View An Interactive Map of How Much Your Neighbors Pay in Property TaxesReturn to Blog
Walking down the leafy streets near Berkeley’s Oakville Avenue, and you’ll come across a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home whose value Zillow puts at $2.3 million. Its owners are paying $14,742 a year in property taxes. Go around the corner on the same block to The Plaza Drive, and you’ll see another two-bathroom, three-bedroom home with a similar Zillow value of $2.5 million. Its owners are paying about $5,464 in property taxes!
Welcome to the sometimes strange world of California homeownership, where the time when you purchased your home influences how much property tax you pay (2014 in the first case, 1995 in the latter). Now, thanks to a data visualizer Ian Webster, you can explore the vast tax gulfs among homes in Berkeley and beyond — and if you’re a relatively new buyer, you may get frustrated at how little many of your neighbors are paying.
“I think the main surprising thing is you can zoom in to pretty much any block in the Bay Area and find examples that kind of make you scratch your head,” said Webster. “I don’t know what is right or wrong here, but just the fact there are these massive disparities suggests the policy is broken, in some way.”
Locals recognize this “policy” as Proposition 13 — an initiative voters approved in 1978 that rejiggered the property-tax system across the state. Prop 13 pretty much guaranteed that nobody receives surprise property tax bills. But it also spawned complications in the housing market.
Voters in this past election had a chance to modify Prop 13 with Proposition 15, which would allow the reassessment of commercial properties regularly and not only when they have sold. However, voters opposed the proposition by a soft 3% margin. Judging from the online reaction of Webster’s map, it is achieving its intended goal of educating people about the effects of Prop 13.