I would be willing to bet that each year, good financial benefit gets left on the table by those who want to refinance their mortgages but are afraid that by doing so, they may see their California property taxes go up. Is this concern founded? Can that really happen?
In short, no. California property taxes are not reassessed when a homeowner refinances his or her mortgage. And the simple reason for this is that there is no transfer of title that would trigger the tax basis to be reassessed by the County Assessor. When an owner of real estate refis the mortgage, the title vesting usually stays the same and the only thing that changes is the lender that encumbers the title with its mortgage.
So for the vast majority, if a refinance makes good financial sense, then there will likely be no ramifications to the amount of property taxes owed. Always ask and always check with your loan professional, and certainly keep these property tax facts in mind here in California:
Property Tax Bill Information and Due Dates
Secured property tax bills are mailed in October and payable in two installments:
- First installment due date: November 1
- Second installment due date: February 1
“Now hold on a minute!,” you say. “I was told I could pay in December and April!” Well, technically, you can. The late dates for the installments are December 10 and April 10, respectively. And what I’ve noticed after a long career in home finance is that most county residents pay just before these late dates. In fact, if you really want to people watch at the post office and you can’t make it on any given April 15, your next best viewing opportunity is very likely December 10. Late penalties are 10% of the installment amount, so it’s not just a slap on the wrist. State law extends the deadlines above to the following Monday if December 10 or April 10 fall on a weekend, but postmark determines the payment date. If you’re late and don’t include the penalty, the county will send back your original payment.
“What If My Lender Pays My Taxes?”
If you have an escrow or impound account through which your mortgage lender pays your taxes, your property tax bill will state, “a copy of this bill was sent to a paying agent at their request.” If you are unsure of whether or not your lender has paid your tax installment, you should clarify this with your servicer. They are the folks who send you your monthly mortgage statement. I always advise my clients to let me know if they need help with this — I just feel it’s a service any good mortgage professional should provide, and we handle the “straightening out” of countless, anxiety-inducing property tax questions throughout the course of any year. Note that if you pay your mortgage in full or refinance during the course of any year, you may become responsible for your tax payments even if you’ve impounded all along. Again, call us if we can assist.
What About Supplemental Tax Bills?
Your County issues a supplemental assessment when a change in ownership occurs. This bill reflects the difference between the seller’s basis and your new and ongoing basis and you’ll only receive it in that first year of the purchase. Afterwards, the correct tax amount is entirely reflected on your regular bill. The Assessor’s office provides owners with new, previous and supplemental values and you can always call them for specifics.
Refinancing can make sense in any market and at any time of year. If you’ve harbored a concern that a change in your property taxes could make a refi costly or inefficient, think again and let us know if you have any questions at all.
Read my lips,
Robert J. Spinosa
Vice President of Mortgage Lending
Marin Office: 324 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, CA 94960
Berkeley Office: 1400 Shattuck Ave., Suite 1, Berkeley, CA 94709
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