Property tax attorney Molly Phelan of Siegel Jennings believes property owners need a better system to automate the tax appeal process. She also thought that brokers should be the ones introducing tax appeal to their buyers and sellers. She spent the last year building the first ever tool that accomplishes these goals. Listen to our interview about how AppealMyTaxes works, how you can participate in it as a real estate broker, and why it’s going to make you look like a hero to your clients!
Sign up for AppealMyTaxes by visiting this link and clicking on the REALTOR® button at the top of the page.
D.J. Paris 0:16
Hello and welcome to another episode of Keeping it real. The only podcast made by Chicago real estate agents for Chicago real estate agents. My name is DJ Paris, I am your host and guide through the show. And this is a very special episode. This is our 49th episode or as I just learned, it is technically our pre Jubilee anniversary, right? So I just learned that the 50th of something is when you celebrate that that’s called the Jubilee, which I always thought Jubilee was like a dance in a barn, but apparently it means the 50th. So we are almost at the 50th episode. And we’re so grateful to have gotten to this point. We’re so glad that people are listening and continue to listen, so please tell a friend. Today on the show, we have property tax attorney Molly Phelan. So this is a particularly a different type of episode we normally do or Molly’s not a practicing broker. However, she built a tool for practicing brokers. And as far as I can tell, it’s the only tool in existence in Chicago for the specific reason. She saw the property tax appeal process for homeowners condo associations, to be particularly challenging and not very well organized, and just not easy, in particular for brokers to sort of guide their clients through. So she built a tool that will automate all of that. And I want to mention that Molly is going to be up in just a few minutes to talk about how the tool works and as a broker how you can take advantage of it. But one thing that we recorded the interview prior to the website going live. So in the interview, we’re going to be talking about this URL that brokers can go to, to sign up to get their own custom link that they can send out to their clients and take advantage of this automated tax appeal process that Molly developed. But the URL isn’t talked about in the episode. So I’m giving you the URL right now. So if you’re in front of your computer, or you can also see this in the notes it for this episode, but you’re going to want to go to appeal my taxes.com. So again, appeal my taxes.com. And in the upper right hand corner on the menu bar, you’re going to look for the link that says realtor, okay, you’re going to click on that if you are a realtor, and you’re going to sign in or create an account when all you need is your MLS ID as well as your name. And that’s all you need to do. And then you’ll get a URL and you’ll be able to use that with your clients. So again, appeal my taxes.com Click on the realtor link and sign up. It’s free. So on to Oh, before I before I get to our interview again, please feel free to tell a friend and follow us on Facebook keeping it real pod and find us online which you can listen to every single episode we’ve ever done either on Google Play or iTunes or on our website, which is keeping it real pod.com Send us your suggestions. Who should we be interviewing? What would you like to see on the show? What do you like what don’t you like we are open to all of it and this is for you. So thanks again and onto our interview with Molly Finn.
Okay, today on the show, we have Molly Phelan, who is a property tax attorney at Segal Jennings, and she’s going to be talking to us about a number of things. Probably most interesting is a tool that she built for both consumers, as well as for brokers to use to help the tax appeal process go more smoothly and seamlessly. So welcome, Ali,
Molly Phelan 3:43
thank you very much.
D.J. Paris 3:45
Tell us about you. Give us your background. Sure.
Molly Phelan 3:48
I initially was a commercial real estate broker, I dealt as a tenant rep, which is, in my opinion, the hardest job in the world. Then I went to law school and I’ve been practicing in property tax in Cook County since 2006. I’m a third generation property tax attorney. My grandfather started the business in the 1930s. And I’ve recently joined Seagull Jennings, which is a national Property Tax Law Firm.
D.J. Paris 4:17
And it’s the only national Property Tax Law Firm out there. Is that my understanding correct? Wow.
Molly Phelan 4:24
So what I’ve done, however, is taking a step back from our typical practice we usually focus on commercial real estate. However, I’ve been involved with the Chicagoland Association Realtors for several years, and I had all my realtor friends asked me to help them with their residential owners. And unfortunately, due to the nature of the business, I wasn’t able to help. The ability to properly help a residential owner with their property tax appeal is cumbersome based on The education necessary to help the homeowner and the transmission of data. So, therefore, I built appeal my taxes.com, which is a property tax portal for Cook County to assist homeowners in filing the property tax appeals.
