Home buying is a messy, convoluted process that I still can’t make heads or tails of one year in. There are so many forms and documents to fill out. You have to dig up the names and numbers of old employers, friends, and acquaintances. There are letters of explanation to write for every move you made or job you took or quit over the last ten years. If the house needs work, you have to get a contractor and an estimate. I’m surprised the lender didn’t ask for my dental records. And now, one year later, if you ask me how much I pay in property taxes, I honestly couldn’t tell you. I have a giant binder I could consult, but it’s super heavy and I don’t have much incentive to haul it down off the shelf.
Am I overpaying on my property taxes? Could be. I have no idea.
For irresponsible home-owners like me (or people who are genuinely concerned and want to stay on top of their finances), there’s ValueAppeal.com, which can instantly assess your property and those around you to determine if you’re overpaying on your property taxes. And the company announced Tuesday that it has raised $1.2 million in an over-subscribed round of funding from existing angel investors.
Founded in 2009, ValueAppeal.com describes itself as the “TurboTax for property taxes.” Unlike the home buying process, ValueAppeal.com makes the process of figuring out if you’re getting stiffed out of hundreds of dollars a year in property taxes quick and easy. It’s as simple as plugging in your address. The site then asks for your home assessment and your current property tax bill. If you don’t have the information in front of you (and it’s in a heavy binder on the top shelf), it directs you to your local county property website, where you can find all the info you need.
Once you enter the pertinent information, the site’s algorithms compare your property taxes against those of nearby home sales that closed during the same window of time yours did to determine whether or not you’re overpaying.
If you are, indeed, overpaying, you can buy ValueAppeal’s Property Tax Appeal Kit for $99, which comes with a $99 money-back guarantee if your property taxes aren’t lowered using ValueAppeal’s evidence.
ValueAppeal’s success rate is more than 80%, compared to the 40% success rate home owners typically have if they attempt to appeal on their own. The company claims to have saved the average customer $1,346 in 2011.
"Counter-intuitive as it may seem for an online business, ValueAppeal actually turns away the vast majority of homeowners who visit its site, as only between 20-25% of homeowners nationwide are overassessed, and the remainder should not spend their time and money on filing an appeal that has little chance of success," a company spokesperson told me.
The company also announced Tuesday its new pro service, which will allow tax preparers, CPAs, attorneys, appraisers, home inspectors, loan officers, real estate agents, and others to provide ValueAppeal’s tools to their own customers.
"If a professional wants to quickly identify all the homes within thirty miles of their office that are overassessed and could save at least $3,000 on their property taxes, we can deliver this," said CEO Charlie Walsh, in a statement. "ValueAppeal is literally the only company in the world with that capability because we've spent the last three years developing a unique patent-pending algorithm to do the needed analysis."
The company plans to use the new funds to ramp up growth and expand technology and product development. ValueAppeal has raised $4.3 million altogether, and Walsh said that revenues have quadrupled year-over-year between 2011 and 2012.