huge benefit. You can use it any time, one home at a time. VA loans are currently the only NO MONEY DOWN option offered for veterans buying a home. AND for veterans buying a home with low money down usually comes with a PMI private mortgage insurance kicker that can be a couple hundred dollars per month. Veterans buying a home DO NOT HAVE ANY PMI. Huge savings and can help qualify for veterans buying a home in a different price range for the same monthly payment. Veterans buying a home need to have a 640 credit score and qualify for the loan on the debt to income ratio. There is a service fee that is tacked onto the back of the loan, so you don’t ever see it really. Also, there are condition standards that the home must meet. This can make foreclosure homes a little more difficult for veterans buying a home (but no more difficult than FHA financing) BUT not impossible. Veterans buying a home and considering foreclosures need to work with a Realtor and lender who are familiar with the requirements. You also will need a termite inspection (no other loans require) and about 45 days to close.

In Illinois, the Illinois Department of Housing also offers a program for Veterans buying a home to receive $10,000 to pay for closing costs, etc. With no down payment, after closing costs are paid for, the extra money can go to paying down the mortgage loan, which means getting a discount on the home. Great program. Doesn’t have to be done on a VA loan. Can be an FHA or conventional loan. Eligibility does have an income maximum and Veterans can not own another home at the same time to use the program. BUT it CAN be combined with other downpayment grant or assistance monies in certain state areas.
I have sold several homes with the use of these programs, both combined and separately and it enabled my
Veterans buying a home to get a home faster and get more home for the same money.

Not all lenders can do VA loans or participate in the IDHA Heroes program. And not all lenders offer the program, even if they can do it. This was the case with several of my clients. Make sure to ask your lender if they participate in the program. Information about both these programs is available online at idha.gov, hud.gov and benefits.va/gov/homeloans.

Another feature for veterans buying a home or just living in a home is the various tax exemptions offered by various counties. An exemption on your taxes is like a discount offered to certain people like homeowners, seniors, disabled people and veterans. This tax exemption or discount deducts a portion of your assessed value, which you are taxed on. Anything helps when it comes to taxes. You need to apply for the exemption with the county you are in and some you need to renew each year. Cook County, for example, offers tax exemption discounts to Returning Veterans and Disabled Veterans. More information and forms at http://www.cookcountyassessor.com/exemptions.aspx. Will County offers many Veteran exemptions including Returning Veterans, Disabled Veterans, special homeowner exemption for Disabled Veterans and tax exemption for Veteran Organizations (like VFW, American Legion, etc.). More information at http://www.willcountysoa.com/exemptions.aspx.

Buyers and Sellers – Don’t Hibernate in Winter holidays – Get ahead of the rest

Just like bears and other animals, in traditional real estate culture, buying a home and selling a home used to hibernate during the winter months, creating a market halting paradox.

Sellers take selling a home off the market because they think people buying a home will be too busy stuffing turkeys and shopping, partying and preparing for the holiday daze to look at homes or cloistered in their homes because of the cold weather.

Conversely, buyers who are buying a home think there are not enough homes on the market to have a representative showing of what is available – because there are less homes on the market.

Meanwhile, interest rates are still at record lows RIGHT NOW and there are programs out there offering free money to buyers – for how long? who knows? Buyers who are buying a home still need to find someplace to live and sellers who are selling a home still need to move into their new homes or their new lives, whatever their selling motivation is.

Yes, during this holiday time, everyone has a few extras things to do and yes, it is often cold, snowy and unpleasant to be running around looking at homes. BUT if we think out of the pretty holiday bowed and glittered box, we will see that buyers who are buying a home still need to find someplace to live and sellers who are selling a home still need to move on to their next adventure. This doesn’t stop because of the holidays or winter weather.

Sellers – buyers looking during this time are serious. They are more motivated. With less homes on the market, yours will stand out with a spotlight on it by default. Yes, you will be inconvenienced at a busier and you will gain market time during the slower winter months, BUT with less competition you will get the attention of serious buyers and are more likely to sell faster.

Buyers – Yes, it is cold out and you have a lot of things to do, but you need to live somewhere and buying is a priority. With low interest rates you can save money. There are sometimes less properties out there but for the ones out there during the winter months, you will find less competition from other buyers who stopped looking during this time. So, less multiple offer situations, less times when homes you like are gone before you can get them. AND sellers on the market at this time are smart and motivated.

Whether you are a buyer or seller, one thing is the same. You want to move forward with your plans. Why wait months just because of the weather? The faster you get done, the faster you can save money and/or move onto your future.

Homes with Well and Septic – Don’t be Afraid of the unknown.

Many people fear what is unfamiliar and what they do not understand. With houses the biggest unknown in more urban or suburban environments is well and septic systems instead of public water and sewer. Knowledge is power. If you know both the advantages and disadvantages of a well and septic systems in a home, you may decide it is for you.

Many homes for sale in Homer Glen and some homes for sale in Lockport and homes in New Lenox have well and septic with lots of at least half acre in unincorporated areas or formerly unincorporated areas. I personally have had well and septic in two of my own homes for nearly 30 years. I have never had a problem with it and have enjoyed the many benefits. Here are the things both good and bad I would pass on to you as a homeowner and a real estate and construction professional.

