NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Tax Day is almost here, but many homeowners will be dealing with local property taxes long after April 15 has come and gone — and here's a look at cities where they face the biggest bills.
"Property taxes are in most cases the second-biggest cost of homeownership after mortgage payments, but a lot of times, homebuyers forget to look at that," says Daren Blomquist of RealtyTrac, which recently analyzed tax levies in 716 U.S. metro areas.
The study, which looked at public tax records covering 18 million single-family houses, found that the typical homeowner pays $2,204 in annual property taxes. That's about 1.14% of the average house's $191,379 estimated value.
But RealtyTrac also discovered that the average bill ranges from less than $1,000 a year in some metro areas to more than $10,000 in others.
Blomquist says the costliest locales the study uncovered are all East and West Coast metro areas with high property values, high tax rates or both. "If you have higher home prices, you'll naturally have higher property taxes in raw dollar terms," he says.
But he says residents there appear willing to pay up in a large part because the highest-taxed locations tend to offer good jobs, good schools and popular attractions such as beaches or nightlife. "As a homebuyer, you may be willing to take on higher property taxes to live close to the amenities that you want — and that could include a good job," the expert says.
John McGuinness, broker/owner of Manhattan's Harlem Properties real-estate firm, says he and many other residents are willing to pay the New York metro area's hefty property taxes because they love living in the City That Never Sleeps.
"Personally, I wouldn't live anywhere else," McGuinness says. "I can walk to the grocery store, the movie theater, the park — everything is right outside my doorstep."
Read on to check out the five major metro areas RealtyTrac discovered have the highest average annual property taxes in dollar terms (although not necessarily on a percentage basis relative to local home values).
The rankings below represent communities with the highest tax bills among 148 metro areas with at least 200,000 residents and a statistically sufficient number of tax records publicly available.
All figures are as of Dec. 31 and cover entire metro areas, not just cities proper. Also, RealtyTrac analyzed only taxes on single-family homes, not condos or townhouses.
Fifth-highest in property taxes: Manchester/Nashua, N.H.
New Hampshire prides itself on having no state sales or income tax (except for a levy on dividends and interest), but the Granite State makes up for that with high property taxes — especially in the Manchester/Nashua area.
RealtyTrac found that homeowners there pay $6,200 a year on average, or 2.22% of the typical home's $279,157 value.
Blomquist says that's around twice the U.S. average, "so that's what's really raising tax levels there."
The Manchester/Nashua area also sits just over the border from Massachusetts on the costly Boston housing market's northern fringe, boosting local property values.
Fourth-highest in property taxes: Santa Barbara, Calif.
This Pacific coastal community some 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles has plenty of picture-postcard views, but the high property taxes are nothing to write home about.
The typical Santa Barbara homeowner forks over $6,424 in annual property taxes, or 1.02% of the $626,861 average house value.
Blomquist says California communities usually have low tax rates because the state's landmark Proposition 13 constitutional amendment placed strict limits on property taxes.
But he adds that the Santa Barbara area has the fifth-highest average property values among the 716 communities RealtyTrac studied, so residents "still pay significant tax bills."
Third-highest in property taxes: San Francisco
Buy a house in the City by the Bay and you can expect to pay, pay, pay when it comes to property taxes.
RealtyTrac discovered that San Francisco homeowners face $6,927 in annual tax bills on average — which again Blomquist blames on soaring home prices that trump a Proposition 13-friendly tax rate.
The average Frisco single-family house costs $809,870, the second-highest level among communities that RealtyTrac analyzed. But on a percentage basis, San Francisco homeowners pay just 0.86% of average property values in annual taxes.
"The effective tax rate in San Francisco is below 1%, but people still pay a lot in taxes there because the property values are just so high," Blomquist says.
Second-highest in property taxes: San Jose, Calif.
Are property taxes low in Silicon Valley? No way, (San) Jose!
With Facebook, Apple and lots of other tech giants calling the San Jose area home, it's little surprise that home prices — and property taxes — have shot through the roof.
RealtyTrac found that the average San Jose single-family house costs $986,432, or No. 1 among communities studied.
"You have Facebook millionaires and others who are willing to pay a lot for homes, so that pushes values up — which in turn pushes property taxes up," Blomquist says.
All told, San Jose-area homeowners pay $8,084 a year in property taxes on average. But again, Proposition 13 means that's just 0.82% of the typical place's value.
U.S. metro with the highest property taxes: New York
Buy a home in the Big Apple and property taxes will take a giant bite out of your budget.
That's because the average New York-area homeowner faces a $12,923 annual tax bill — the highest dollar amount that RealtyTrac observed for any major American city.
Blomquist says that while the New York metro area only has the country's 13th-highest property values ($487,960 for the typical single-family house), hefty tax rates still send homeowners' bills soaring.
RealtyTrac estimates that homeowners typically pay 2.65% of their properties' values in annual taxes, or roughly twice the average U.S. rate. "As a result, New York is the only market we found that has average property taxes over $10,000 a year," Blomquist says.
— Written by Jerry Kronenberg for MainStreet