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Consider property taxes before buyingxxxx

If we buy a house, can we expect to pay the same property taxes as the person we buy it from? — P. I.

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. In some locations, the tax assessment is automatically changed to the amount you paid for the house. In other areas, it isn’t.

Then again, the present owners might have some tax abatements. These differ from one area to another and may offer discounts to low-income owners, seniors or veterans. On the other hand, local offices sometimes add in items like the owners’ unpaid water bills.

For any house you’re considering, determine its true tax figure.

Flood and taxes

My home was a victim of flooding this year. The market value of my property is now a fraction of its pre-flood value. How do I get comps to prove this to the town assessor to lower my property taxes? It will probably be years before any property sells in the flooded areas, so what could I compare it to? — K. B.

With all the other things you have to attend to right now, thanks for taking the time and going to the trouble to write to me.

You’re right in thinking the assessor’s office typically pays attention to comps (recent sale prices of nearby comparable properties). In normal situations, those can be useful in estimating the market value of your home.

Comps, however, are not the only tool for judging value. You will probably end up using a written estimate from a licensed appraiser, who will have other methods as well.

Hedge or fence

We have been contemplating replacing our 80-year-old hedge with a white vinyl picket fence. We are on the corner, and the hedge runs the full length of our property, which is 60 feet along the front and 75 feet along the rear. I have talked to a local Realtor (following your often-repeated advice). I realize the fence would not increase the property value and that it is up to the occupant to choose between keeping the natural hedge or switching to the fence.

I’d hate to go to all the trouble and pay that much money ($5,000 or more) only to later learn that this turned people off and made it hard to sell. I could hire a gardener to trim the hedge during my declining years (I’m soon to be 80 years old). This is not a financial issue so much as an issue of looks and appeal.

Do you feel a home is more desirable with a traditional hedge, or might it seem more appealing with a quality decorative fence? Of course, we would plant vines and flowers along the fence, so it would be as dressy as possible. But it would still be a plastic low-maintenance material.

We will welcome any feedback. And, the sooner the better, as we have not made a decision. I just trimmed the hedges, and it was hot work. — G. N. R.

I hate to disappoint you, but, like that real estate agent, I’ll turn the decision back to you. Maybe other readers will let us know what they would prefer if they were potential buyers.

Mortgage interest write-off

While I agree with your response that one should not get a mortgage just for a tax write-off, there are other factors to consider. Sometimes one is better off just taking a standard deduction anyhow.

There are other possible tax reasons for getting a mortgage. If you have a 401(k) and an individual retirement account and are near retirement but still exposed to the early withdrawal penalty, the mortgage can save money.

Choices with taxes are often very complex. — R. S. R.

Yes, very complex. Your IRA example, for instance, assumes a situation where the homeowner is about to borrow money, one way or another.

Contact Edith Lank at www.askedith.com, at edithlank@aol.com or at 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester NY 14620.

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