The biggest advantage of these systems is cost. While Lake Michigan water averages between $100-200 per month and climbs each year, well and septic systems have no monthly or even annual costs. With this savings, on the purchase side, you could potentially increase your monthly payment if qualification allows. This monthly savings can translate into $20-40k more in purchase price. So, it can go a long way and put you into a different purchase category and get you the things you want in a home. Or just save your monthly expenses or go into a vacation or college fund.

There are maintenance costs involved with well and septic, but they are usually long term. Septic or mechanical septic systems need to be pumped out every few years, depending on your soil, your system and how many baths, people, etc. Average costs (depending on area) are $500 to pump out septic systems. Wells have tanks, pumps, and other systems to use it. Most of these systems should last at least 10-20 years. Tanks can be $1,000-$2,000, pumps and other systems are usually less than that. Considering the savings on a monthly an annual basis, these costs are significantly less than monthly water and sewer bills which often seem to increase.

You will need a water softener and you will need to add salt pellets monthly, depending on use. Water softeners are a few hundred dollars to replace, when necessary, but again last at least 10-20 or more years. Softener salt is sold everyone – grocery stores, home improvement stores, hardware stores, etc. They are around $5 per bag – so total cost is around $10 per month.

The last cost difference is water appliances. Harder water, even softened, puts more wear and tear on your water appliances, your washer and diswasher. So, the washer and dishwasher, depending on use, typically get 10-15 years of use. Often you will need to replace dishwasher and washers after 7 years or so. Again, even these costs compared to the overall monthly costs, you will still come out ahead.

Another advantage is freedom to water when you want. Watering your lawn, plants or even adding to a swimming pool is dictated times and days of the week, etc. by the village or the water company. Many times, the times are very early in the morning, late at night or when most people are at work. With a well, you can water as long and whenever you want. And it will not make your bill skyrocket during the hot summer months. Remember, there is no bill. Using well water in a swimming pool to fill is not always advisable. Sometimes the chemicals in pools don’t work well with it. There are often places that fill pools much faster and easier with less cost. Topping off an inch or so with summer evaporation is fine.

The biggest turn offs for buyers about well and septic systems are the myths, the unknowns. One of the biggest unknowns is the operation of the systems. Contrary to rumor, you don’t have to do anything to maintain these, except the salt for the water softener. And the toliets, faucets, etc. work the same way as in any house. The only difference is the lack of garbage disposals. Most systems don’t work well with garbage disposals.

Another myth is that the septic field will affect your lawn, yard, etc. Unless something is wrong with the system, you will not have any difference from a city sewer system. You will never see anything and will use your lawn and yard as you normally would. If you see or smell anything, there is a problem with the system that needs correction.

The biggest disadvantage is the taste and hardness (iron) in the water. The water is hard due the high iron content. That does not make it thick or chewy, it looks like regular water. And there is no danger with this and that is why you have a water softener to reduce/neutralize the iron content of the water. The water is coming from the water table in the ground. However, it is not brown, murky or chewy as some myths propagate. It may require some filtering, like a reverse osmosis system to filter the taste and clarity. I have a reverse osmosis system on my refrigerator water for ice and drinking water. I drink a lot of water and I would put this up to any bottled water on taste. I do use the water from the tap for cooking and washing, etc. It is very clear and does not smell- again no different than any one else’s tap water.

Also, floride is not added to the well water, as in city water. But, there are plenty of rinses and toothpastes out there now, not to mention normal regular dental treatments, which can supplement that deficiency.

One more smaller and more infrequent disadvantage. During a power outage, the systems work off electricity. For the well, you will have the water that is in the well tank, which could be full, half or practically empty if the outage happens in between cycles. So, all water, include showers, toliets (as they use water to flush), water to drink and cook, all need electricity to pump in and out of the well. If you are in an area with frequent electrical outages, a generator may be a good idea. Otherwise, it is more of an uncommon nuisance than anything else.

When you buy a home on these systems, you have tests done to ensure the systems are properly working. This is usually done at the seller’s cost per contract. If it is not a seller, the buyer may need to have the test done and absorb the cost. Usually $250 or so per test, near the Chicago area. You will get a lab report on both and recommendations for any changes, if necessary. And don’t be afraid to ask the seller for a glass of water if you are interested. Or run the water, flush the toliet. You will do that during a home inspection, of course, but you can certainly also do when you are looking to allay any of your fears.

Downpayment Assistance Programs Make it Easier to Buy A Home in Illinois

What can you do if you don’t have enough down payment or closing costs to buy a home? You can buy a home with $1,000 or less. Here are some assistance programs offered by the Illinois Department of Housing Authority (IHDA). All these programs require that the home be purchased and used as a principal residence for at least 2-3 years. And for many of these downpayment assistance programs, you do not have to be a first-time buyer.

I have heard people say – what’s the catch or I wouldn’t qualify. You need to meet minimum credit score and income eligibility requirements, but you just never know. These programs are designed to get people to buy homes, and often the income requirements meet many people. If you can get the money, why not take advantage of it? Or at least find out?

