It’s Homestead Exemption Time

Written by Joel Gerber. Posted in Homestead Exemption



As 2016 begins, so do questions regarding the Homestead Exemption. If you are a Georgia resident and purchased a primary residence in 2015 located in Chatham County, the following is a guide to help you determine whether you should file for the exemption this year.

For those of you who are Georgia residents, purchased a primary residence in 2015 located in Bryan, Effingham, Liberty or Bulloch County, no guidance is needed – you should file away!

For Chatham County property owners, first go to the Chatham County Tax Commissioner’s website at chathamtax.org. Follow the prompts to search for your property tax bill. Do not be alarmed if the tax bill for your property is not in your name yet. The tax assessor updates its records regarding the new owner in 2016. On the tax bill locate the Fair Market Value. You will need to know the Fair Market Value to determine whether to file for the Homestead Exemption. 

What if I bought my home in 2015 and the 2015 tax assessed value is less than I paid?

For those of you who bought a primary residence located in Chatham County in 2015 and paid more than the 2015 tax assessed value (assuming the building and the land have been given values) you want to file for the Homestead Exemption on or before April 1, 2016. By filing for Homestead, you will receive a reduction of your home’s assessed value each year going forward and will lock in your home’s assessed value. This is a good thing because this “lock” will prevent your home’s assessed value from significantly increasing over the years (as long as you do not apply for a building permit). Please note that the locked value (commonly known as your Stephens-Day Exemption Value) does not apply to the school tax portion of your tax bill).

You can file the Homestead Exemption by going to the Chatham County Tax Assessor’s office located at 222 W. Oglethorpe Ave., Suite 113, Savannah, Georgia (1st floor of the Pete Liakakis Government Building).

You will need to bring the following items with you when you file:
  1. a utility bill with your name on it showing service in 2015
  2. your driver’s license
  3. your Georgia car registration which shows the address of your new Chatham County property.  You can change your car registration address at the same building you will file the Homestead Exemption.
NOTE: If you purchased a primary residence in 2015 located in Bryan, Effingham, Liberty or Bulloch County you will want to file for the Homestead Exemption in your respective tax assessor’s office before April 1, 2016. Unfortunately, the Stephens-Day Exemption does not apply in these counties.

What if I bought my home in 2015 and the 2015 tax assessed value is more than I paid?

For those of you who bought a primary residence located in Chatham County in 2015 at a price lower than the 2015 tax assessed value, generally you should not file for the Homestead Exemption in 2016 (note, however, if the difference in the 2015 tax assessed value and what you paid for the home is small, you likely should go ahead and file). So why don’t I file yet? If you file the Homestead Exemption under these circumstances, you will lock in your tax assessed value at an amount that is higher than what you paid for the property (not so good). So what do I do?

This year (around May-June), you should receive a valuation notice from the Chatham County Tax Assessor showing the 2016 tax assessed value of your home is equal to the price you paid for the house. Assuming that is what the valuation notice shows, you should go ahead and file the Homestead Exemption before April 1, 2017. If for some reason the valuation notice you receive this year does not reflect the purchase price (as there are a few exceptions), the valuation notice will provide you instruction on how to appeal your home’s tax assessed value.

Please understand that the information provided above is general information and may not apply to your specific situation.

If you have any questions regarding this post or would like to discuss this process in more detail, feel free to contact me anytime at (912) 484-1996 (even nights and weekends) or email me at jgerber@brannenlaw.com.

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