Homebuyers who think property taxes will match the amount the seller had paid often find they’re wrong – and rising home values may might make them very wrong.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Property values have skyrocketed across South Florida in the past year, and now we’re seeing it in our property tax bills.

The pandemic hasn’t slowed the red-hot housing market: In Broward County, home values rose 4.3% from the last year. In Palm Beach County, they increased at least 5%.

“I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that the pandemic had zero negative effect on the residential market,” said Tim Wilmath, chief appraiser for the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office. “In the past year, we have seen fairly dramatic increases in residential values.”

As property owners in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties see their tax bills come in, they’re seeing the increases first-hand. The money is due by March. Here are some essential tips to know as you ready to pay your property taxes this year.

You can save some money if you pay early

The values keep going up. Cities that have waterfront homes are still among the most expensive properties. Still, cities that are farther west are seeing their values rising at a higher percentage rate.

For example, records from June show values in Fort Lauderdale went up almost 7% this year, and about 6.5% in wealthy Hillsboro Beach. But values soared 11.2% in Lauderhill, 9% in West Park and 8% in North Lauderdale.

Don’t wait until the last minute to pay your property taxes: Whoever pays early can see some savings. There’s a discount for paying in November and that starts to peter out as you get closer to the deadline: You’ll see a 4% savings if you file by November, 3% in December, 2% in January and 1% in February.

There are multiple ways to pay, but be wary of an extra fee for using a credit card. For more information, you can contact your local property appraiser. County officials can help translate your tax bill. For help:

Your best bet to avoid sticker shock

Marty Kiar, Broward County’s property appraiser, regularly gets tearful calls from new homeowners who mistakenly thought they’d be paying the same amount in taxes as the person who owned a house before them.

It’s fair, surely, since the house size hasn’t changed, right? Well, no.

“I feel so bad [when the] first-time homebuyer didn’t know their property was going to get reset to market value” based on purchase price, he said. “They always think they pay what the previous owner paid.”

“Save our Homes” is a Florida law that caps the annual increase that a homesteaded property can rise in value to either 3% or the change in the National Consumer Price Index, whichever is less. That means the longer you stay in a house, and the value continues to climb, you won’t pay as much in taxes as the newbie next door. Because when you buy, the value is reset on Jan. 1 the next year based on purchase price.

Kiar recommends prospective buyers check out his agency’s online tax estimator to make sure they can afford the taxes for their new home before they buy.

“Usually the young families, they are so excited … and now have to pay more money,” he said. “I talk with these young families every day and there’s nothing we can do under the law.”

In Miami-Dade, the property appraiser’s office also has an online calculating tool and a “buyer beware” warning displayed high on its website. “When buying real estate property, do not assume property taxes will remain the same.”

Prepare to also pay more in 2022

In Broward County, Kiar correctly predicted in March that nearly everyone would pay more in taxes this year. Although there’s still another month to go to finish out 2021, he’s making the same prediction for tax bills in 2022.

“One thing definitely apparent is values, especially in residential, are going to continue to rise for tax purposes because people are paying enormous amounts of money for properties,” he said.

People are flocking from places such as California and New York, which have state income taxes, and agreeing to pay cash for property here in Florida. He added, “I feel confident there will be an increase overall.”

There wasn’t as much property that sold in 2020, but those homes that did “sold for a lot more money,” he said. “Now in 2021, we have lots of property selling for very high prices. Throughout the county, I can’t think of one place where it’s not the trend.”

© 2021 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Visit sun-sentinel.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Author: kerrys