Our answer must first address, well, the address — of the home, that is. Since I’m a licensed loan officer in the state of California, working out of an office in Marin County, I’m only going to view this topic through our stylishly sunshaded eyes. In California, properties are assessed to market value when they change ownership, and this does not happen in a refinance. So if you purchased a home for $500,000 in 2008, and it appraises for $650,000 in 2014 when you obtain your refinance appraisal, the county assessor is still working off your original assessed value as far as your tax basis is concerned. Behind the scenes is a more complex calculation that has to do with changes to the ad valorem portion of your tax bill, adjusted by the lesser of a 2% annual increase OR the rate of inflation, as dicatated by Proposition 13. If you have questions about how to interpret your tax bill, give me a call or send me an e-mail any time and we’ll review it together. But again, the incremental adjustments to the original basis prevail here and not a jump to the appraised (or market) value at the time of refi.
“But wait!” you say. “My tax bill really did go up when I last refinanced!”
OK — let’s look at this a little closer. We know that a refinance alone would not trigger a reassessment, but are there some things that could cause a fluctuation in the amount of tax you’ve been paying? In the downturn years, perhaps your home was eligible for a temporary reduction in its tax rate? That may have recently reverted with rising values. Or perhaps you have an escrow account? Adjustments by your loan’s servicer that are required to maintain a sufficient balance might show up as increases to your PITI payment. Both of the above examples could have coincided with your refinance and they may have changed your tax payment amount, but they would not have been a result of the refinance itself.
I realize that property taxes are a significant component of your total monthly housing payment. After all, I pay them too! So if you’re thinking about refinancing to get into better terms or a lower payment, and you have been reluctant to do so because you feel a mortgage lender’s appraisal and process could trigger an increase in your property tax bill, you can step back from the ledge and take a deep breath. Refinancing, in and of itself, does not cause your property taxes to increase in California.