How can property taxes from a few years ago still be valid in the current market?

Asked by Tanya, Oakland, CA Mon Mar 23, 2009

My partner and I are first time homebuyers and have been working with a realtor/broker for about 2 months now. We are trying to take advantage of the slumping market and have mostly looked at foreclosed homes. Since starting our search we have put offers on several homes, each one falling through for one reason or another (out bid by investors, seller looking for better offer etc). We have now found a home that we REALLY want and is listed at well below what we have been pre-approved for (we are using an FHA government loan). We made an offer for a bit above the asking price thinking this would secure the deal. Now, our realtor is telling us that the homes property taxes are really high (based on the homes previous value) and it's putting us right up against our pre-approval amount. Can someone explain how this is possible? Shouldn't we be compared to the cost of a home valued at current market prices....not the market of 2 years ago? Should we have the property appraised?

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Pacita Dimac…, Agent, Oakland, CA
Mon Mar 23, 2009

I want to make sure you are getting the right information. Your property tax is based on YOUR purchase price, and NOT what it was bought for by the previous owner. If the property's value has decreased along with other property values in today's declining market, then the property tax reassessment will reflect that decrease.

As a matter of fact, some property owners are taking, and have taken action by applying for property tax reassessment, and including at least three comps to prove their case that they should be taxed LESS because their properties are worth LESS.

But the point is --- if you buy a house, the property tax assessment will be based on how much you pay for that house.

And since a lot of properties today are listed and priced very aggressively, and in many cases below what they sold for a few years ago, you are in a much better position to negotiate.

Good luck!
1 vote
Pacita Dimac…, Agent, Oakland, CA
Mon Mar 23, 2009

Let's take it step by step:

1. Write an offer for the property. As long as it is within the loan limits for which you're pre-approved, you'll be okay

2. Hope to get your offer accepted.

3. Your lender, as a condition of lending you money, will require an appraisal to make sure the property is worth what you're paying for. Depending on your arrangements with your lender, you as the buyer will be charged for the cost of the appraisal

4. Property tax will be based on what price the property sells for, period. Please remember this. It doesn't matter how much it sold for before, or how much it was assessed for then. What will matter and what will determine YOUR property tax is how much YOU pay for it when you close escrow.

5. You do not have to get the property re-appraised or re-assessed --- wait a year or two to see if the property tax changes.

If the market value of the property you are buying is less than what it was before, then that's good for you. You should be able to get it for less than what the previous buyer paid for it. If you buy it for LESS, then your property tax will also be LESS than before.

Keep telling yourself: your property tax will be based on what you pay for it when you buy it. Forget who owned it before and how much they paid. What matters is what YOU paid for.

Good luck!
0 votes
Tanya, Home Buyer, Oakland, CA
Mon Mar 23, 2009
This is all so confusing!
But, thank you for your answers.....this helps make things a bit clearer.

What should we do if we are not approved because of this ridiculous high property tax?
Can we have the home re-assessed for more up to date property taxes and then re-apply?

Thank you!
0 votes
Jessica DeL…, Agent, Berkeley, CA
Mon Mar 23, 2009
If your lender is requiring and impound account for taxes, then you may have to initially show that you can pay at the previously assessed rate and then after your sale is closed, you will be re-assessed and the county may owe you a refund on the original amount. Alameda county is not going to error on your side, they will take the higher amount and then repay it to you later, and they DO NOT pay you interest for the time they held your money. Not fair, but its a reality.

Best of luck to you, I hope you are the winning bid!
0 votes
Bevmo, Home Buyer, Oakland, CA
Mon Mar 23, 2009
Relevant to this is a memo (for those that bought recently) from Alameda County saying they are re-assessing property tax on all properties sold since 2002.
0 votes
Tanya, Home Buyer, Oakland, CA
Mon Mar 23, 2009

Thank you for your response!
What would your recommend be our next step?
How can we be sure that our approval is being made to reflect the lower property tax?
Should we have the property re-assessed? If so, is that something we would have to pay for?

Sorry for all the questions!
Appreciate all your help.
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