D.J. Paris 5:19
Yes, I just saw a demo of of this. And when you see it, you’ll be shocked that it didn’t exist prior. And Molly’s really a pioneer getting this this portal bill. Let’s talk about what it does.
Molly Phelan 5:34
Sure. So what we’ve done is taken information from the Cook County Assessor’s database and put it in a format that will help us appeal homeowners property taxes, they simply need to register with our website, provide an email address, and then they go through a very simple but
D.J. Paris 6:01
pointed Yeah, it’s comprehensive, comprehensive, but it’s no more than four minutes so far.
Molly Phelan 6:05
Yeah, yeah. questionnaire, and they execute some agreements. And we file the property tax appeal for them. We file both at the Cook County Assessor’s Office, as well as the Board of Review.
D.J. Paris 6:18
And then the consumer is also notified in real time when the attorneys have hit certain milestones or certain statuses have been have been updated.
Molly Phelan 6:30
Right. One of the biggest complaints that I had heard in the marketplace was homeowners who filed the property tax appeals never got reasonable updates from the attorneys that they hired. Many times there are no updates to provide. So what we’ve done is created a dashboard, just like you would have, if you want to log in on your bank, homeowners are able to log into their property tax appeal dashboard and get real time updates on the status of their property tax appeal.
D.J. Paris 7:03
Right. And so let’s talk about let’s talk about the first so I just did the sign up process. So if we think about your clients will actually let’s back up a step. Let’s talk about what let’s talk about the broker side of it too. So there’s a in addition to just having this this website where people can go and appeal their taxes directly through Molly’s Molly’s company. There’s also a an in a broker portal that she built so brokers can actually provide this directly to instead of just sending their clients to appeal my dad’s dot com. There’s a broker portal. Let’s let’s talk
Molly Phelan 7:40
about that. Yeah, again, because I was with the Chicagoland Association, the Chicagoland Association of Realtors, for so long, I really came to this from a realtors perspective, that tie in that we have to the brokerage community is the fact that we have created a portal that will allow brokers to refer this service to their clients or potential clients. The nice part is, is that the brokers then have their name, image and contact information on the dashboard of the homeowner once they’re signed up. So it allows for the broker to look like a trusted advisor by having the state of the art technology as part of their toolbox, so to speak, of things that they can offer their clients. So instead of providing them with, Hey, turn your clock back, here’s the recipe, here’s New bears calendar, this is a real value to their clients to provide them this service that will provide their clients with updates and changes in the property tax law. And it will provide the client with regular updates on sorry, they will provide the client with regular reminders that this realtor is the one who referred them this excellent tool.
D.J. Paris 9:12
Yeah. And also so there’s a a, a broker portal. So as a broker, you can sign up as Molly said, the you know your name and image and phone number go on there. And then you can actually see you’ll have a specific link you send to clients so they can appeal their taxes or or submit an application appeal. And then as the broker, you now have a login, where you can see the status updates of all of your clients. So if you’re logging in, it gives you another reason. Well, it’s also just good information to have as the realtor what’s going on with your clients, but also gives you an opportunity to reach out to your clients. Maybe when you see that an appeal process has been completed, say hey, I see that was completed. Congratulations. You know, that sort of thing and you just know what’s going on. And it lists all of your clients that have signed up under that specific link. Correct.
Molly Phelan 10:05
So it’s a great tool, again, we provide our clients, at least nine updates to the status of their property tax appeal. What we do when we send them that update is we guide them back to their dashboard, we do not provide them with a status update in detail in the email. So the taxpayer will go back to their dashboard at least nine times, and see the realtors information,
D.J. Paris 10:34
which is really important. So I want to pause for a second, and I’m sorry to interrupt you. But that’s really important to think. And, you know, we know in just branding, you know, it’s general branding data suggests, you know, people need to see a certain name dozens of times anyway, well, these are people that are likely already working with you, but to continually be reinforced, and to see you the broker in their dashboard as they’re getting updates on a potentially very financially beneficial situation to them, I think is exactly it. So
Molly Phelan 11:03
and then, as you were saying, the real tour gets to check into their own dashboard to keep track of their clients who have signed up for peel my taxes.com. At that point, the realtor can reach out to their client directly and say, Hey, I saw you got a result on your property tax appeal, an amazing opportunity to stay in touch, excellent opportunity to stay in touch.
