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Most (if not all) of us have seen our home values fall in the past few years. While Cincinnati did not experience the dramatic decrease seen in many areas of the country, we were not immune from the pain. Hopefully these tips will help reduce the sting.

  • Have your house appraised. Every three years Ohio counties will allow you to file a request with their Board of Revision to have the value of your home reassessed. In Hamilton County, you must complete a Complaint Against the Value of Real Property form and submit it with an appraisal of your property. You will find this form on your county auditor’s web page. A real estate appraiser will charge you between $350 and $550 for an appraisal. I did this last year and was able to save 14% on my real estate taxes! But hurry, you only have until March 31st of each year to file.
  • Check your homeowner insurance policy. If the cost to rebuild your home is less than the coverage amount of your policy, you could be over-insured. Most policies will automatically inflate your coverage by a certain percent each year, which could now exceed the replacement cost of your home. If this is the case, call your agent to have the value re-assessed.

If your house is in the name of a trust, make sure your trust is a named insured on the policy. This is similar to adding a bank that holds a loan or lease on your automobile to ensure coverage will extend to them if you are sued.

  • Apply for the Homestead Exemption. If you will be 65 or older this year, make sure you file for the Homestead Exemption. This is available through all counties in Ohio and you just need to complete a simple form which you will find on your county auditor’s web site. Here is a link to Hamilton County’s form. When your next property tax bill is prepared, $25,000 will be taken off of your home value prior to calculating the bill.

If you live outside of Ohio, research whether a homestead act exists in your state. In Massachusetts, there is not an exemption for property tax reduction, but a statute was recently enacted to protect $500,000 of your home’s equity from most creditors for those who record a homestead declaration with their local registry.

With a little effort on your part, you may be able to use the decline in your home’s value to save money on your taxes and insurance.

Christine L. Carleton, CFP®