Lower Wilton taxes spur real estate sales

Taxes were lowered in 2019 on 70 Saint Johns Road in Wilton.

Taxes were lowered in 2019 on 70 Saint Johns Road in Wilton.

Contributed photo /

Wilton residents are still adjusting to effects from the recent property revaluation, where a number of homes saw an increase in taxes.

But other homes fared better and following revaluation, their property taxes went down. For properties on sale in the real estate market, lower taxes are being touted as a high selling point.

Real estate brokers are posting “lower property taxes” in banners across property listings on sites such as Zillow.com and Realtor.com, as a means to encourage property sales.

A property on Saint Johns Road featured the statement, all in capital letters, “NEW TAX AMOUNT $23,152 EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 2019.”

In 2018, the annual property taxes for the Saint Johns property topped the $30,000 mark at $30,241. That number was lowered by 24 percent following the 2019 revaluation, to $23,152.

The property sold on Aug. 5 for $864,000, with the decrease in taxes making a big difference in the sale, according to Mary Beth Stow, an agent with William Raveis Real Estate in Wilton, who had the listing for the Saint Johns property.

Stow credited Wilton’s tax assessor and the revaluation process for “catching errors” with the property’s value and making corrections to the property tax.

“The house was sold for $1.8 million in 2005, and at that time had a view of the reservoir,” Stow said, which was reflected in the tax assessment. But there is no longer a view, so the property was being “inappropriately taxed too high at $30,000,” she added.

With the real estate market swinging up and down over the years, a number of properties that once hit the $1 million-plus mark in the early 2000s, are no longer selling that high. Stow said the assessor also properly took into account the current values of other comparable properties when giving 70 Saint Johns Road a lower tax assessment.

Sometimes potential buyers have rejected a property because of high taxes, Stow said, but when they see the banner on a listing announcing taxes are lower, buyers will reconsider purchasing it. “Saint Johns’ taxes were lowered by $6,000, that’s a big difference,” she said.

Multiple cycles

Another recent Wilton property sale, on New Canaan Road, also had a banner on its listing saying its property taxes as of July 1 were now $22,860. That number was down nearly $3,500 from $26,359 in 2018.

This property went through multiple cycles in a “volatile real estate market” before it sold, according to the property’s listing broker, Julie Carney, of Julie Carney Homes Sales, vice president at William Raveis Real Estate.

The home was initially listed for sale in 2015 for $1.399 million, and over the next three years, the seller periodically dropped the asking price and relisted it.

Eventually, the property was sold for $855,000 on Aug. 21, $544,000 less than the 2015 listing price, and $495,000 less than what the home was purchased for in 2002.

“That house was an opportunity to buy a home in an amazing location. It needed some work, so the lower taxes reflected that.” she said.

Carney noted there is a perception that taxes in Wilton are only going up. “So when there is an opportunity to demonstrate that taxes are going down, that is information you want to share with potential buyers,” she said.

Lower tax assessments this year in Wilton were geared toward higher-end properties, Carney said. She has two other listings where taxes have gone down — a home on Powder Horn Hill Road is listed for $1,425,000, and another on Chestnut Hill Road is listed for $929,000.

“It’s comforting for prospects to know there are adjustments, when appropriate. It’s not typical for taxes to go down,” she said.

Tax assessments can be lowered when a property owner brings pertinent information to the assessor’s attention. Carney said she had a client who had a large piece of property that was being assessed for a number of years as a buildable lot. He eventually appealed the assessment and demonstrated that the lot was not buildable so his taxes were lowered considerably.

“Sometimes you have to get into the weeds a little bit to get at what the actual features are, and that is the homeowner’s responsibility,” she said.