D.J. Paris 11:26
And what’s great about this, I’m sorry to interrupt again, this doesn’t exist. This is your I mean, this is so well thought out. Because if we think it, you know, and again, typically, the attorney communication between the communication between the attorney and the client would traditionally be via email, maybe a phone call here and there. Here’s what’s going on. There’s no real centralized system to to check statuses. And so as the broker, you can see every status for every one of your clients, because it’s linked, and then you’re also notifying the client at least nine times along the way. And what is the typical and we talked about this? And no, it’s a complicated answer. But for brokers, you know, if they’re directing people to to their website, what did brokers need to know to to prep the consumer about length of time? Average time? What would what would a broker mean? Sure.
Molly Phelan 12:19
So appeal my taxes.com asks for a $25 registration fee upfront from the consumer from the consumer. It’s a 100% refundable if we’re unable to get them a reduction in their property taxes. So it’s just a way for us to make sure that people who use the website are truly buying into the process, then the dashboard provides them with updates on that timeline, it will tell you when the appeal window opens, it will tell you when the appeal window closes, it will tell you when the result is due to come out. So for example, in 2018, the Rogers Park and Lake View assessments are supposed to be out in early April. So from April to early May, there will be a 30 day window for people to file their property taxes at the assessor’s office, that window will close in May. And you’ll have may in June, maybe July, so two to three months where the assessor’s office is going to review all the complaints that were submitted, and issue a reduction or a no change. So now that gets us from May to August, and then there around that time, the Board of Review will open up. So let’s say the Board of Review opens up in August, it closes in September, again, there’s a 30 day window at the Board of Review, it will take the Board of Review two to three months to get results. So by the end of 2018. If you are in Rogers park or lake view, you will have a final result on your assessed value complaint for the 2018 tax year, which will then be applied to the second installment of your tax bill that comes out in 2019.
D.J. Paris 14:12
Sure, so this this is really important because again, it gives the broker an opportunity to touch their client potential that well along the way, but certainly at the end, which could be, you know, eight months later, 10 rounds a year, which is just the natural process well,
Molly Phelan 14:31
and we also go back and file this appeal for our clients every single year. So this is not just during a triennial reassessment. We go back every single year they will also get notices about tax bills coming out any changes in the law. So the minimum contact that our brokers are going to have is nine times a year but it will be every single year moving forward, which is
D.J. Paris 14:59
huge. As you know, with a condo that I used to live in, actually up not too far from where Molly lives in Uptown is head, it took us, we were in new condo association in like 2006. And I don’t think we did an a reassessment with an attorney and for about three or four years, and if you think there were 33 units sold by, well, it is sold traditional, typically by one realtor, but then all the buyer brokers, my buyer broker never came to me and said, hey, you know, two years in, you may want to may want to consider so eventually, as an association, we figured out that we should, and we did get a reduction. But I thought, Boy, what a missed opportunity for a broker to say, you know, yes, even though you’re a newly formed, you know, association, you should still do it. And there’s really no downside. Right? Right. And if they don’t do it, you get your 25 bucks back. Exactly. So that’s huge. It is.
Molly Phelan 15:57
And we’re, again, coming from the educational standpoint, part of the goal of the PMI taxes.com is to really educate both the brokers and the homeowners about the property tax appeal system. There’s a lot of confusion out there. In regards to timing, there’s a lot of confusion out there in regards to the law. What we’ve really tried to do here is make it as transparent as possible for the taxpayer. One of the reasons why it was so important to come to market with a product like this is that there were several parts of Cook County where people would not have proper attorney representation. They didn’t know somebody, they didn’t understand the process, it was too confusing. We’re putting this all at taxpayers fingertips to do this day one, they don’t have to wait for an appeal window to open, they don’t have to wait for a result. They could file an appeal with us today. And it may not be until August that we file an appeal for them. But they’re in our system, they’re ready to go set it and forget it, it’s done, they will get the updates on when everything is fine. They don’t have to worry about any questions, it’s all there on their dashboard. And it takes a lot of ease, and it provides a lot of ease and takes away a lot of concern for the taxpayer.
D.J. Paris 17:22
Yes, and let’s talk about at what point would have broke. So a broker can go back to everybody they ever sold a home to and do this, obviously, is there some point during an actual transaction that a broker may want to introduce this this into prior to the closing.
