How to save on property taxes

Over 55 Exemption may save you money on your property tax bill

If you own a home you have been in for a long time and are paying low property taxes under California’s Proposition 13, you may be able to keep that tax base when you sell your home and buy another.  This great financial tool was made possible by the passage of two ballot propositions in the 1980’s; 60 and 90.  60 makes it possible to keep your tax base within your home county, and 90 makes it possible to take your tax base to reciprocating counties, of which there are eight.  Of course, it isn’t quite as easy as all that-there are some rules and forms to be completed for making that happen:

  • You must be 55 years old or older at the time of sale or purchase, whichever comes first.
  • This is a one-time exemption (married couples can only do this once).
  • Both the sale (old) and replacement (new) properties must be owner occupied.
  • You must purchase the new house within two years of the sale of the old house.
  • The purchase price of the new house must be the same or less than the sale price of the old house if purchased before the sale of the old house.
  • If the purchase of the new house takes place within one year after the sale of the old house, the purchase price may be 105% of the sale price; if it happens between 1 and 2 years, it can be 110% of the sale price.
  • Practically speaking, this means scaling down in order to make the purchase prices work out-for instance you may move from your single family home into a condominium.
  • Prop. 90 allowed reciprocity between eight California counties.  They are Alameda, Los Angeles, Modoc, Orange, San Diego, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Ventura.
  • A representative at the San Francisco Assessor’s office said they still reciprocate with the eight counties; but please check before you make any sale or purchase.   With the budget crisis many counties may no longer participate in reciprocity, so please contact them before making any moves.
  • Check out the Board of Equalization’s website to get more information at or call (800)400-7115
  • Also see the San Francisco Assessor’s website at  see form BOE 60-AH or call (415)554-7915

This is a pretty nice financial tool.  It is worth exploration if you have any desire to scale down and the expense of more expensive property taxes has stopped you.  This could be the beginning of your New Year’s Resolution list.