Ask the realtor – Arti Miglani answers reader questions

Q.  I am stuck with high property taxes on my house bought at the peak of the real estate market. Now that my house is worth less, is there any way I can get a relief on my taxes?

A property owner has every right to get property tax relief if the property value, today, is  less than the purchase price. Usually there is a limit of 60 days to appeal from the date you receive your tax bill. Presently, it may be too late to appeal for 2007-2008 fiscal year.

The clerks at the County Assessors office are very helpful in walking you through the process and answer any questions you may have. You will have to do the following:

1.    Ask your realtor to provide you with comparable sales of homes in your neighborhood and do a current market evaluation of your home.
2.    Download the appeal form from the county assessors website (see link below)
3.    Complete the form and send it by certified mail along with the fee for filing an appeal and the market evaluation provided to you by your realtor.
4.    The Assessors office will either approve your appeal or reject it. If they reject it, they give you an opportunity to present your case in person at the court house.

My experience over the years has been that the staff at the County Assessors office are very willing to walk you through the process.
The link to the website for Santa Clara County Tax Assessors office is:

The link to the website for Alameda County Tax Assessors office is:

Q. What criteria should I use when assessing the skill and services of a real estate agent? How can I assess his or her negotiating skills and integrity?

The most important  tool to assess the integrity and negotiating skills of a real estate agent is references from past clients.. Insist on getting at least 5 references from the agent you are interviewing. The references should include both buyer and seller clients..Other criteria should include:

1.    Your comfort level in dealing with the person who will represent you in the purchase or sale of your home.
2.    Knowledge of the local real estate market
3.    Is your real estate a full-time professional
4.    Sensitivity of the agent to the needs of the client
5.    An organized marketing plan that meets your needs
6.    Quality and quantity of business conducted by the agent over the years
7.    Actively conducting business in the local market area
8.    The follow up and communication provided by the real estate agent
9.    Holds a "Realtor" designation that makes your real estate professional committed to the code of ethics for Realtors. This is important as it protects you as a buyer and seller too.
10.    A good understanding of the lending world and how it affects the real estate market.
11.    Professional in their approach to clients and prospects

Arti Miglani is an award winning realtor serving clients in the Bay Area. She can be contacted at Questions to Arti may be sent to us via our feedback form.

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