In the 4th quarter of 2022, Santa Clara County home prices bottomed out after 6 months of interest rate hikes and sliding home values. The property tax assessment for many home owners on January 1st from the county tax assessor’s office may have been higher than market value for that day, depending on which comparable sales or comps that office used.

If your property tax assessment for this year came in a little higher than market value, you may be able to appeal that assessment.

 

Property tax assessment bill - the annual county tax assessor's office will issue the valuation to home owners on this card each September or October

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Appealing the property tax assessment

 

The county tax assessor’s office uses comparable sold properties, or comps, just like you or I would do, to try to determine the current market value of your home.  The comps used may or may not be the best or most realistic – they could be too dissimilar in size, location, or amenities, for instance.

If they aren’t good, you may be able to get your home’s assessed value, and hence the bill, reconsidered if you present better data and explain why your data is more accurate.

No one wants to see their property values depressed, but if it does happen, there may be a small silver lining: getting slightly lower property taxes, at least for a while.

 

How to appeal your property tax assessment

START HERE TO APPLY – you will find the prerequisites, the instructions, and the login to begin. (Have your comps ready!)

Information on appealing can be found on the county tax assessor’s office website.  This page has links and information on the process and procedures of appealing the valuation.

The appeal application form can be found here:  Assessment Appeal Application form

The folks in charge of the property tax assessment and appeal process, the review, and the hearing are:

Assessment Appeals Division
70 West Hedding Street
East Wing, 10th Floor
San Jose, CA 95110
Phone: (408) 299-5088
Fax: (408) 298-8460
Email: AssessmentAppeals@cob.sccgov.org

It’s actually very straightforward to appeal your property tax assessment: you simply complete the form and submit it online together with PDFs of your comparable sales to provide support for the lower valuation. The application form states at the end: “The request must contain the basis of your opinion of value. Please include comparable sales, cost, and income data where appropriate to support the value.”

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What if you are unsure if the county’s valuation is too high or not?

 

Please visit the What’s your home worth now? You can check the Santa Clara County real estate market reports (for the county as a whole and towns, cities and some areas within some cities also): popehandy.rereport.com. If you are a past client, please reach out to me and I’ll help you with the comps that you can use for your appeal.

Realtor.com provides 3 valuations – there’s no cost, no signing in, and no commitment to anyone! To see those estimates of value, you’ll go to that site, input your home’s address, then scroll down to the “Real Estimate” section and then have a look. This will give you a rough idea of the property’s value today.

Please keep in mind that the assessed value is based on the comps used as of January 1st that year. 
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Getting professional help with your appeal

 

Need more help? You can always hire an appraiser to undertake this task, but that may not be necessary. You may just search the sold properties online and find enough useful information on your own and at no cost.

For my past clients, I’m happy to assist with this type of project by getting more information on the comparables used or perhaps searching out ones which are more accurate. Sometimes there is information in the private agent comments that you won’t know about unless a paying member of the MLS finds it out and shares it with you.

Also the online sites will usually just use a radius and not differentiate based on school districts. If your house or condo is in a border area, your assessment may be artificially high if the nearby zip or school district is more expensive than where your home sits.

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An example of an assessment appeal with a successful outcome

 

In 2013, I got a lovely thank you note from a friend, also past client, for exactly this kind of assistance:

I just wanted to thank you for your help with the comps. I filed a protest about the valuation by the county and they came back today with a revised assessment. They went from $661K to $560K. Much more in line with what I had expected.

The difference in $101,000 in assessed value is very noticeable in the tax bill!  As you probably know, we pay approximately 1.25% of the assessed value per year in property taxes (appx).  That translates to a tax bill difference of $1262.50 in this case.

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Successful appeal? Great! Be aware that…

 

After the Great Recession, many people successfully got their real estate assessment reduced. As prices rose, though, there was a very unhappy surprise: assessed values were going up more than 2% per year.  I was surprised when this happened, too, but that 2% per year cap from Prop 13 only applies when things are going up year after year.

If there is a temporary reduction in tax values, the amount due can shoot up during recovery and go quite high – as long as it would not surpass what it would have been with a steady 2% per year increase had there been no successful appeal.

So, please be aware that your tax rate could rise faster in the future if you are successful. It can be quite a jolt when it happens if you are unprepared.

 

Related Reading:

Santa Clara County real estate market (updated monthly)

Estimating the probable buyer’s value (or market value)