Whatcom County firm helps property owners through appeal process

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDDecember 3, 2013 

Property values can be tricky to estimate, so a Whatcom County resident is helping people who believe they are being asked to pay too much in taxes.

Alan Elzea owns Property Tax Advocates, which helps people through the process of appealing a new property valuation or to get exemptions they didn't realize they were qualified to receive.

Elzea started the business in 2012 after realizing a need for the service. One day he was helping a friend who was living on a low income, struggling to make property tax payments. Elzea happened to notice an exemption for those with an income less than $35,000 a year and over age 61 or disabled. He helped his friend through the process to receive the exemption and qualify for a tax break.

"I try to help those that are hurting (financially)," Elzea said. "You have to jump through hoops, and it can be difficult to understand, but it can result in big savings."

Now is an important time for people thinking about appealing the latest property assessment. In Whatcom County, property owners have until Dec. 30 to file an appeal. Property tax owners started receiving revised assessment notices by mail around Thanksgiving.

Elzea said one of the challenges for someone appealing a property valuation is getting the right information together. He has been in the real estate business for 35 years and has access to the latest property information.

"I'm not sure how the average person is expected to get all this data," he said.

For property owners, Elzea said his rule of thumb when considering an appeal is comparing the value with what is happening in the real estate market. Many times a property is downgraded in the market because of fire or flooding, changes in wetland regulation or down-zoning.

"If you look at the assessed value of the property and it's significantly more than you can sell it for, then it's time to look into appealing," he said.

Elzea doesn't charge an up-front fee. He gets a percentage of what he saves for a client from the appeal. Future savings stay with the client.

For more information about Property Tax Advocates, visit taxlowered.com or call 360-920-3777.

Reach DAVE GALLAGHER at dave.gallagher@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2269.

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