When a family is in trouble because of bad sales tactics with heritage homes in Berks county pa?

Asked by Daughter, Douglassville, PA Wed May 13, 2009

Current resident of high meadow in amity douglassville pa- where do you see relief in taxes in this town- I was doing my research and located a local representative that wants to pass a school tax elimination bill- can anybody advise me on what is going on. I am originally from Montgomery county perkiomen twp- My wife and 2 kids couldnt afford the homes in montco so we trekked to berks- yes the houses are cheap but they get you in taxes- when we had purchased from heritage homes they had said the taxes on our property would be about 7700 a yr total. We were comfortable with that. but then we got a tax bill for 11000- holy sh**
as of 6/30/2009 I will be loosing my job because of downsizing- what is a family to do in this situation- its not a mortgage thing- its a tax think- we cant sell because of the market so we are stuck!!! Is there relief with the new bill.

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Kathleen Rho…, , Reading, PA
Wed May 13, 2009
Call State Rep. David Kessler 610-987-0980 and ask to be put on his email or snail mail list. He is hot and heavy on the elimination of school taxes and will keep you updated on that. He is also very open to talking to you regarding things that fall under his umbrella. Ask him about the "Homestead" program and how you might get on that, if it is still available. It isn't going to be much, but it will give you some help with the taxes. Unfortunately, you choose the most expensive (tax wise) way to go when decided to buy new construction. There is something called the milage chart that is updated each year and it is used to figure out the taxes. We as Realtors have access to them. You don't mention haveing a Realtor represent you as your buyer agent. A buyer agent would have figured out the taxes for you before you presented your agreement of sale. A pre existing home that was only a few years old would have been a better way to go. You would have clearly seen what the taxes would be. I hope I've provided some helpful information. If you have additional questions, feel free to call or email me. Kathleen Rhode
1 vote
Homeowner, Home Seller, Douglassville, PA
Fri May 22, 2009
I had the same situation happen to me when I moved up here 3 years ago. I bought new and was told by the builder my taxes would be about $8,000. When I received my tax bill it was in fact $13,000. I have taken advantage of the appeals process every year since I moved up here and can tell you my taxes for the 2009 tax year are now $8,300.00. Go to the website provided below and print out the form. It has all the information you need. There is no fee to appeal your taxes during this time period as previously stated. You mail in your form with a copy of the supporting documents proving your assesment is too high. Once they receive your appeals form they will assign a "hearing date". The "hearing" take 5 minutes and if you have provided good enough docs. They basicallly tell you they will mail you a notice with your new assessment for the NEXT tax year. I would definitely recommend you take advantage of this. As I said, every year for the past 3 years I have appealed and gradually got my taxes to what they are this year. Good Luck!
0 votes
Kathleen Rho…, , Reading, PA
Thu May 14, 2009
I just took a look at the tax records for the homes that I was able to access. Sold in the past 3 years. The most recent sale on Peach Blossom was for a 3800 square foot home selling for aprox.$352,000 and the taxes, rounded off are $8,400. I am starting to think that you may have been cought up in the catch up tax from the original purchase. You should have been told about that at the settlement table as well as before and you should have received an interum tax bill. I don't know what your settlement date was, so I am not sure about this, but here's how it works. When a builder subdivides for developement everything is under one blanket of taxes for the land only. The tax for the new construction only kicks in when a home is sold, but that is not automatic. It is, however, retroactive. Using the 2 tax figures you gave, I am guessing that you may have settled in July which would bring the total owed to around $11,000. I am just guessing at this. So I suggest you calmly call your tax collector and ask what your taxes are per year and if somehow there are any back taxes / catch up taxes owed from when you pruchased the home. If there are, then this is only a temporary problem and you can probably work out a payment plan.

A word about starting the re-assesment process. As I recall, there is an upfront non refundable fee of $500. If your taxes are in fact $11,000 annually, you should get your Realtor to gather the taxes being paid by neighboring properties that are simular to yours. That information will be a good indicator as to weather or not you will win an appeal. Kathleen Rhode
0 votes
Valerie Mack…, Agent, Wyomissing, PA
Wed May 13, 2009
First of all, it's important to realize that a lot of new construction have been assessed COMPLETELY incorrectly - the assessments in High Meadow on some of the active new construction are close to the actual sales price of the houses! At the moment I believe new construction in Berks County is supposed to be assessed at 65% of sales price, so for example if your house was originally $400,000 in price and now worth $350,000 in the current real estate market, you would be looking at an assessment of about $227,500, which would equal annual taxes at Amity Township millage rates of approx. $8,277.

This can be easily (well, maybe not that easily, but it can be) remedied by getting what's called a Comparative Market Analysis from a realtor showing the ACTUAL market value of your home as it stands right now, and then filing an Appeal with the Berks County Tax Assessment between July 1 and August 15 to change the assessment on the house to what it should be. (If you need help with this and you don't know who to call, I will certainly be willing to put a CMA together for you to use at a Tax Appeal.) You submit your paperwork, they call you in to present your case, and then hopefully issue your new assessment - and this has been very successful recently due to so many houses having lost value due to the market!

The link to go to the Berks County Tax Appeals web page is:


and you should find all the paperwork there necessary to file an Appeal.

Of course, unfortunately this won't help you with this year's tax bill. Depending on when you bought your house, this might have been possible to do last year in order to make sure that your actual assessment on your house came in at the correct assessment - unfortunately, the appeal will only affect next year's bill, but should ABSOLUTELY be done, because an $11,000+ bill makes it very difficult to sell a house later on.

If you were comfortable with the original $7700 tax bill, I would go down to the Tax Office at once and try to negotiate some kind of payment plan for the additional amount for this year, on the understanding that you escrowed for a completely different amount based on what you were told by the builder. Considering the amount of houses going into foreclosure or getting seized for non-payment of taxes, the County doesn't want any more houses on its books.

If you did have a Realtor working for you, they clearly didn't explain the situation as regards taxes on new construction (or maybe didn't understand it themselves), and if you didn't have a Buyer Agent, I can only stress how important it is to have a good one on your side in a deal involving hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Anyway, Good Luck! And if you do need further help with the documentation to reduce your taxes, you can always drop me a line!
0 votes
Sharon Sapp, , Temple, PA
Wed May 13, 2009
There have been a number of proposals to lower or eliminate the property taxes in the State legislature. Unfortunately, none have yet gathered enough support to pass. Governor Rendell has provided a little bit of relief with the slots revenue but no where near enough for most people to feel any help. There may be some things you can do, but it depends alot on your own circumstances and too much to go into in this forum (not to mention it may be too personal). Feel free to contact me and I will be more than happy to discuss all this with you.
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