Molly Phelan 17:41
So I would suggest anybody who is on the sales side of a transaction, make sure that their client a has filed an appeal. We also check for homeowners exemptions on our system as well. So what we’ll be able to do is check for homeowners exemptions, and start the property tax appeal process.
D.J. Paris 18:06
And so just to reiterate, there’s really no risk to the homeowner, because the taxes can increase. And also, you know, you refund the fee if if you’re not able to to reduce the that that bill. So let’s talk about the cost for all of this. From a realtors perspective.
Molly Phelan 18:29
from a religious perspective, there is no cost. Again, what we’re trying to do is provide a tool for the real tours, to help the taxpayer and the taxpayer is the most important person for both of us for appeal my taxes as well as for the broker at the end of the day. So there is no cost to the real tour to utilize this program. And the cost to the taxpayer is the $25 100% refundable registration fee. And then it’s a 33% contingency fee on the back end, which is market for this type of work.
D.J. Paris 19:04
Right. So if you’re not familiar, that just means whatever reduction we’re able to get you do get the consumer that there’s a 33% fee of the savings, right? And if anyone has been through this process, personally or their clients have they know that it’s absolutely worth it. Yes, because it can save you substantial amount on your on your on your property taxes. Well, again,
Molly Phelan 19:28
it’s confusing. So the deadlines, the forms, when am I supposed to do this? And are you really making the best argument possible? It’s really able to streamline the entire process and worth it because you only pay a fee if there’s a reduction. And I think it’s
D.J. Paris 19:47
also important to note too that, you know, again, real estate attorneys, this isn’t their area of expertise necessarily. And they also don’t work on a contingency basis. With respect to, you know, they’re not out there fighting to get to get the taxes lower, they’re there to close that particular deal and represent, you know, the sides. But this is a very different area of expertise,
Molly Phelan 20:12
it’s very different. There are some people out there that are consultants. However, they cannot represent the taxpayer at the Board of Review, they can only represent them at the assessor’s office on the border review and any additional jurisdictional appeal needs to be done by an attorney. In addition to that, the analysis and insight that is done by consultants isn’t nurse necessarily that of an attorney. And again, for transactional folks who try to dip their toe into this, it’s better to pass it off to somebody who understands the entire process from start to finish. It better serves the client. And because appeal, my taxes.com has the real time results for the taxpayer, it eliminates that burden of the taxpayer not understanding what’s going on with the process,
D.J. Paris 21:14
right. And just to sort of make sure everyone’s crystal clear on on these, these the system. So as a broker, you can send clients directly to peel my taxes.com however, you as the broker will be missing out connecting that person to you. Correct. So as a consumer, if there’s anyone listening, who is who is a buyer, or a seller who’s not a realtor, you can directly go to appeal my taxes.com Sign up, I just went through it personally, it took three minutes. And then all of a sudden, now I have this dashboard. And I’m going to get regular updates for the vast majority of our audience who are not buyers and sellers. But realtors, you are going to want to create your own sort of link that you’re going to send out to your clients. So the way that you do that, in we’re going to post the link will be actually on the Chicago Association of Realtors website. So as a broker, you can go and sign up and the signup process is probably three minutes. And it provides you with a special custom URL that you can use them to send out to every client you have.
Molly Phelan 22:22
So the process is if you go to the Chicago Chicagoland Association of Realtors, and look for appeal on my taxes.com there will be a unique link that you can click on as a real tour. And that will allow you to register with appeal my taxes, and it will provide you with the real tour dashboard that will be unique to you, the individual broker, you then provide your contact information and your image and a unique link is created for you, you can then take that link and send it to your clients, your prospects, you can post it on your Facebook page or Instagram account wherever you’d like and have people register with appeal my taxes.com through your link. And then when the client goes to their dashboard, when they receive updates, they will see your contact information every single time they log into their dashboard. So again, this provides at least nine updates where the client will be seeing your contact information in image.
D.J. Paris 23:34
Yeah, and I was telling Molly prior to when we got started because my job at my firm is to recruit realtors to work here, part of my onboarding process is now going to be to actually create this link as a broker on boards with us so that they don’t they just you know, it’s I think it’s that useful of a tool that all of our brokers should for sure have it. So I’m going to be creating links for from many 100 brokers but also everyone new. So you know that the first step and the easiest step is really just as a broker, go to the Chicago go to shadow realtor.com, Chicago sociation Realtors website, look around for appeal my taxes, and we will have the direct link. If we have if it’s up in time, we’ll definitely provide it in the notes of this episode. And but it’ll be easy to find regardless and just sign up and it takes all of a couple of minutes. And then you now have the unique URL and you can now provide value that I would guess. And I’m probably being generous by saying maybe 5% of Realtors provide to their client.
