Searching for a new home using one of the major real estate listing websites like Zillow.com or Realtor.com can be an exciting endeavor. So much data and information packed into just a couple of simple and easy to navigate websites. You can peruse photographs of the property, see mortgage estimates, review basic house features, and view the applicable school district. However, be cautious when reviewing the property tax estimate. Florida property tax laws are complicated, and any website using the previous owners’ taxes as an estimate of the future tax burden is oversimplifying and inaccurately advertising the true tax liability a new owner can expect to inherit.
The property tax estimate displayed on these websites is usually based solely on the seller’s property exemptions and Save Our Homes benefit, and not necessarily what a new buyer may expect to pay. Whenever there is a change in ownership, the assessed value of the property may reset to full market value, which may result in higher property taxes. The taxes are based on the value of the home as of January 1st, and consequently will be reflected on the tax bill that is sent out in November. When a buyer purchases a home after January 1st, they will see a first-year tax bill that is based on the previous owners’ benefits. This can reinforce the false notion that the tax burden will be similar to the previous owners’ taxes. It is not until the August of the following year that the new buyer will receive their first Notice of Proposed Property Taxes (TRIM Notice) that will display their updated tax assessment.
This is concerning in a market where property values are rapidly appreciating because assessment limitations increase the Save Our Homes benefit on homesteaded properties. The Save Our Homes benefit prevents homestead property owners from being taxed out of their homes by limiting the amount their assessed values can increase. So, when someone buys a home, from that point forward, even if their market value appreciates 10% in one year, their assessed value cannot increase any more than 3% or the consumer price index, whichever is less, each year (not including new construction such as a new swimming pool). Over time, there is an accumulation of “non-taxed” assessed value called the Save Our Homes benefit. The more tax savings that is built up for a previous owner the more misleading their tax bill can be if it gets used as an estimate of the next owners tax liability.
This illustration is an example of a seller that has lived in the home and had the homestead exemption for 10 years. As you can see, they have accumulated $280,119 in “non-taxed” Save Our Homes benefit. This tax benefit will automatically come off the year after they sell the home. That equates to more than $4,000 in property taxes currently being displayed on real estate property listing websites for potential buyers.
That is why when buying a home, you should not assume that the property taxes will remain the same. Currently, a proposal is being filed by Senator Hooper and Representative Anderson to amend 689.261, F.S. that will implement stricter guidelines when it comes to websites displaying “estimated” taxes. The proposed legislation can be viewed here.
The Property Tax Estimator, New Homebuyer Timeline Handout, and the New Homebuyer Educational Video are resources available to educate and assist new homebuyers when estimating their own property taxes before they make the purchase, so they may prepare for the financial impact. All three resources are available on our website at www.pa.martin.fl.us under the “Quick Links”, “Printable Handouts”, and “Educational Videos” sections of our website.
We are launching a new initiative this year by mailing letters to new homebuyers that purchased a home in 2022 from a seller that had a significant Save Our Homes tax savings benefit. This letter will explain how to use these tools to better estimate the tax liability of their new home. This estimated tax liability can be communicated with their mortgage company much sooner instead of waiting until November when the mortgage company receives the tax bill and doesn’t have enough in escrow.
If you have any questions or concerns, please know my professional team is available whether in person at our three office locations (Stuart, Hobe Sound, Indiantown), over the phone (772-288-5608), by email at