Nicki & Karen

What You Should Know about Property Taxes in California

Nicki & Karen » November 1, 2021

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property taxes in ca

When you first purchase a home, you’ll likely notice that you need to pay taxes on your property. Along with income taxes that you’re tasked with paying on a yearly basis, you must also pay annual property taxes based on the current value of your home. Even though the exact amount of taxes you pay depends on the value of your home, it’s important to understand that property taxes differ from state to state. Some states have low property taxes. On the other hand, states like New Jersey and Illinois have high property taxes.

California can also have high property taxes because of the elevated property values throughout most cities. It’s also important to understand that different counties have different tax rates. The average property tax rate in California is around 0.79%. However, it can oscillate between 0.65% and 1.01% depending on the county you live in. The reason why annual property taxes can be high for residents of California is that the average home price in the state is right around $588,000.

Even though this rate is assessed annually, you’ll most likely pay it on a monthly basis. If your property tax assessment for the given year is $2,400, you’ll pay $200 in property taxes every month. In most cases, your property taxes will be added to your monthly mortgage payments.

The money that you pay in property taxes is collected by the state, after which it is used to pay for an array of public services. Before you purchase a home, it’s highly recommended that you calculate what your property taxes will be for the upcoming year, which will allow you to determine if you can afford these taxes. This article provides you with everything you need to know about the property taxes you pay in California.

What are Property Taxes Used for?

When property taxes are collected in California, they can be used for a wide range of different public services. The primary services that taxes are used for include:

  • Various government services
  • First responders and other forms of law enforcement
  • Local levies
  • Pay for municipal employees
  • Municipal land and infrastructure construction
  • Municipal improvements
  • Protective services
  • Recreational services
  • Residential services, the primary of which is garbage pickup

How You Pay Property Tax in California

If you’ve already made a monthly mortgage payment, it’s likely that you’ve paid some of your annual property taxes. Your real estate agent or mortgage lender should be able to tell you more about your property taxes. The initial mortgage payment you make when you first move into your new home is paid from your escrow account. When you receive a bill for your monthly mortgage payment, there should be four separate components that make up the full payment. These components include:

  • The principal of your loan
  • The interest rate that’s attached to your loan amount
  • Homeowner’s insurance payments
  • California real property taxes

To make sure that your property taxes are part of your monthly mortgage payment, all you need to do is look at the last mortgage statement you received. You should notice property taxes as a line item somewhere on the statement. If you pay property taxes as part of your mortgage, you shouldn’t give much thought to these taxes.

However, there is a deadline for when annual property taxes must be paid. This deadline applies to any homeowner who doesn’t make property taxes payments as part of their mortgage payments. Your property taxes are due in full by November 1 every year. In the event that your taxes are paid on a monthly basis, you should notice a $0 balance on November 1.

Three Types of California Property Tax

There are three types of property taxes that California assesses. The first type is the general tax levy, which has been in place since 1978. The tax rate is currently set at 1% of the property value. Another type involves voter-approved bond debts, which are designed to cover the repayment of local and state bonds. The covering of these debts must typically be approved by a 2/3 majority of the voting public. The third and final type of tax in California is a voter-approved assessment for special districts. These districts usually involve fire and school districts.

Common Property Tax Questions

types of property tax questions

Before you pay your property taxes or purchase a new home, you should be fully aware of what property taxes are, why you need to pay them, and what happens if you don’t pay them. The most common property tax questions include:

  • When should property taxes be paid?
  • What happens with late payments?
  • What are impound accounts?
  • Are there any exemptions or reductions in property taxes?

As mentioned previously, your annual taxes should be paid in full by November 1. However, this only refers to the first installment of property taxes. The second installment of property taxes must be paid by February 1. If you don’t pay the first installment of property taxes in time, the payment will be labeled “delinquent” on December 10. The same is true if you don’t pay the second installment in full by April 10. If you happen to pay your property taxes after the delinquent date, a hefty 10% penalty will be assessed. As such, property taxes of $2,500 would increase to $2,750.

If you want to avoid making late payments altogether, it’s highly recommended that you make monthly payments with your mortgage bill, which is much more streamlined. An easy way to make sure that you have all the money you need for your property taxes is to divide the annual tax amount into 12 monthly payments. You can then place these monthly payments into your budget, which should make it easier for you to save enough money each month.

You can also make sure that your property taxes are paid in time by obtaining an impound account, which is commonly referred to as an escrow account. An impound account will automatically place your property taxes into your mortgage payment, which ensures that you’ll never be in a situation where you need to pay the entire tax amount in a single payment. If you pay less than the tax amount in a given year, you’ll receive a bill that tasks you with paying the difference. In the event that you pay more than was due, you’ll obtain a refund once tax season rolls around.

Impound accounts are oftentimes a requirement when obtaining a loan. You may also have a choice in some situations. If you obtain a conventional loan with a down payment that’s 10% or higher, you can decide if you want an impound account. On the other hand, impound accounts are required for hazard insurance and property taxes when obtaining a government-backed loan in California. These loans include FHA, USDA, and VA loans. If you obtain a conventional loan but make a down payment that’s lower than 10%, an impound account will be required.

Once you purchase a home in California, it’s possible to receive an exemption that allows you to pay less property taxes. The primary exemption available to homeowners is the Homeowners’ Property Tax Exemption, which allows you to reduce the taxable value of your home by $7,000. If your home is worth $200,000, this exemption means that the property tax would only be levied on $193,000 of your home’s value.

Let’s say that you live in Los Angeles. This city has a property tax rate of 0.72%. At this rate, your annual property taxes on a $200,000 would be $1,440 without an exemption in place. If you qualify for this exemption, the annual property taxes you would be expected to pay would amount to $1,390, which is a savings of $50.

You also have the option to appeal the taxable value of your home. If you feel that your home was overvalued this year, you can make an appeal with the California State Board of Equalization.

Additional Exemptions for Property Taxes

Additional exemptions are also available to different groups of people. These exemptions include:

  • Veterans – It’s possible for veterans to obtain an exemption of up to $4,000.
  • Disabled veterans – This exemption can be higher than $4,000 and is based on age, nature of disability, and income.
  • Disaster relief – In the event that a disaster has recently struck your area, you may qualify for a reduced assessment while repairing your home.
  • Family transfer – If you receive a property from your children or parents, a full reassessment won’t be applied. However, the property will need to become the recipient’s primary residence within a year after the initial transfer.

Now that you understand all there is to know about property taxes in California, you shouldn’t be surprised when you see your next mortgage bill or annual tax bill. With the proper budgeting and the use of the property tax exemption, you should be able to put aside enough every year to pay these taxes.

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