Several towns in Illinois, including Park Forest, South Holland, Chicago Heights, Lynwood, Lockport and Crest Hill, are eligible for the Illinois Building Blocks Grant which provides $10,000 towards down payment, closing costs and reduction in purchase price to buy a home. There are income MAXIMUMS between $90-107,000 and you need to qualify with credit score and income to get a loan. You DO NOT have to be a first-time buyer. The home has to be vacant, move-in ready and only in one of the selected towns.

Smart Moves is a downpayment assistance program available to first-time buyers only to buy a home. You can not have owned a home in the last 3 years to be a first-time buyer. This offers $6,000 in down payment and closing costs. Again, the home must be move in ready and anywhere in Illinois.

There are also programs for property tax relief through state income tax credits for 30 years (the life of your loan). This one is for first-time buyers only and usually is only available at the beginning of the year as funds run out on that one towards the middle of the year or earlier. These other programs, however, do have plenty of money available.

Illinois Veterans can take advantage of two homeower assistance programs to find an affordable way to buy a home. VA loans offer a no money down and no private mortgage insurance option. You need to qualify for the home by income and credit and have a DD214. No income maximums. The home only needs to be move-in ready. The Welcome Home Heroes program provides a $10,000 grant for any town to cover closing costs and downpayment. You need to contribute 1% or $1,000 toward down payment. And you DO NOT have to be a first-time buyer to buy a home with this program.

Not all lenders have the ability to loan a home on these programs but many do. I work with lenders who do offer these programs. If there is a will, there is a way to buy a home. Downpayment assistance to buy a home through grants like this are ready and waiting for you.

High Property Taxes? How to Change – Part 2 of 2

Real estate property taxes can definitely affect your buying power as well as your ability to buy a home and sell your home. A quick formula says $50 per month in mortgage payment equals $10,000 purchase price. So, if you pay just $1,200 more each year in property taxes, you could buy a home that costs $20,000 more.

As a seller, that $1,200 more in property taxes each year means that a buyer can afford to pay you less for the home and sometimes less buyers can qualify. This means with higher taxed properties, you will have to give them more features and more space for the same or less money to sell your home.

So, what can be done to reduce property taxes? Last week, we discussed why property taxes are so high. Addressing those same issues is how we can change or reduce our individual property tax burden.

1. EXEMPTIONS: The easiest way to ensure you are not being over taxed is to get the exemptions you are due. Each county has different exemptions – homeowner, senior (aged 65 and over, disabled people, and some veterans and different amounts for those. You can find out what exemptions you are receiving on your tax bill and also on the county assessors website or by calling or visiting your local township assessor’s office. You can find out what exemptions you are entitled to and may qualify for on the county assessor’s website or by calling or visiting your local township assessor’s office. These sources can also tell you what paperwork you need to qualify for those and apply for them.

2. PROTEST ASSESSMENTS: Tax rate made by government leaders is one reason for the high tax burden. The other part of the equation is your assessment. Especially in times when the market value of homes is changing – down in the last few years and now increasing slightly, you want to ensure you are not being over-assessed. Every 3-4 years the assessor’s office – usually a township, but sometimes county assessor, evaluates your property and compares with other area recent property sales. Each year your township will open for tax protests-usually a very small window of time 2-3 weeks. You can find out the time from your county assessor website or by calling or visiting your township assessor. You can do this yourself or you can hire someone to protest the taxes on your behalf to the county board of review. There are attorneys and other companies who take a percentage of what they save you, so it may cost you nothing or very little compared to the savings. There are forms to be completed and you must provide documentation of why you believe you are being incorrectly assessed. The burden is on you to explain and provide documentation of recent comparable sales or if there is something incorrect about how the assessor has evaluated your property. A mistake in the record in bedroom count, building or property square footage, etc. can affect your assessed value. Many people who protest their taxes are successful if they can substantiate their position. You often need to do this each 3-4 year period. You can find out your assessment on your tax bill and also on the county assessors website or by calling or visiting your local township assessor’s office.

3. DOWN WITH HOME RULE: Home Rule was a reason in some municipalities that many areas have a higher than their share tax burden. Home Rule can be overturned by public referendum in towns under 25,000 populations, which would cancel the blank check that the municipal governments receive to tax and set fees at will. All you need is to get enough signatures to have the question put on the referendum and get people out to vote. A grassroots effort with very little expense can do this

4. VOTE THEM OUT: Since property taxes are more local than anything, your elected state, county, municipal, and school board representatives all directly affect the outcome of your tax burden. You can exercise your right to vote and/or tell your leaders how you feel. Going to village, county and school board open monthly meetings required to be held each month and voicing your concerns is one way. You may even get the attention of local media to amplify your point. On the state level, you can email or call your state representative and let them know of your concerns. But the most direct point of objection is at the poles when you can vote people in place that will address concerns about taxes and vote those out who you believe have not represented the people’s wishes on this matter.

Just like the founding fathers did hundreds of years ago, you can overturn unfair taxation. It may take a little effort but the outcome with pay dividends each year and when you go to sell your home or buy a home.