Anyone who has gone through the process of appealing their property tax assessment knows it can be an intimidating process; surfing websites looking for comparables, gathering documents, filling out paperwork; going up alone against county officials or paying fees to an attorney to argue your case. Badal Shah, the CEO of TurboAppeal, feels your pain. He had been through the process himself and, out of his frustration, he and his co-founders set out to create a company that harnesses technology to streamline the process and serve as an effective homeowner advocate.
Do the math: It is estimated that 70 percent of properties are incorrectly assessed to the homeowner’s detriment, while only half of Cook County residents try to appeal their property taxes.
TurboAppeal, officially launched in February of 2015 after a couple of years of development and beta testing, seeks to redress the imbalance and help homeowners lessen their tax burden.
“We leverage sophisticated data to find the most accurate comparables to help support homeowners’ claims and improve results,” Shah says. “We use quite sophisticated analytics and big data mining to gather the best evidence to substantiate an opportunity for a reduction in property tax. Properties have many attributes and they can be assessed based on various aspects of those attributes. It’s an actual evidence-based solution, as opposed to doing it manually.
TurboAppeal is headquartered in Chicago, but it considers Evanston to be a proving ground for the company. “Cook County as a whole is critical to us,” Shah explains, “but in Evanston, property tax percent in relation to home value is quite high and is a pain point for homeowners. This tax year is a reassessment year. There are going to be many residents who aren’t very happy with their reassessment and they are going to want to appeal.”
Indeed, in May of 2015, Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredein said that Evanston residents could expect large tax hikes in their property assessments in 2016.
So how does TurboAppeal work? It’s simple, Shah says. “You don’t have to be tech savvy to work with us. You just visit our website and sign up with your name, property address, email, and phone number. We take it from there. For those who don’t want to go online, there is always the opportunity to call and initiate the process. There is no fee and no risk to homeowners,” he notes. “If homeowners do not get a reduction in their property taxes, they don’t pay. We share only in the upside and get paid a percentage of the first-year savings only. The homeowner will be getting savings over three years. If we don’t win [their appeal], why should they pay? Using this model, they know we are fully vested in making sure they know we are putting forth the best evidence to win their appeal.”
Shah has not seen a learning curve for prospective clients. “People these days embrace technology,” he says. “Homeowners are more educated and frustrated with the old-school way of filing for an appeal. They are looking for a better solution.”
They have also put down roots in the community by partnering with local real estate brokers.
One such partner is @properties, an early investor in the start-up company, and whose brokers offer the company’s services to their clients.
In just a year, TurboAppeal has grown from eight employees to 40. In addition to Illinois, the company operates in Texas, Florida, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. But Cook County is home and the company gives back to the community with annual charity events, “a core value for us,” Shah says.
This post was sponsored by TurboAppeal. For more information, log on to turboappeal.com, or call 312-982-0360.
Story by Donald Liebenson