This article details several ways you can research the property tax history for any real estate property in the United States. Using publicly available resources, a homebuyer is able to easily locate the property tax history. We recommend that a homebuyer then verify that is the correct information by researching the most recent local tax assessment value, the local property tax rate and then checking if there are any applicable tax exemptions.
by Christian Scully
Property tax data is part of the public record.
A lot of property information is a made part of the public record, making it available to anyone who knows where to look. It used to be that you would have to venture all the way down to your local city or town hall to request any property records. As more and more towns and cities throughout the country digitize their records, and online database systems improve, it is becoming increasingly easy to find all the information you need in a few minutes right on the web. Here are a few ways to find and verify this information:
Look in the MLS listing on Zillow.com or Realtor.com.
If you are shopping for a home on popular websites like Zillow or Realtor.com, you should easily be able to locate the section that says "Price and Tax History". You should be able to see an annual listing of the public tax record available for the property. If you don't see this information, it might not be available online for that city or town. Even if I can locate the most recent annual tax amount on the MLS listing, or even if the selling agent includes the tax amount in the listing description, I always want to confirm that information for myself. Don't rely on other people's information when it is very easy to check it for yourself.
Check the local Tax Assessor's property database to find the value.
The first place I look to check the annual property tax amount is the tax accessor's property database. Search for the town's tax accessor website. From there, you should be able to locate a link to the "tax accessor database" or "property records" or "GIS maps", or something similar. You can also search Google for "Tax accessor database" in the town of the property and you can try and find the direct link.
Multiply the local property tax rate by the assessed value.
Once you are in the database you'll search for the property address. When you find the property you are looking for, you want to look for the total assessed value (including the land and house). The Tax Assessor's website should have information on the tax rates for the current year. There is typically a separate tax rate for residential property and commercial property. These tax rates are usually "per thousand". So if the tax rate is $18 and the assessed value of the house is $145,600 - then you would multiply 140.6 x 18, giving you an annual tax rate of $2,530.80.
Check to see if any available tax exemptions apply to you.
Some cities and towns, such a Providence, RI, have different tax rates for owner-occupied properties (you own the house and live there) and investment properties (you own the house and rent it to a tenant). In Providence there is a 40% discount on owner-occupied houses called the "homestead exemption". In this case, you would take the total annual property taxes and multiply them by 0.6 to calculate your discounted annual tax bill. Be sure to look on the tax assessors website for any exemptions available. Other exemptions could be available as well including for veterans or historic properties. Feel free to call the Tax Assessor's office directly to ask about what property tax exemptions exist if any and how to qualify for them.
+ Better Tip
When analyzing a potential property and using a mortgage calculator to estimate your monthly payment, be aware that if there is a owner-occupied tax rate in your city or town, you may need to register for that in person at the Tax Assessor's office. Your real estate attorney will determine what tax rate will be in place initially when you officially close on the sale. That tax rate will likely be whatever is currently in place with the seller. If the seller does not have the owner occupied tax rate, then you will see a higher monthly payment on your loan or closing estimate. Once you close and register the property as owner occupied, your tax rate will go down. Your lender will receive the updated tax bill and will adjust your monthly payment accordingly.
Real Estate +
Thoughts, ideas, lessons-learned, inspiration, how-tos and more from a journey to own and invest in real estate, and helping borrowers navigate the mortgage process as a licensed loan originator.
Christian Scully is a licensed mortgage loan originator (NMLS 1864693) in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine and Connecticut and is available to help borrowers seeking to purchase or refinance a home.
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Disclaimer: The creators of Better Life and Finance are not certified financial advisors and are not attempting to give general financial advice. The information is from personal experience and shared freely. Consult a professional financial advisor when making financial decisions. Christian Scully is a licensed mortgage loan originator and is qualified to answer your home loan questions.