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By Sarah Taylor | Broker in Port Saint Lucie, FL

How Much Will My Real Estate Taxes Be?

The dread of the unknown keeps us frozen in fear, but if we had crystal balls then life would be a drag.
Still, it helps to know what some of the annual costs of owning a home will be. 

In regards to real estate taxes, there’s a lot of hear-say along with a bunch of unanswered questions.
I figured it was best to go straight to the source and ask the questions that are the most common.

January 15th, I had the privilege of speaking with Susan Rowe who is the department head for Exemptions at the Pt. St. Lucie Property Appraiser’s office.
Susan took the time to explain the following:

  1. How are Houses’ Values Assessed and When?
    Because Susan is not an appraiser, the best answer she could give me was that they review the market conditions during the year and look at the prior year’s sale.
    This aspect of the real estate taxes are the hardest to predict. There is a tax estimator on the Appraiser’s website that will calculate  the range of what the taxes could be based on the value you put in.

    Her best advice was to predict worst-case scenario:
    Look at the current assessed value of the property you’re interested in without the exemptions and enter that number into the estimator for a range. 
    Leave off the homestead exemption (especially when you’re buying at the beginning of the year) if you’re buying a foreclosure or short sale. The reason for this is explained in item number 5.
    Beware of special assessments. An example would be a home owner’s community or particular area may have a special assessment called “Non-Ad Valorem” that is added to the tax bill. 

  2. What is a Homestead Exemption?
    This answer I have copied and pasted from the Florida Department of Revenue website because I felt they said it best:
    Every person who owns and resides on real property in Florida on January 1 and makes the property their permanent residence is eligible to receive a homestead exemption up to $50,000.  The first $25,000 applies to all property taxes, including school district taxes.  The additional exemption up to $25,000, applies to the assessed value between $50,000 and $75,000 and only to non-school taxes.

  3. Who is eligible for the Homestead Exemption?
    Florida Residents that live at the property as their primary residence as if January 1st of the year you’re filing for. You have to prove you’re a resident with either your voter’s ID, your Driver’s License, or your vehicle registration, and Permanent Resident Card if you’re not a U.S. citizen. Key Point: Make sure the address on these items matches the address of the property that you live at. 

  4. When can you apply for the Homestead Exemption? 
    In whatever year that you buy, you have until March 1st of the following year to make application. So if you’re buying in August of 2009, you have until March 1st, 2010 to apply for Homestead that will benefit you in 2010.

  5.  Can You Inherit the Current Owner’s Exemption?
     This was interesting to me: Let’s say you’ve just made an offer on a short sale and the current owner has the homestead exemption but they’ve moved out. If the property appraiser’s office sends out the homestead exemption cards to the property and the card gets returned back to the appraiser’s office then the office will drop the property owner’s exemption because it appears that they have moved out. So if you’re buying in 2009 and the owner had exemption in 2008, which you’ve verified on the property appraiser’s site, it doesn’t mean that you’ll get this exemption for 2009 as well. At this point, I would suggest running the “worst case scenario” method from item number 1. 

  6. When and How Do You Pay Taxes? (by me, not Susan)
    The proposed tax bill comes out around August of each year and the due date is November 1st. The last possible day to pay taxes are March 31st the following year and then they get auctioned off as a lien on your property (yikes!). If you have a mortgage, you can opt for the mortgage company to “escrow” your taxes (and usually your insurance) which means they will collect 1/12th of the payment each month and save it in an account for you. Once the bill comes due, the mortgage company pays the bill with the money they’ve accumulated. You can guarantee that you’ll be forced to escrow if you aren’t putting 20% down on your mortgage. If you aren’t escrowing your taxes, then you can mail the bill in or pay it online. 

  7. What are the Current Taxes on a Property?
    Follow my lead: www.PASLC.org > Real Estate Tab > Search by Address Tab > [enter address and click search]  > Click the Card link next to the property that matches your searched address > Click on the Taxes tab at the top of the Card page. 
    If there are special assessments on the property, you will find those by clicking on Non Ad Valorem to expand that section and see if anything is listed.

Thank you, Susan, for all the great information and I encourage anyone with further questions to visit the Port St Lucie Property Appraiser’s website or call their office at 772-462-1000.

Suggested further reading - History of Florida Real Estate Tax which explains, in detail, about what the Homestead Exemption encompasses.

To view other useful tips and information for home buying or selling, visit my Sarah Taylor Realtor website.

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