A Property Tax Guide for New Homeowners

 

Now that the distraction of a highly publicized presidential election is over, it is time to turn our focus on a topic that is (almost) equally as fun! Property Taxes.

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First, it is helpful to understand the process and how your property tax and who determines it. Your home is assessed by a county property assessor, who then assigns your home a certain value. Then your local taxing authority sets the multiplier, or the rate at which your home will be taxed. So, for example, if your home is assessed at $800,000 and the tax rate is set at 1.25 percent, each year you would need to pay $10,000 to your local taxing authority.

Next, be sure to familiarize yourself with tax due dates – delinquent penalties are harsh and expensive. Mark the following dates on your calendar:

Installment             Due Date            Delinquency Date*            Penalty, if delinquent

1st                   November 1               December 10                 10% of amount due
2nd                   February 1                     April 10                     10 % of amount due + $10.00 Cost

At first glance (and for most situations) these dates and payment amounts are straight-forward – as a homeowner you will receive clear instruction for how much you and when it is due by. However, as taxes get a bit confusing when you purchase or sell a home and are want to ensure that you are not held responsible for paying taxes before (or after) you actually own the home!

Here is a helpful step-by-step guide from SF Gates on how to calculate the property taxes you will owe:

  1. Refer to the most recent tax bill or municipal and county tax records to determine the total property tax due for the fiscal year. California’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30. Divide the total bill by 360, which is California’s customary measure of a year for the purposes of real estate transactions. This figure is the amount of property tax due for each day of the fiscal year. For example, a $12,600 tax bill divided by 360 days equals a daily tax amount of $35.00
  2. Count the number of full months from July 1 through and including the day before closing. Multiply that figure by 30, which is California’s customary measure of a month for the purposes of real estate transactions. For example, there are three full months if a closing is scheduled for October 15: July, August and September. Three months multiplied by 30 days equals 90 days.
  3. Count the number of days in the partial month in which closing is to occur, but don’t include the closing date. In the October 15 example, there are 14 days. Add this number to the number of days in the full months. Using this example, the total is 104.
  4. Multiply the total number of days by the daily tax amount. Using the same example, $35 per day for 104 days equals $3,640. This is the amount of prorated tax the seller owes at closing.
  5. Count the number of full months from closing day to June 30. Multiply the number of months by 30 days. For an Oct. 15 closing, there are 8 full months, or 240 days.
  6. Subtract from 30 the number of days the seller will own the home in the closing month. The answer is the number of days the buyer will own the home during closing month. Using the Oct. 15 example, the buyer will own the home for 16 days in October.
  7. Add the total number of days the buyer will own the home during the fiscal year. The sum for this example is 256 days. Multiply that figure by the daily tax amount to determine the buyer’s tax proration. In this example, the buyer owes $8,960.

California law states that if the same owner keeps the property, that the assessed value of a property cannot increase by more than 2 percent per year. However, when a home is sold or transferred, it becomes subject to be reassessed at current market value  and in most cases is assigned a new base tax value. As California real estate historically appreciates over time, the base value generally increases with each reappraisal which results in increased property taxes. (Some exceptions apply – See our post on Propositions 60 and 90)

New homeowners: be expected of receiving a supplemental tax bill approximetely 6 months after your purchase. A supplemental bill is based on the difference between your home’s old assessed value and the new assessed value (generally the purchase price). This amount will be prorated from the purchase date and calculated by the number of months left in the fiscal year. However, if the property is reassessed at a lower value than the previously assessed value, you should be on the lookout for a refund. Supplemental tax bills are your responsibility and will be mailed directly to you by the Treasurer and Tax Collector’s Office approximately 6 months after your purchase.

There is some good news in all of this! This chart by the LA Times ranks Redondo Beach as the 75th least expensive county taxation rate out of the 88 cities in Los Angeles. Note – the stated rate is the calculated median amount, so your home’s rate may be higher or lower. Further, the rate does not include taxation for direct assessments for services which is charged by cities and includes lighting, sewage and others.

For more specific information concerning your home, we recommend checking out the Los Angeles County Property Tax Portal –  where you can find:

  • Information for new home and business owners.
  • Property data and maps.
  • How to read your tax bill.
  • How much your taxes are, and how to get a copy of your current tax bill.  How to appeal your value.
  • Areas of responsibilities of the four property tax departments with direct links to each of their websites.
  • A public inquiry form and contact information.
  • Answers to the most frequently asked questions about property taxes.

 

One quick reminder:

If you own and occupy your home as your principal place of residence, you are eligible for a Homeowners’ Exemption that reduces your property tax by about $70 annually. Be sure to file for this exemption and put that money towards something fun for your family!

 

– Cathy Strini