REAL ESTATE: REASSESS YOUR TAX

Oh, sure, watching your house go up in value is fun--until you get your property-tax bill. Municipalities, feeling pinched, are pumping up their assessments and their rates. But don't take it sitting down. Fight back. Most houses are overassessed, but only about one of every 50 homeowners appeals, according to the American Homeowners Association, a company marketing a downloadable "Property Tax Reduction Kit" for $29.95 at homeownertaxcut.com.

Your home might be over-assessed if similar houses in the neighborhood are appraised for less or sold for less than your home's appraised value; if your house has "value killers" like bad drainage, electric heat or shoddy or dangerous materials, or if you've renovated lately, the firm says. The local taxing authority might not even have the correct information, such as the number of bedrooms, on file, so it doesn't hurt to check. But do so fast--most municipalities hold appeals to a tight deadline; if you wait too long you could miss the opportunity to complain effectively. Most homeowners who appeal succeed at lowering their taxes. The kit includes 84 pages of directions and forms. Now that should keep the whole ordeal from being too, um, taxing.

REAL ESTATE: REASSESS YOUR TAX | News