Molly Phelan 24:34
Yep. What we’re trying to do is make the broker look like the trusted adviser for their client. People are coming to you as the broker for advice and assume that you have knowledge on everything in regards to real estate. This is such a crucial factor in maintaining the value of somebody’s home, that if you don’t have either the understanding or the reach sources to provide understanding to your clients, you’re not doing them the best service possible.
D.J. Paris 25:06
Yeah, and it’s all online and easy. And I again, back to the experience I had with our condo association, the way that we did it, we call three different attorneys, we went through various email and faxing back then, and just a lot of back and forth, which was fine. But not is not ideal after seeing this tool. So this is really neat. And so go sign up, get your link, there’s no cost to the broker. And then when you send that off to your client, explain to them, there’s a $25 sort of skin in the game fee that is fully refundable if Molly’s team is unable to provide tax relief, or a tax reduction rather, but also that, you know, year after year, they’re going to be searching for you. And that’s a pretty. I also believe that the attorneys that we use back to my example, I don’t think you’re after it was was a one and done. And and, and we had we had 33 units. So it might have been in their best interest to keep trying for their own potential revenue. But I don’t believe they did, if I remember correctly. So that’s probably not an uncommon experience. So this this, you know, Molly’s company, by the way is very well respected as as being, you know, quite competent in this arena. But they also have now the systems in place to automate some of the the status of ACE because again, as brokers we know that our clients care the very, very most about communication, it’s more important than knowledge. It’s more important than, you know, a lot of other skills. At the very top of of many surveys done for buyers and sellers, they say communication is key, or Molly’s got a system that automates not that not that the work behind the scenes is automated, it’s 100% not automated, but the fact that you know that your clients are going to be in the loop. And that’s almost a guarantee in the system, I think is is so rewarding, because as Realtors we have to think about so many other things to not have to go hey, did that did the peel what’s going on with that appeal? Right? Because you as the broker, you wouldn’t probably know. And did the attorney get back to you Did you know your systems basically solves all of those problems and also keeps the realtor in the loop. So as a realtor, like just to reiterate, you get the log into your portal, see every one of your clients and see where they’re at in the process is pretty amazing opportunity for you to to be that trusted advisor because you know what’s going on? Yep. Pretty awesome. Well, Molly, thank you. Oh, by the way, if anyone wants to utilize Molly services, obviously, as a consumer go to appeal my texas.com Can they also reach out to you directly?
Molly Phelan 27:58
They can reach out to? Again, we’re doing this through the Chicago Association of Realtors. So I would say go to the Chicago Association of Realtors website. Look for a panel my taxes.com Yeah. If there is a specific question that you have about this email me at Molly at appeal my taxes.com
D.J. Paris 28:21
Awesome. Well, this this is great. And Molly, I get I always love talking to people who are in a way disrupting the industry. And I wouldn’t, I don’t think that’s totally appropriate word. Because it almost kind of takes something’s broken with it with industry, which I don’t believe is, but you’ve just built a better mousetrap, I guess is maybe the way to say it. And this is pretty cool. And so please check it out. Go to Chicago Association, realtors website, get your own custom URL, and there’s no downside to send it out to your clients. And you’re just going to be a you know, a hero. And in most cases, obviously, you know, it could always turn out where there is no, there is no benefit, because they know that kill bosses didn’t fall to that favor. But most of the time it does.
Molly Phelan 29:11
Again, with appeal my taxes.com We are going to take everybody who registers with us right off the bat. Typically, our success rate is about 90 99.9%. So we’re able to get some type of reduction for folks. But again, the important thing is is that we are digging deep to find out what the best solution is for our clients as well.
D.J. Paris 29:35
Awesome. Well Molly, thank you so much for being on the show. Really appreciate it and everyone go get their own custom URL and send it out to their clients. If anyone’s listening who is a buyer or seller is not a realtor, just go directly appeal my taxes.com Sign up. It’s quick, easy and painless. And then we’ll find out if you get any tax relief next year, I guess. Yep. Awesome. Thank you Molly. Thank you