Assessed home values -- and property taxes -- will be lowered this year on about 38,000 houses and condos, 4,000 mobile homes and 1,000 multifamily housing units in Stanislaus County.
County Assessor Doug Harms said that's because property values have dropped dramatically in the past two years. He said some homes are worth less than half of what buyers paid for them during the 2005-06 housing boom.
Stanislaus County automatically will lower assessments for every home purchased since July 2003. Harms said assessments will drop 5 percent to 52 percent, depending when homes were purchased, which town they're in and their size.
The biggest drop will be for 2,500- to 3,500-square-foot Patterson homes purchased during December 2005, which Harms calculated are worth about 52 percent less than their original prices.
To break it down, homes purchased from October 2005 to July 2006 will see the biggest declines, which will average 40 percent to 44 percent countywide.
In terms of location, Patterson and Newman home values declined the most, so their assessments will be lowered the most.
Oakdale and Waterford home values declined the least, so their assessments won't be lowered as much.
Homes of more than 2,500 square feet fell in value more than homes less than 1,600 square feet. But the largest homes, those above 3,500 square feet, declined the least, according to the assessor's office.
The lowered assessments will reduce property tax collections.
"It's in the billions," Harms said of the loss. Last month he had estimated that property tax revenues would fall $1.4 billion, but now he estimates the loss will be significantly larger.
While taxpayer-funded agencies may suffer, Harms expects homeowners will be happy to have smaller property tax bills.
Homeowners may not be pleased to hear, however, that falling values will not reduce "direct assessments" for homes in special districts such as Mello-Roos service areas.
Harms said angry homeowners have been calling his office to complain about high special district fees, but those taxes are not tied to assessed values.
Homeowners may be disappointed to hear that property tax bills due April 10 are not affected by the reassessments. Harms' home value calculations are for taxes due in December 2008 and April 2009.
The new assessments will be determined June 1, based on what the houses theoretically were worth Jan. 1. The results will be mailed to homeowners this summer. Owners can appeal if they don't agree with the assessments.
Harms warned homeowners not to be fooled by private companies who promise to help lower property tax assessments.
"Two different businesses are advertising that they can get your property tax valuation reduced if you are willing to pay them as an agent," Harms said. "One is charging $195 per parcel for their service, and the other is charging one-half of whatever property tax savings you might get.
"If people want to pay for this, they can, but it seems to me that they will most likely get a reduction without hiring these people. And if the owner doesn't qualify for a reduction, hiring these people won't help."
Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2196.