Your home isn't worth what it used to be, so now you don't think you should be paying as much in property taxes. You may be right.
The good news is that your home's assessed value -- the basis for property taxes -- probably has been reduced already. About 62 percent of Stanislaus County homes had assessments slashed this year, which will show up on property tax bills being mailed in a couple of weeks.
But some homeowners might not agree with the new assessments. Those who don't can take their case to Stanislaus County's Assessment Appeals Board.
Here's how to do that, and perhaps why you shouldn't bother:
Your home's assessed value is different from what you could sell it for today. The assessment is an estimate of what your home was worth on Jan. 1 of this year, which probably was more then than now.
So it doesn't matter what the identical home across the street just sold for. Only similar homes sold before March 31 can be used as "comparables" in determining your home's assessment. Comparable houses sold closest to Jan. 1 will get the most weight.
You'll have to provide evidence that proves what your home was worth. That means you'll need to research what homes in your neighborhood sold for between, say, Oct. 1 and March 31. A real estate professional can look up that data for you, or you can research county property records yourself.
The county's assessments of what every home was worth Jan. 1 was printed on postcards mailed to homeowners last month. Those assessments also will be on the property tax bills being mailed soon.
An appeal might not be worth your time. Say you determine your house should have been assessed at $200,000, but the county assessment was $210,000. Because basic property taxes are only 1 percent of the assessment, that $10,000 difference equals $100 in taxes.
Appealing an assessment costs $30 in fees, not counting what you'll have to spend on research and making copies of your evidence. Consider all the time it will take to challenge the assessor's office, including attending an appeals hearing during a workday. Going through the process might not pencil out.
But if you determine your home should be assessed $40,000 less, then saving $400 in taxes may be worth the effort.
You don't need a lawyer to file an appeal or to argue your case before the appeals board. The application form, lots of background information and advice is on Stanislaus County's Web site: www.stancounty.com/board/aab.shtm.
The filing deadline for this year's taxes is Nov. 30, but it could take as long as two years for you to get a hearing. You must pay your taxes in the meantime. If the appeals board rules in your favor, you'll get a refund.
For more information about appeals, contact the clerk of the Board of Supervisors at 1010 10th St., Suite 6700, Modesto, 525-6414.
It might be possible to resolve assessment issues informally without appealing by talking to the assessor's staff at 525-6461.