Gary H. Smith
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Do You Need Help Understanding Your Assessment?

By Gary Smith
12/27/2019
Do You Need Help Understanding Your Assessment?

When the property tax bill comes each year, it’s hard to focus on any other number except for the amount owed, but it’s important for taxpayers to understand how the county arrives at that bottom-line amount.

How an Assessment Is Created

The amount of property taxes collected within each community is determined by a variety of local government departments, including the municipality, school, park and library districts. The Cook County Assessor’s office determines the assessed value of each property under its jurisdiction to determine each property’s share of those taxes to be collected.

The Cook County Assessor’s office uses a computer-assisted mass appraisal method to value residential properties. The model is based on sales comparison and includes different value components, such as sales of comparable properties, land, location, building square footage and construction type. These assessments are made using the past three to five years of sales information.

In addition, analysts within the assessor’s office will look at the sales data to see if any “teardown” sales are included. Teardown sales are homes that were bought and demolished for new construction. These sales are deleted from the sales comparison model and do not influence the valuation of larger homes within the area.

How to Appeal an Assessment

Property owners can file an appeal with the Cook County Assessor’s office if there is incorrect information on the description of the property or if the assessed value is too high when compared to similar properties in the area.

Property owners who are appealing for other reasons should gather the value of at least five surrounding properties that are comparable in age, square footage and number of bedrooms and baths. they should make note of any repairs that are needed on the property, as that could impact the home value.

Commercial Properties Assessed Differently

Commercial properties in Cook County are assessed by parcel, which is identified by a Property Index Number, or PIN. Within a commercial property, there can be more than one parcel taxed, such as when a property contains offices, retail space, and a parking garage.

The Cook County Assessor’s office does a first-pass assessment, which is the best estimate of what properties would be sold for on the market. Again, if a building owner doesn’t agree with this assessment, it can be appealed, usually by obtaining an appraisal of the property.