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Frequently Asked Questions:


1. How can I lower my property taxes by getting a professional appraisal?

Your annual property taxes are based on the value of your property as of January 1st of each year. California State law requires that your property value be based on its purchase price plus 2% per year or its actual market value as of January 1st, whichever is lower.

If your property is worth less than you paid for it you are entitled by law to the lower value if you can demonstrate to the Assessor that your property is worth less than the purchase price plus 2% per year that the Assessor automatically assesses it at.

2. How much can I save in property taxes?

If you live in an area, such as the Plumas Lake area of Yuba County, that has unfortunately suffered market declines of up to $100,000+ your property tax saving can be over $1000 per year.

The tax rate is 1% of your value. If you paid, for example, $400,000 for your home and it is, due to unfavorable market conditions, worth $300,000 on January 1st you would save $1000 per year if your home was properly assessed as required by law.

To your basic property tax are added fixed charges that are not based on property value such as voter-approved bonds or special district charges such as for levee protection, water systems, etc. These charges remain unchanged, however the bulk of your tax bill is based on your property value as illustrated.

To continue the example, if your home is worth $50,000 less than you paid for it you would save $500 per year. If it is worth $150,000 less than you paid for it you would save $1500 per year.

3. Won’t the Assessor automatically lower my value if my property is worth less than I paid for it?

County Assessors have an enormous task to perform. They are required to establish the value of every piece of real estate and every piece of business fixtures, machinery, and equipment each year. Their routine practice is to assess a homeowner’s property at its purchase price and then add 2% a year to that value each year. They simply do not have the resources to look out for each individual homeowner’s particular plight unless it is specifically brought to their attention.

Remember, you are entitled by law to the lower of actual value on January 1st or your purchase price.  In all cases, Plumas Lake homeowners have suffered significant value reductions from their original purchase prices.

By law there is a formal protest of value process to an Assessment Appeals Board that may be undertaken by the individual homeowner, but County Assessors always want to avoid time-consuming formal Assessment Appeals if possible and are more than willing to meet informally with a taxpayer and recognize their duty by law to reduce a homeowner’s value if credible evidence of a reduced value is presented, such as a professional appraisal by a State-Certified Real Estate Appraiser.

4. Are there other advantages to getting a professional appraisal?

Many homeowner’s, particularly in declining markets, want to know from an unbiased, professional source “where they stand” so that they can plan their future actions be it refinancing, sale, further improvements, stay the course or, unfortunately, short sale or repossession.

5. How much does an appraisal prepared for property tax reduction purposes cost?

River Valley Appraisals is offering to perform our standard $350 lender-quality appraisal for $250 per home. This is same type of 6-10 page FNMA appraisal on which lender’s use to loan hundreds of thousands of dollars per home and which is the banking industry-standard.

6. Can an appraisal prepared for property tax reduction be used for refinancing my home?

It can form the basis of a reduced charge for a home refinance appraisal. Each individual lender has their own criteria and must, by Federal law, order the home refinance appraisal directly in their own name from the appraisal firm. If you advise your loan officer that you have a recent appraisal (within three months) from our firm and the loan officer contacts us directly we will prepare a new appraisal in the Lender’s name for 50% of our normal refinance appraisal fee which normally results in a $125+ saving to you depending on the level of service the lender requires.

7. What do I have to do?

Order and pay for your appraisal on our secure website. Once we receive your order we will acknowledge it and advise you of your delivery date, normally 5-7 business days. We will take pictures of the exterior of your home from the street and of your immediate neighborhood to include in the final report. It will not be necessary to go into your home as we are very familiar with the various new subdivision floor plans and normal amenities.

In order to offer this appraisal at such a reduced fee the 6-10 page formal appraisal with be delivered to you via your e-mail. This insures speedy delivery and you can download, view, print and/or email to others. Your appraisal will also include Assessor contact information, a property profile that includes last year’s assessed value and your county’s Application for Changed Assessment, which you will only need if you wish to file a formal appeal, which should not be necessary. You will contact the Assessor’s Office and ask to speak with the Chief Appraiser and informally advise them of your situation and offer to email them your appraisal. They will take it from there.

Remember, you are entitled by law to the lower of actual value on January 1st or your purchase price and the good people of the Assessor’s Office are sympathetic to your situation.


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