What’s up with my Assessed Value and Taxes?
Each year the Sonoma County Assessor’s office will re-evaluate the “Assessed Value” of your property for the purposes of calculating your property taxes. Historically the Assessor has worked under the philosophy that property values increase each year which generally has been true. In the last few years, however, this has NOT been the case for many homes in Sonoma County. Yet despite the fact that the median price for homes has steadily declined for several years, the Assessor’s opinion of the value of YOUR home may NOT have dropped, or may even have increased. If you feel that the Assessor SHOULD have decreased the assessed value of your property (and therefore lowered your taxes) you can request that the Assessor take another look. This is called an “Informal Request for Decline”.
How do you request a review of your property valuation?
There tends to be a quite a bit of confusion about this process and which comparable sales are allowed, so I have created a quick review of the process and links to the required documents.
The purpose of the Informal Request, is to show the property value of your home, as of January 1st of 2009, is lower than the current assessed value. This is done by filing a Prop 8, “Informal Request for Decline” document with the Sonoma County Assessor’s office. This is a fairly simple form which you can use to show the sales prices of three comparable properties which have sold in your area between April 1st of 2008 and March 31st of 2009. This is a one-year time frame from which to select your comparable sales. These three sales should support your request to the Assessor that the tax valuation of your property should be lower.
The Assessor will review the information that you provide and will calculate an opinion of the current value of your property for the purpose of assessing taxes. In doing so, even though any sale that occurs within the one-year window CAN be used, the Assessor will place the highest relevance on those sales that occurred CLOSEST to January 1st 2009, but no later than March 31st 2009. This means that a comparable sale that occurred in December of 2008 will have higher relevance than a sale that occurred in March of 2009 because the December sale is closer to the valuation date of January 1st 2009. A sale that occurs in September 2008 can be used because it did occur within the 12-month window, but a sale that occurs on April 1st 2009 cannot be used because it is past the March 31st cut-off.
Here is a link to the Prop 8, “Informal Request for Decline” on the Assessor’s website.
The deadline for filing this form is October 31, 2009.
What if you disagree with the Assessor’s opinion of value?
The results of the Assessor’s “Informal Request” are completely up to the Assessor’s discretion.
If you disagree with the Assessor’s evaluation you can call them (707-565-1888) and discuss this, but more importantly, you may file a formal appeal with the State Board of Equalization Assessments Appeals Board. The Assessment Appeal Filing period is from July 2 through November 30, 2009.
Here is a link to the “Application for Changed Assessment” as well as directions for filing the form.
It is important to note that you have until October 31st 2009 to file the “Informal Request” and that if you disagree with this valuation, in Sonoma County you must file a “Formal Appeal” by November 30, 2009 (one month later). It is entirely possible (VERY PROBABLE) that the Assessor’s office will not have responded to your “Informal Request” before the deadline to appeal their decision has already passed.
For this reason, you may want to file the “Formal Appeal” at the same time you file the “Informal Request”, or at least no later than November 30, 2009, even if you have not received a result from the Assessor’s office. Once you do receive the result, if you agree with the Assessor’s valuation you may simply cancel the “Formal Appeal”, or leave it in place if you disagree.
The State Board of Equalization has some good information about the appeal process, including several videos and publications.
The Sonoma County Assessor’s office has posted a pamphlet “Residential Property Assessment Appeals“.
If you need help with finding comparable sales for your neighborhood, you may contact me at 707-327-9407 or at email@example.com and I will be glad to assist you. You may also want to check-out my website (davidhartsrealty.com) where you can find tons of information about real estate in Sonoma County as well as the ability to search the local MLS.
Please feel free to pass this along to anyone you know who may want to lower their property taxes.
David Harts Realty