As you will recall, I was appealing the tax assessor’s valuation of my old house because I felt that the house had been undervalued for tax purposes. Since that would actually increase the taxes in my new house (I explain that here) I decided to appeal the valuation. The hearing was just a few days after my mother had passed away, so I will admit that I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been.

The hearing was in front of a magistrate. One thing that I felt was unfair about this is that the magistrate was an employee of the tax assessor’s office in another county. Since all of the counties in the state use the same methods and computer software, I don’t feel that the magistrate is an unbiased individual.

Still, I thought that I presented my case pretty well. I pointed out that my house was valued at $154/sf, but every house in my neighborhood sold for $195 to $210 per square foot, even using the assessor’s office’s numbers. Even at the low end, my house was undervalued by a significant margin.

That’s when the excuses started. The assessor claimed that they were permitted by law to subtract the customary costs of sale from the fair market value and then they began pointing out that the other houses that had sold had features that my house didn’t- one had a pool, one was a corner lot, two others were on the edge of the neighborhood, etc. This, according to them, made my house less valuable.

By the end of the hearing, the magistrate and the assessor were both explaining to me that I just don’t understand real estate. Keep in mind that they were all government employees whose judgement means nothing, because they don’t invest in real estate. They merely tax those who do. I was able to show, using the assessor’s own data, that the assessor’s office is consistently 15-25% lower than actual market value. That didn’t matter, I got lectured about how TOP MEN used computers to value this property, and the methods are used all over the state.

So I thought I had lost. I resigned myself to getting screwed by the tax man.

Imagine my surprise when I got the magistrate’s decision. I didn’t get a total win, and I didn’t even get as much as I hoped for, but I did get something. The magistrate recommended that my valuation be increased from $154 per square foot to $164 per square foot. Not great, but the increase will lower my property taxes on the new house by about $400 per year. In total, the deductions from Save Our Homes portability decrease my property taxes by about $3000 a year.

Do I like paying $750 a month in property taxes? No. That’s why I fight to keep my taxes as low as I can, and this hearing cost me $25 plus a few hours of my time. Property taxes and the 6 percent sales tax are the only taxes we pay here in Florida, so it’s just something that we have to live with. At least we don’t have personal property taxes or income taxes. Still, I often wonder what it is we get for that tax rate.

Categories: Taxes


Joe Blow · January 19, 2024 at 6:27 am

Congrats…? I guess, anything is something, and frankly, the fact that somebody pushed back, was a good thing! You did something, not just a keyboard warrior, Bravo Good Sir!

nones · January 19, 2024 at 6:56 am

I was hoping that you would be able to pull this off. A partial win is better than nothing. I live in Florida and one day will move from the house I have lived in for 36 years. I will certainly try this same maneuver when I change residence.

Grumpy51 · January 19, 2024 at 7:21 am

Property taxes (at least in TX) prevent one from ever really owning real estate.

While I no longer owe the bank anything, I do owe the county annual payment. For those who say “I own my place”, I challenge you to become delinquent on your property taxes and see who ultimately owns it (in TX, an armed agent aka sheriff deputy will show up )

It's just Boris · January 19, 2024 at 7:48 am

If I had a choice about it (which I more or less don’t, except by moving to another state), I’d take income and sales taxes, and not property taxes. Basically, taxes based on ownership, vs transfer, mean you don’t really own it; you’re in effect renting it from the state. Not that I like taxes based on transfers (e.g. income, sales) but they are one-and-done.

Anyway, glad your exercise wasn’t futile.

    Divemedic · January 19, 2024 at 9:54 am

    Are there any states that tax income without also taxing property? I honestly don’t know.

      Grumpy51 · January 19, 2024 at 10:07 am

      LA taxes both but the homestead exemption was $75K in 2000 (moved then so unsure what current is).

      For us, we only paid state income tax as the homestead exemption was higher than our house was worth.

      LA is known for retirement as retirement income wasnt taxed. That coupled with the homestead exemption, you could do pretty well (tax wise).

