Alex … I’ll take Homestead Exemption for …

Written by Joel Gerber. Posted in Homestead Exemption, Real Estate



Alex Trebek may know a lot, but even he could end up in jeopardy if he’s not careful when it comes to filing the Homestead Exemption. For those of you who are a Georgia resident, purchased a primary residence in 2018 (or have made a prior owned property your primary residence as of December 31, 2018) and that property is located in Bryan, Effingham, Liberty, Bulloch, Glynn, Long, McIntosh or Tattnall Counties, you are not in jeopardy and you should file for the Homestead Exemption. By filing for the Homestead Exemption, you will receive a reduction of your home’s assessed value each year going forward as long as you reside in the home as your primary residence.

To file for the Homestead Exemption in these eight counties you will need to bring your driver’s license (showing the new property address) and a January utility bill showing service in December 2018 to your respective county tax assessor’s office. The Homestead Exemption must be filed before April 1, 2019. You only need to file for the Homestead Exemption one time.

For those who are a Georgia resident, purchased a primary residence in 2018 (or have made a prior owned property your primary residence as of December 31, 2018) and that property is located in Chatham County, you may end up in jeopardy if you do not utilize the information below to determine whether it is the right time for you to file for the Homestead Exemption.

For Chatham County property owners, first go to the Chatham County Board of Assessors’ website at chathamcounty.org/Home/Search-Property-Record-Cards. Type in the property address only and once you locate the property open the link to the corresponding Notice of Assessment on the far right side of the page. Once you open the Notice of Assessment go to Section B and look for the “Current Year Fair Market Value” in the row showing the “100% Appraised Value.” You will need to know the Fair Market Value to determine whether to file for the Homestead Exemption.

Do not be alarmed if the Notice of Assessment for your property is not in your name yet. The tax assessor updates its records to reflect the new owner during the first quarter of 2019.

What if I bought my home in 2018 and the 2018 tax assessed value is the same or less than I paid?

For those of you who bought a primary residence located in Chatham County in 2018 and paid the same or more than the 2018 tax assessed value (assuming the building and the land have been given values (i.e., new construction – see below), then you are not in jeopardy and you want to file for the Homestead Exemption on or before April 1, 2019. By filing for the Homestead Exemption, you will receive a reduction of your home’s assessed value each year going forward as long as you reside in the home as your primary residence. In addition, you will be able to stabilize your home’s assessed value (the exemption that stabilizes for home’s fair market value is known as the Stephens-Day Exemption). This is a good thing because this will prevent your home’s assessed value from significantly increasing over the years (as long as you do not apply for a building permit).

New Construction Homes: Often times when you purchase a new construction home the county has not assessed the completed home. Thus, when you look at the fair market value for 2018 it may show a very low number (likely just the value for the lot). While you will not be able to take advantage of this super low value you still can and should file the Homestead Exemption. However, you MUST remember to obtain your Notice of Assessment which the county will mail you in mid-May 2019. The Notice of Assessment will have the 2019 fair market value. If that value is right around or less than what you paid for the property then there is nothing further to do (assuming you already filed for the Homestead Exemption). If that value is much more than what you paid for the property then you will need to file an appeal in an attempt to have the fair market value (for Stephens-Day purposes) reduced to your purchase price.

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 January utility bill with your name on it showing service in December 2018;
  2. driver’s license that shows the address of your new Chatham County property; and
  3. Georgia car registration that shows the address of your new Chatham County property.

What if I bought my home in 2018 and the 2018 tax assessed value is more than I paid?

For those of you who bought a primary residence located in Chatham County in 2018 at a price lower than the 2018 tax assessed value, then you will be in jeopardy if you file the Homestead Exemption in 2019 (note, however, if the difference in the 2018 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 stabilize your tax assessed value (also known as the Stephens-Day Exemption value) at an amount that is higher than what you paid for the property (not so good). So what do I do?

Around mid-May 2019, you should receive a valuation notice (Notice of Assessment) from the Chatham County Tax Assessor that shows the 2019 tax assessed value of your home is equal to the price you paid for the house. Assuming that is what the Notice of Assessment shows, you should go ahead and file the Homestead Exemption before April 1, 2020.

If for some reason the Notice of Assessment you receive does not reflect the purchase price (as there are a few exceptions), the Notice of Assessment will provide you instruction on how to appeal your home’s tax assessed value. You would want to file an appeal in an attempt to have the county reduce your home’s fair market value to your purchase price. Once the appeal process is completed and you are satisfied with the fair market value determined by the county then remember to file for the Homestead Exemption before April 1, 2020.

Important: If you have not received the Notice of Value by mid-May 2019 please contact the tax assessor’s office to ensure you know when those will be mailed (and confirm the mailing address that the county will be mailing it to).

Note: Even if the 2018 FMV is higher than what you paid for the property there are certain circumstances that you likely still should file. For example, if you qualify for a much larger exemption (i.e., disability exception) then that larger exemption may outweigh your decision not to file.

Wishing all of you a happy and healthy New Year!

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

As always, if you need help with anything at all, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime at (912) 484-1996 (even nights and weekends) or email me at jgerber@brannenlaw.com.

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