If you're in the market for a new home for retirement, local real estate taxes are probably an important factor in your purchasing decision. For example, you may want to know the current and historical tax rates on a particular property, learn how the rate is determined, and find out whether taxes will be reassessed at closing.
You may also be wondering where to find this information. Fortunately, it's all available online. We've put together a few resources to help you get started.
In most states, a department of revenue or similar agency provides property tax information on its website. Every state is different, but this is the best place to start if you're looking for a high-level overview. You can find detailed guides that are targeted to homebuyers and include information on how real property taxes are assessed and calculated, along with recent changes to laws, tax rate caps and information on how to appeal current rates. New York state is one of many excellent examples, with an extensive section on exemptions, caps, reassessments and more.
Nationwide Environmental Title Research (NETROnline)
NETROnline is a public records database and a user-friendly portal that links to county assessor websites, organized by state, all across the country. Where websites are not available, phone numbers are provided. Plus, it's free to use. Note that about a dozen states (such as Texas and Utah) are considered "nondisclosure states" where homebuyers are not required to publicly reveal the purchase price of a home. In these instances, the assessor may not have the information on file, and estimating property taxes is a bit trickier, though not impossible. For more information on how to estimate property taxes in a nondisclosure state, talk to a local real estate broker or qualified accountant. You may also be able to find instructions online.
Whether you're using NETROnline or searching on your own, county assessor websites are the best sources of information for property taxes, offering a wide variety of information to the public for free. Some let you search historical property tax information by address, while others feature a database of tax codes that incorporate all of an area's tax authorities, including school districts and municipalities. As one of many examples, Florida's Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser website helps you easily search real estate tax information by street address, plus it lets you save the information to a spreadsheet and includes links to other local jurisdictions that affect the taxes on a particular property.
Many local municipalities also provide information on property taxes via the web. For example, they can tell you about specific exemptions and deadlines that may apply to you, or let you know how and when to appeal tax reassessments. They may also offer helpful links to specific sections on a county assessor's site. The city of Boston website, for example, includes information on fiscal year tax rates and how they're determined, as well as assessed values and a search feature that lets you look up current assessments and taxes by street address. Once you've done your homework on local real estate taxes and are ready to begin the purchasing process on a home, you should talk to a trusted accountant or real estate attorney for advice on your particular needs and situation.