        Divemedic · January 19, 2024 at 10:59 am

        The homestead exemption in FL is $50k. Years ago, that was pretty good. Now, with housing costs where they are, not so much.

SoCoRuss · January 19, 2024 at 3:00 pm

I was military for 21 years and a DOD civilian for another 21. We lived all over the US and world. As we went from state to state I found the total amount of taxes you pay doesn’t vary much, it seems states get a certain dollar amount number per person one way or another, I used to have a list of what we paid for taxes in each state over the years, cant find it anymore. But the fact the state were all close to same dollar amounts surprised me. If you live in a no income tax state then they just screw you with property taxes or some other tax to compensate. Its always a zero sum game for the govt.
Did you ask a lawyer about your magistrate being a assessor also? Isn’t that conflict of interest? I know its the govt but hell, they could at least be a little less blatant about screwing us.

thomas · January 19, 2024 at 5:03 pm

One thing I found out about Florida is the judicial system is fee based and they will purposefully generate late fees, give you wrong due dates etc all in a quest to generate more revenue. Either that or they are just that incompetent.

Bad Dancer · January 19, 2024 at 5:33 pm

Congrats on the win and playing their own game well enough to get it. Jackwagons the lot of them

Birdog357 · January 19, 2024 at 5:59 pm

Your property tax is literally 15 times higher than mine. And I’m assuming you pay an HOA fee too? I can not figure out why people want to live in that state…

    Divemedic · January 20, 2024 at 5:58 pm

    I could pay less with a cheaper house. I’m paying taxes on $700k worth of house.

      Birdog357 · January 21, 2024 at 5:15 pm

      Round here 700k gets you a lot of land around your house. My friend just built a house(almost 3k feet plus a full 9 foot basement) on 20 acres and doesn’t have 700k on the whole thing.

        Divemedic · January 21, 2024 at 6:59 pm

        Thats why taxes are higher. What state are you in?

          Birdog357 · January 22, 2024 at 6:53 am

          Indiana. My point was that your housing market is over inflated.

            Divemedic · January 22, 2024 at 8:10 am

            Over? No. People are still moving here, so I don’t think it’s *over* inflated. Loom at Hawaii, California, or most of the northeast. It’s about location. There are areas of Florida that are much cheaper than where I am, but not as many people want to live there.

Jonathan · January 19, 2024 at 8:33 pm

How much are your vehicle registrations?
Here in Nevada (at least where I am), property taxes are pretty low and our sales tax is 7.1% (higher in some counties), but our vehicle registration is much higher than the other states I’ve been in. It is based on MSRP and stops dropping after 10 years; when we moved here our registration costs tripled on our older vehicles – I know of people with new vehicles that pay $1k+ a year.

    Divemedic · January 22, 2024 at 8:11 am

    I’m about to renew mine. Both cars? $300 for two years.

KurtP · January 19, 2024 at 9:32 pm

Does FLA have any breaks for vets?

IN TX, I have the homestead, AG and disabled vet abatements and just cut a check for $126 three weeks ago for our 18 acres of Rancho Snakebit for the year.

Don Curton · January 20, 2024 at 8:55 am

Years back I moved from Tx to WV, lived there 5 years, then moved back to Tx. Texas has property tax but no income tax, WV has both. Turns out it was pretty much a wash either way, the Tx property tax was high enough to offset the WV income plus property tax. That’s assuming you purchase a home inline with your income expectations (i.e. middle class house for middle class income). One could theoretically make a high income and live in a cheap shitty house, but at that point why make the high income?

The one thing about WV is that they had personal property tax too. Never heard of that before, but basically you paid a property tax on cars, trucks, boats, RV’s, etc. every single year. Not just the purchase tax, but continually paying just for owning a vehicle. Thankfully I was fine driving a 30 year old truck, I think I paid like $25 flat rate, but anything new was outrageous.

And like Grumpy states above, you’ll never really own your house. You just rent it from the govt.

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