Proposition 13, or Prop 13 as it’s often called, is one of California’s more famous voter-approved propositions, as it has profoundly affected homeownership and the housing market in the state for over 40 years. Depending on who you ask, it’s been instrumental in keeping older people from losing their homes due to unreasonable tax increases, or it’s kept young people stuck perpetually renting their homes and primarily benefited corporations by slashing their property taxes.
Whether or not you agree with Proposition 13, it’s good to know the facts. Let’s discuss what it is and how having the services of a real estate attorney may help you navigate its intricacies and save you thousands of dollars per year.
What Is Proposition 13?
Prop 13 was an amendment to the California Constitution approved by state voters in 1978. It was meant to address the problem of California’s rapidly increasing home values resulting in massive increases in property taxes that could force people out of their homes. For example, a retired person who had purchased their home 30 years ago for $50,000 could quickly find their home assessed at a value of $300,000, which would cause a 600% spike in property taxes.
The key components of Prop 13 are:
- Property taxes are capped at 1% of the property’s assessed value
- While the same person holds the property, the total property tax can only increase at a maximum annual rate of 2%
- When title to the real estate is transferred to another person, the value is then reassessed
Reassessment typically leads to higher property taxes for the new owner, as real estate prices in the state have traditionally risen at an annual rate far greater than 2%. Suppose the new assessed value is lower than the original assessed value (perhaps due to economic recession). In that case, the property’s value will be reassessed annually until it matches or exceeds the original assessed value. At this point, the normal 2% rules kick in.
Crucially, not all transfers of title will trigger a reassessment. Here are some of the most common scenarios in which a property can be transferred without reassessment.
- Transfers between spouses
- Transfers from parent to child
- Transfers from grandparent to grandchild, if both parents of the grandchild are deceased
- For people aged 55 or older, replacement of a principal residence of equal or lesser value in the same county or in one of the so-called “accommodating counties,” wherein the assessed value of the former home may be carried over to the new home
- Transfer upon the owner’s death to a co-owner who has been residing at the property for more than a year before the other owner’s death
Taking Advantage of Proposition 13’s Benefits
Knowing how Prop 13 works and how to take full advantage of it can lead to significant tax savings. This is mainly accomplished by transferring the title in such a way as to avoid reassessment because, in case it wasn’t already clear, reassessment is seldom good. For example, a home with an assessed value of $150,000 could easily be reassessed at $500,000, with property taxes jumping from $1,500 to $5,000.
If you are planning on selling or gifting your home to a family member, domestic partner, or someone similar, it is a good idea to consult with an attorney to make sure that transfer is done in such a way as to avoid reassessment. Talking to one of our experienced real estate experts can save you or your loved ones thousands of dollars in unnecessary tax bills. To schedule a consultation, contact our office today.