Marin Property Tax Reassessment Strategies

The recent drop in real estate sales may be a cloud with a silver lining for some California homeowners, particularly those who have purchased a home within the past couple of years when home prices were at their peak.  If you find yourself in the disheartening position of realizing that your home is now worth less than you paid for it, some tax relief might be available.  California homeowners are entitled to a reassessment review should they feel the market value of their property has fallen below the assessed market value.

Some Bay Area counties have automatically reviewed homes purchased in the past few years to see if they qualify for a reduction in assessed value, but don’t make the assumption that your home has been included in any such appraisal.  By being proactive and doing a little homework you may save yourself some tax dollars – at least for this year.

Understand the Property Tax Structure in California

In 1978, the enactment of Proposition 13 gave homeowners protection by putting a ceiling on property taxes in a soaring real estate market.  Essentially, what it did was establish the 1975-76 tax year as a base, and limit property taxes to 1% of the assessed value (base-year value), allowing a maximum 2% annual increase in assessed value to compensate for inflation.  Generally, a new base-year value can only be re-established when a property is sold, changes ownership, or is newly constructed.

Prop 13 was a great initiative in a booming economy, but offered no protection should property value decline.  Proposition 8 was passed in 1979 to allow the assessor to temporarily lower the assessed value of property in a down market, should the value of the property fall below the base value.

Prop 8 - Check to See if You Might Qualify

You may qualify under Proposition 8 for a temporary property tax reduction.  Check recent home sales in your neighborhood to compare the tax-base of your property with recent sales.  If your base is more than the average sales, you might qualify.  One caveat – even if the market value of your home is high, longtime homeowners with tax protection under Proposition 13 aren’t likely to benefit.  Your base-year value is likely to be relatively low (unless you’ve done substantial adding on and remodeling),

You Think You Qualify.  What to do Next...

This is the easy part.  If you think your property is assessed at a value that is higher than the market value, simply contact your Assessor’s Office.  The assessor will look at property values in your area as of January 1, 2008 to determine your eligibility for the 2007-2008 tax year.  Although they will use their own figures, you might want to support your request with your own data (recent sales prices for comparable homes in your neighborhood).

Be aware that if you are awaiting review, you still need to pay your property taxes when they are due or they will become delinquent.  If the tax review subsequently allows for a reduction, any overpayment will be refunded.

Time is of The Essence

For homeowners who receive their assessment notices in July or August, the formal appeal must be submitted no later than September 15.  In counties where the assessment is sent with the tax bill in the fall, the deadline for formal appeal is November 30.

For more information, contact the Marin County Assessor's Office:

Marin County Assessor’s Office
3501 Civic Center Drive, Suite 208
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 499-7215
Marin Assessor's Office

Visit Marin’s Real Property Division of the Assessor’s Office for more information on property assessment and for a downloadable Request for Assessment Review Form.

If you would like additional information or assistance with your Marin County Real Estate needs, please contact us.