Active Rain July 25, 2010

Property Taxes Must be Listed Accurately

In Westchester County, property taxes are high. Really high. My old house, a modest 2000 square foot home, has taxes of almost $14,000. My current home is pushing $17,000. With numbers that high, an inaccurate tax figure on the MLS can be a deal killer.

When I started my company in 2005, tax figures on our MLS were like the wild west- some were artificially low because of Veterans and STAR (New York’s version of a Homestead discount for primary residences) exemptions, and listing agents would write in the agent only remarks “buyer agent to verify.” This resulted in a slew of phone calls on every listing from buyer agents to discuss the tax figure. “Is that with or without STAR?” “Why are the taxes so high?” “Why are the taxes so low?” “is that for this year or last year?” And on it went. 

A few years ago, the Westchester Putnam MLS made a rule that all property taxes had to be reported in a standard way, with the “true” tax figure reported, without any exemptions or discounts. The “buyer agent to verify” fig leaf was disallowed. While this has been a game changer overall, not everyone is very good at complying. 

Unfortunately, we just had an instance where a buyer client was hot about a property until they saw the taxes revised higher by almost $3000 the following Monday. I called the municipality, and the listing agent was wrong-the taxes were in fact close to 3k lower. By the time I reached the buyer to clarify this, the emotion to act was gone. Maybe they would have backed out anyway, but maybe not. We’ll never know, and it is because someone didn’t have the right numbers.