Friday, April 18, 2008

How to Cut Your Property Tax Bill

Courtesy of David Anderson, Chicago Title

Proposition 8 - allows a temporary tax reduction when a property’s market value on January 1st, is below the prior years assessed value.

Ask your Assessor - if your home is worth less than you paid, chances are you can get a temporary reduction in your property taxes. It’s free and easy to do yourself.

Assessors in some Bay Area counties hit hard by the housing downturn – Contra Costa, Alameda, Santa Clara and Solano – are automatically reviewing homes purchased in the past few years to see if the homeowner qualifies for a cut in assessed value for 2008-09.

Even in these counties, homeowners who think their home’s market value on Jan. 1 was lower than the assessed value on their last property tax bill can ask for a review.

You can call or write your assessor’s office or download a form from their Web site and mail it to the assessor. To provide tax relief the assessor will be looking at recent sales in your area that are comparable to your home. If the homeowner and the assessor cannot agree on a value through this information process, the homeowner can file a formal appeal with the county’s assessment appeals board, which will have the final say on the property’s value.

The formal appeal must be submitted between July 2 and Sept. 15 in counties that send assessment notices to all homeowners by Aug. 1. In the Bay Area, these include Alameda, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties.

Before filing a claim for an adjustment, be advised that your assessed value could increase once market values go up. Property owners should consult directly with the Assessors Office to inquire on how this would be determined before filing any forms.

For more information on assessment appeals from the state Board of Equalization, see

Access forms online for Alameda and Contra Costa:

Tip for Homeowners: Your Realtor can help you by providing some recent home sales data in your area which can help justify your request to lower the assessed value of your home. Some counties are considered depreciating markets even though individual cities and neighborhoods remain strong. (See our post on Appraising the Current Market Situation.) Check with your local real estate representative to learn more about home values in your area, and to discuss whether a reduction of your home's assessed value can be justified.

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