“Starting July 2, California homeowners who think the market value of their home as of Jan. 1, 2009, is less than its assessed value for 2009-10 can ask their assessor to revise it downward. Because property taxes are based on the assessed value, a successful appeal will temporarily reduce the owner’s property tax bill.”
UPDATE: A plugged-in reader adds,”you can start this process early, online, for sf county.”
Appeal assessment if you think it’s too high [SFGate]
Assessing The Potential Upside Of A Down Market: Property Tax Basis [SocketSite]
Residential Property Assessment Appeals (pdf) [ca.gov]
2009-2010 Request For Informal Review Of Assessed Value [SFGov]

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Willow

    I’m going through this process myself. Does anyone know if SF County accept foreclosed homes as comparables? Also, if there are very few comps due to low sales volume, will the city consider homes outside of your immediate neighborhood but still in your zip code? Any help would be appreciated!

  2. Posted by scurvy

    Ahhh, only in California can you have your cake and eat it, too. Property values going up? Don’t worry, prop 13 has it covered. Property values going down? No problem, just ask for a reassessment. People wonder why we’re broke. It’s your own damned greed, people.

  3. Posted by Jimmy (No Longer Bitter)

    scurvy — you assume people have a problem with the state being broke. We don’t (yet).
    In San Mateo county, my wife’s property assessment was preemptively reduced by the county by about $15k. Better than nothing I guess.

  4. Posted by Appraiser

    Typically an assessment appeal was the realm of a professional appraiser who knows exactly the answer to Willow’s questions. And yeah, I know a lot of people have had experiences with bad appraisers, but similar to real estate agents, there are good ones and as well as bad ones. A good place to find a better than average residential appraiser is one who has earned the SRA designation for residential proficiency from the Appraisal Institute – you can search by your city on their website at http://www.appraisalinstitute.org
    And typical of RE blogs, you can flame appraisers all you want, but the fact of the matter is that someone who values real estate as their job every day is going to know quite a bit more about defending a real estate valuation before the assessor than the majority of homeowners.

  5. Posted by curmudgeon

    A friend who bought in January 2008 is eager to lower his assessed valuation. Oh, except the SF Assessor STILL hasn’t sent a bill for re-assessment at purchase. He did get a nice post-card, however, from the assessor, bragging how the assessment backlog has dropped under his watch.
    Honestly, I realize the SF Assessors office was completely unmanaged previously, but I’m shocked how this stuff isn’t simply automated. Here we are more than a year and a half after purchase, and there has been no bill.

  6. Posted by Number2

    Scurvy, give me a break..if a person bought a place for $800k and it’s now worth $700k, why should they be paying prop tax on an assessed value home of $810k? And btw, the city just automatically assumes the place has gone up in value when it hasn’t.
    Also, if you read closely, IF the homeowner gets its lowered down to their requested assessed amount (say, $700k), it can still pop back up to at least the ‘purchased’ price ($800k) should their be any sort of recovery in the market..and you can be sure that the assessor’s office will do so if that occurs. It’s not like their new ‘base’ stays at $700k.
    My question for others: if a property owner re-finances, is any of the re-fi’d info (ie, the bank’s hired appraisel / etc. of the home) part of public record and thus used by the assessor’s office to evaluate the home value?

  7. Posted by marina girl

    Number2, who do you work for?
    Do you really not see an inconsistency in having assessed values revisable down but not up? Curious.

  8. Posted by james

    you can start this process early, online, for sf county.
    check it out here:
    http://www.sfgov.org/site/assessor_index.asp?id=101593

  9. Posted by Number2

    marina girl,
    I agree Prop13 is screwy/bizarre, but it is what it is. People in CA purchase their homes knowing that that exists, and you could argue it is already baked into the prices.
    the lowering-assessment is allowed by law so i’m not arguing for/against it…I’m just saying I don’t agree with the city/state automatically saying ‘no’ to a homeowners request to lower just because the city doesn’t want to lose the tax revenue (I believe the SF assessor’s office took this approach last year).
    the request to re-assess values really only affect folks who purchased in the past few years. And it only is a temporary thing (ie, their tax-base goes right back up if home values rise). What would be worse is if all those folks sold their places for a loss right now – then the new base price (new purchase by another person) would be $700k and it’ll take many many many years before the state would see taxes generated from that asset at the $800k level.
    so because you don’t like Prop13, then you want to lessen it’s ‘impact’ by over-assessing folks?

  10. Posted by BobN

    He did get a nice post-card, however, from the assessor, bragging how the assessment backlog has dropped under his watch.
    Sales down. City jobs just starting to get trimmed (or haven’t they started that yet?). Backlog should have been cleared up by now, no?
    In any other city, of course.

