‘I felt like I’d been baited and switched’: Florida woman has to sell house after property tax bill soars 174%

Tamra Ransom thought she was one step closer to her American Dream when she purchased her home in Polk county, Florida in May 2023. But less than a year later, she had already listed her property — which she pumped all her savings into — for sale.

What caused that sad and sudden u-turn?

A property tax hike of 174%, which — when combined with other rising costs of homeownership, specifically soaring home insurance costs in the Sunshine State — means she cannot afford to keep her new home.

“I felt like I’d been baited and switched,” she told WFLA-TV, implying that she bought the property without expecting the future costs of maintaining the property to be so different from what it was.

Here’s how Ransom’s annual property assessment caught her out — and what you should consider when your property is valued for tax purposes for the first time.

Ransom’s property tax pain all started when she received a Truth in Millage Rate (TRIM) notice in the post.

Florida homeowners receive a TRIM notice from their county property appraiser every year. These notices are required by state law and are typically mailed out in mid-August.

The primary purpose of a TRIM notice is to inform homeowners of the assessed “market value” (sometimes called “just value”) of their properties as of January 1 of that year. There are many factors that are taken into consideration when evaluating the market value of the property, such as the size, location, and overall condition.

For new homeowners like Ransom, the first TRIM notice can cause quite the sticker shock.

When Ransom bought her home, the property tax was around $2,700, she told WFLA-TV, adding that she expected it to “vary a little bit, [maybe] a few hundred [to] a thousand dollars,” but the 174% jump (which would take her annual property tax to around $4,700) was much beyond what she imagined.

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“It’s very upsetting because I put most of my savings into the house — the down payment, alarm systems and things like that,” she said. “And I’m losing all of that because I have to sell the house — and I’m not going to get really anything back.”

Beyond the initial pain of having to sell her home, Ransom also faces the trials and tribulations of finding somewhere else to live — at a time when both rental costs and mortgage rates are both painfully high.

Ransom’s shocking TRIM notice came as no surprise to local, St. Petersburg-based attorney, Michael Finn.

He told WFLA-TV: “This is definitely a buyer beware type of situation. [Property] values have soared, particularly anywhere near the water. Somebody that bought a house five-years-ago may realize a value increase of two to three times.”

According to Zillow, the average home value in Polk County,where Ransom is based, in March 2024 was $313,845, up 1.6% from a year prior when the average home price was $308,708 and up 39% from three-years-ago, when the average was $225,341.

Having knowledge of local property values is key to understanding your TRIM notice. When you receive a TRIM notice, is it important to read it through thoroughly and check for any incorrect or missing information, as any mistakes could lead to an inaccurate assessment of your property, which could result in you having to pay more in property taxes.

If you have any concerns, you should contact your local property appraiser’s office, typically within 30 days of receiving your letter. If, after consulting with your property appraiser, you still think your property’s market value is incorrect, you can file a petition or appeal with your county through their value adjustment board.

“You can dispute it, but you’re not going to win a significant decrease because the property assessor’s office is very skilled at their valuations,” Finn added. He also advised home buyers to reach out to their local property tax assessor to find out what their tax bill will be prior to signing on the dotted line.

This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.

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