Friday, March 27, 2020

SCAM ALERT! Beware of fee-based services claiming to be able to lower your property taxes...

Be on the lookout for scams.  As a part of the leadership of the Sacramento Association of Realtors (I am the current Secretary/Treasurer of the Board of Directors), often other association members will come to me with questions or to alert me to things that don't look quite right.

BIG shout out to loan officer Scott Short with Mason McDuffie Mortgage who forwarded me a solicitation he received from a service claiming to be able to reduce homeowner's property tax.

The solicitation claims that, with the market potentially softening, it is time to submit an application to the County Tax Assessor for a reduction of your home's property tax assessment.

Please be aware that this is extremely misleading, and probably a predatory solicitation for a fee-based service that will be a fruitless attempt at property tax reduction.

For one, property tax assessment for the current tax year, which is the state’s fiscal year that runs from July 1, 2019 June 30, 2020 is based on the value of the property as of January 1, 2019. There will be no justifiable reason to expect that an appeal can be filed based on any current market activity for the value as of January 1, 2019.

Additionally, the values for the upcoming fiscal year that begins on July 1, 2020 and runs until June 30, 2021 will be based on the property value as of January 1, 2020. Any current market value volatility that we may – or may not – experience as a result of our current public health situation will again provide little, if even any, basis to justify an application for a Proposition 8 decline in property tax assessment.

It should also be noted that even if a homeowner files a legitimate property tax appeal, the timeframe in which to file an application does not even start for more than three months from today. The period opens on July 2 and runs to November 30.

A homeowner can request that the county assessor complete an informal review of the tax assessment FOR FREE. There is a non-refundable $30 fee to the Sacramento County Assessor to formally file an assessment appeal. And you do not need to hire a third party to do this.

I need to point out that if there is a decline in property value in Sacramento, it will take at least a few months of data to be able to determine what the impact will be to real estate values this COVID19 public health situation. As of right now, while we are seeing homes withdrawn from the market and certainly a likelihood of shrinking inventory, MANY agents are getting creative while limiting face-to-face contact and MANY homes are still going into contract with multiple offers. It is really too premature to say what the market will look like when the public health directives are lifted.

Please be on the lookout for these types of opportunists looking to take advantage of homeowners. We are definitely in a time of economic uncertainty, and like we witnessed during the last recession, scammers will prey on the most vulnerable people who are desperately seeking financial relief.

Here is a Q&A on the Sacramento County Assessor's website about Proposition 8 Decline in Value adjustment and assessment appeals. The assessor's office also has a an overview on how to reduce property taxes in other circumstances as well, and that link is here.

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