Don’t Be A Slow Poke When It Comes To Addressing The Homestead Exemption

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



As we all know, certain things just take time. Finding a parking spot at the mall during the holidays, checking out at Walmart, and POA closings, just to name a few. Determining whether to file for the 2020 Homestead Exemption should not be one of them.

For those of you who are a Georgia resident, purchased a primary residence in 2019 (or have made a prior owned property your primary residence as of December 31, 2019) and that property is located in Bryan, Effingham, Liberty, Bulloch, Glynn, Long, Tattnall or McIntosh Counties, you should file for the Homestead Exemption now. 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 2019 utility bill to your respective county tax assessor’s office. The Homestead Exemption must be filed before April 1, 2020. You only need to file for the Homestead Exemption one time.

For those who are a Georgia resident, purchased a primary residence in 2019 (or have made a prior owned property your primary residence as of December 31, 2019) and that property is located in Chatham County, you need to utilize the information below to determine whether it is the right time for you to file for the Homestead Exemption. PLEASE READ THE REMAINDER OF THE ENTIRE ARTICLE.

For Chatham County property owners:
  1. Go to the Chatham County Board of Assessors’ website at boa.chathamcountyga.gov.
  2. Scroll down to the Records Search & Online Filings tab (about half way down the page) and click it. On the next page read the disclaimer and select the Agree tab.
  3. Type in the property address ONLY and press the Search button.
  4. Once you locate the property address click on the address to open the link. On the left side of the page you will see Board of Assessors and just under that click the link to the Property Record Card (PRC).
  5. Scroll down until you see Appraised Values. Locate the 2019 Tax Year and go to the Appraised Total in that same row (4th column). That “Appraised Total” is the 2019 fair market value. Ignore both the Land and Building values and just use the Appraised Total. You will need to know the 2019 Appraised Total to determine whether to file for the Homestead Exemption.
Do not be alarmed if the PRC 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 2020.

What if I bought my home in 2019 and the 2019 Appraised Total is the same or less than I paid?

For those of you who bought a primary residence located in Chatham County in 2019, if the 2019 Appraised Total is the same of less than what you paid for your home (assuming the building and the land have been given values) (i.e., new construction – see below), you want to file for the Homestead Exemption on or before April 1, 2020. 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, just the land value. Thus, when you look at the 2019 Appraised Total for 2019 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 Annual Notice of Assessment which the county will mail you in mid-May 2020. The Notice of Assessment will have the Current Year Fair Market Value which will include both the land and building value. If that value is right around or less than what you paid for the home 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 home 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). The Chatham County Tax Assessor’s phone number is 912-652-7271.

You will need to bring the following items with you when you file:
  1. A Valid Georgia’s Driver’s License or Georgia Identification Card and
  2. Registration for vehicles owned by and registered in the name of the applicant.
  3. As a supplement to (1) above, the staff may also request a prior year utility bill or Chatham County Voter’s Registration Card.

What if I bought my home in 2019 and the 2019 Appraised Total is more than I paid?

For those of you who bought a primary residence located in Chatham County in 2019 at a price lower than the 2019 Appraised Total, then do not file the Homestead Exemption in 2020 (note, however, if the difference between the 2019 Appraised Total 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 2020, you should receive a valuation notice (Annual Notice of Assessment) from the Chatham County Tax Assessor that shows the 2020 Current Fair Market Value is equal to the price you paid for the home. Assuming that is what the Notice of Assessment shows, you should file the Homestead Exemption between January 4, 2021 and April 1, 2021. Do NOT forget!

If for some reason the Notice of Assessment you receive does not reflect your purchase price (as there are a few exceptions), the Notice of Assessment will provide you instructions 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, 2021.

If you have not received the Notice of Assessment by mid-May 2020 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).

IMPORTANT:

Even if the 2019 Appraised Total 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.

If you have any questions regarding the Homestead Exemption, the Stephens-Day Exemption or any other exemptions that you might qualify for please contact the Chatham County Tax Assessor at 912-652-7271.

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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