Goodspeed: It pays to keep your home in good shape

Keeping your home in good shape has many rewards, including a higher market value and neighbor relations.

QUESTION: Is this truth or fiction: I heard from a friend of mine that if your home was in disrepair, you should keep it that way. You should not paint the exterior even if it needs painting. You should not replace the windows or update the kitchen and bathroom. You should do without a dishwasher and disposal. Supposedly, if you keep your home looking shabby and in disrepair, your property tax assessment will not be increased and in some cases might even be lowered. Is this true or false?

ANSWER: Rather than truth or fiction, I think your question should be labeled, truth or consequences.

Keeping your home in disrepair can have many negative consequences, including a lowered market value for your home, potential health issues, neighbor relations. I think the whole premise of your argument is wrong. Keeping your home in disrepair in order to pay less property tax is like saying, “I’ll get a lower paying job so I won’t have to pay so much in income taxes.” It doesn’t make sense.

Property tax assessments are very localized. Values will differ widely from one community to another. In general terms, I would say cosmetic improvements to your home, such as paint, do not affect your municipal tax assessment, although cosmetic improvements will certainly affect your home’s curb appeal and market value.

If you do not paint your home, I’m sure your local assessor will not be after you to paint it or will lower your assessment if you don’t. But your realtor will have a harder time selling your home, and your neighbors won’t be very happy.

What will affect your property tax assessment are major improvements, such as an addition, new deck, upgraded kitchen, etc. This doesn’t mean you should go without these items and improvements in order to keep your assessment low. That’s silly.

It used to be an old wive’s tale that people would renovate the interior of their home, but keep the exterior looking shabby in the mistaken hope that it would keep their tax assessment down. That’s not true, either. You should do whatever you can to keep up your home, keep it looking nice, maintain it, improve it. Your property tax assessment will be what it is.

Linda Goodspeed is a longtime real estate writer and author of “In and Out of Darkness.”