Viewpoints: It might be time to have your home reassessed

Over the last few years, property values became somewhat of a local obsession as homeowners and investors watched prices soar. Not surprisingly, as property values fell back down to earth and foreclosures increased, everyone in the Bay Area has been holding their breath. Yet while California has one of the hardest hit real estate markets in the nation, San Francisco has maintained a comparatively strong property tax base with the total assessment roll value increasing 8.74 percent from last year, from $130.6 billion to $142 billion.

This is not to say some families in The City aren’t facing considerable hardship — we’ve seen an alarming increase in foreclosures and tenants being evicted due to foreclosures, particularly in the south and southeastern areas of The City. However, overall, San Francisco remains a great place to own property and values are still increasing in many neighborhoods.

As a service to homeowners, my office began encouraging them to contact us for an informal review of their assessed home value a few years ago. We did this to make it easier and less expensive for both the taxpayer and The City. Since May, we have received nearly 1,600 requests for informal reviews, a substantial increase from previous years. We are reviewing all requests as they come in and will complete that process within the coming weeks. It’s important to note, however, that 1,600 requests represent less than 1.5 percent of all the residential property owners in San Francisco. By comparison, San Bernardino has received 132,235 requests.

So who is eligible for a reassessment? Chances are that if you purchased your home prior to 2004, your property tax assessed value is still below your actual market value. And that’s a good thing, because homeowners and property owners should want their values to increase, not decrease. If you are one of the unlucky few in San Francisco who experienced an overall decline in value, a reassessment and a lower property tax bill will provide some temporary financial relief.

As assessor-recorder, I have made it one of my priorities to make sure homeowners know their rights and their homes are assessed fairly. If homeowners have requested that our office conduct an informal review of their property and there is evidence that their value has decreased, we will reassess their home at fair market value. For more information please visit our Web site at www.sfgov.org/assessor.

Phil Ting is the San Francisco assessor-recorder.

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