Dropping Home Values Means Lower Tax

Homeowner must apply to get the tax break

Every year, California homeowners pay property taxes on the value of their home.

But if the value of the home drops, which has happened a lot these past few years, then homeowners might be able to also drop the amount they are paying in taxes.

Dr. Jean Jacques Abitbol watched the value of both his San Diego home and office building drop since he bought them in the mid-1990s.  He's been looking for a cure to his high property taxes.

Abitbol bought his Kearny Mesa office building at the peak of the market. That's why he took action when he looked over his property tax bill.

"I looked at my tax base and realized that they were basing it on the 2004 value," Abitbol said, "and buildings are not worth that much these days."

Everyone from office building owners to homeowners have the right to lower their property taxes if the assessed value on the bill is more than the actual value of the property.

San Diego State real estate consultant Mark Goldman says property owners need to act now.

Certainly, if they bought near the high point of the market, between 2006 and 2007, they should definitely take a look at this," Goldman said.

Goldman adds that thousands of homeowners in the county should qualify for lower property taxes.

"If property values in your neighborhood have declined, if your neighbors are forced to sell their home at a lower price, you should be requesting an assessment reduction of your home so you can reduce your property tax," Goldman said.

But you just can't tell the county your house has dropped in value; you have to prove it, largely by showing examples of home sales in your neighborhood.

"By state law, the only thing you need to submit is your application," said Marvice Mazyck, County of San Diego Clerk of the Board's Office. "And with the application, if you would like to provide comparative sales, some applicants will provide about three."

Those examples need to show that your home is worth less these days.  Property taxes are based on 1 percent of the assessed value of your home, so the more its value comes down the less you'll pay the government.  Property values need to be based on the home price as of Jan. 1, 2011.

Mark Goldman says even if your home hasn't dropped by very much, it's worth appealing the assessed value. 

"You know it can be as much as a tank of gas a month or maybe a ncie dinner out," Goldman said. I mean, if somebody saves $400 or $500 a year, that's good money, and these days, every penny counts."

So how do you start the process?  Check with a real estate agent or do a little research of homes in your neighborhood and see if you have a legit case.

Is your home worth less than the amount on your property tax bill?

If so, go to the county website and you will find the directions and the form you have to fill out.

You have until the end of November to appeal but the longer you take to file the longer it will take to get an answer.

It can actually take over a year.  Three years ago more than 40-thousand people filled an appeal, last year it was down to 15 thousand.

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