  11. Posted by "Dave"

    Ahhh, only in California can you have your cake and eat it, too. Property values going up? Don’t worry, prop 13 has it covered. Property values going down? No problem, just ask for a reassessment. People wonder why we’re broke. It’s your own damned greed, people. -scurvy
    Do you really not see an inconsistency in having assessed values revisable down but not up? Curious. -marina girl
    Ugh. Let’s hope this doesn’t turn into a prop-13 thread…
    Let’s try a hypothetical here to address the “greed” and “inconsistency”: Homeowner A bought in 2004 and pays 10X the property taxes of (next door) Homeowner B, who bought thirty years ago (and probably rents the place out now for $3k/month).
    So, if I’m getting this right, your complaint is that “greedy” Homeowner A now gets to shave a thousand dollars off of his $10,000 annual payment to Sacramento while Homeowner B goes right on paying $1,000/year?
    CA is broke because it doesn’t do property taxes like any other place and, hence, we are much more heavily dependent upon income taxes. Unemployment goes way up, taxes go way down.
    We tax the things in this state that we should incentivize (i.e. work) and reward people for buying non-productive assets and sitting on them for 30 years. The only person really screwed (both in equity and taxes) is Homeowner A, so your criticisms are way off base…

  12. Posted by Number2

    Dave – thanks..that’s the point I really should have been trying to make.

  13. Posted by OneEyedMan

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/06/21/MN99188I94.DTL
    Check out this link. All around in the BA tax revenues are dropping and SF says revenue will increase 6%. The Assesor’s back log dropped dramatically after he bought that new shredder!

  14. Posted by rr

    @curmudgeon
    Your friend should call the assessor’s office, or look at the online tax payment system. Our supplementary bills arrived more than several months ago, and we purchased several months after your friend. I would assume they would record in chronological order, so perhaps your friend’s bill got lost.

  15. Posted by marina girl

    don’t worry about it becoming a Prop 13 thread, dave. you’re debating the meaning of the word “inconsistent”. it’s in the dictionary; just look it up, for crying out loud.

  16. Posted by Sb

    Dave, you didn’t address the issue: why should it be possible for property taxes to go down but impossible for them to go up?
    BTW, prop 13 is not the only thing responsible for our current mess. The firefighter down the street who retired this year at age 54 is probably complicit too. He’s getting 90% of his pay ($140,000/year), plus he’s contracting to the City part-time for another $40,000/year. And he brags about it!
    Man, I shoulda worked for the government.

  17. Posted by "Dave"

    dave. you’re debating the meaning of the word “inconsistent”. it’s in the dictionary; just look it up, for crying out loud.
    I’m not sure if you’re trying to insult me here or not but you should probably look up “debate” in your dictionary… Nowhere was I attempting to debate you or the meaning of any words.
    Dave, you didn’t address the issue: why should it be possible for property taxes to go down but impossible for them to go up?
    I didn’t address the question because nobody asked that question. The simple answer to why it’s possible is “because Prop 13 says you can.” I didn’t write the freaking thing, so you should probably ask your congressmen why it works like it does. It’s just a loophole.
    People asking that question were asking it rhetorically. What they really wanted to know is “why doesn’t prop 13 just go on screwing the people who already pay ridiculously higher property taxes than everyone else? where’s the sense of outrage? why not close that loophole too???”
    My point is that the loophole is only beneficial to a select group of individuals who are already getting royally screwed in terms of the inordinate amount of taxes they already contribute.
    My point is that to cry foul, site unfairness, and rage against the “greed” because of THAT particular loophole is misguided, no matter how inconsistent (duh, whatever that word means) the policy.
    My point is that if you’re asking this question about THIS PARTICULAR inconsistency in the policy, then you are really asking the wrong question.

  18. Posted by Andrew

    I am looking at appealing my assessment, but SF requires submitting a form with 3 comparable sales.
    I am trying to dig through SFgate’s Recently Sold Homes listings and Zillow, but find the information to be difficult to sort through. Does anyone know of an up to date, search friendly way to find accurate sales data?

  19. Posted by BernalDweller

    @Andrew: I spoke with the assessor’s office about this a couple of months ago. It’s tough to find accurate comp sales with so few sales happening. They told me to go ahead and submit the online form without comps, and the assessor’s office will still look at your property and adjust the assessment if they deem it to be inaccurate.
    Also note that the assessor’s office did a proactive reassessment on many southern neighborhoods, including south slope Bernal. My property was reassessed to a level that rolled back all of my Prop. 13 increases for the last 4 years. The reassessment on my property is very close to what I think the market value of my property is now, based on the limited sales around me. I’m very satisfied.

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