A Taxing Issue – How property taxes can impact home prices

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Homeowners in New York are up in arms over property taxes. For those who don’t know the region, New Yorkers enjoy just about the highest property tax rate in the country. Westchester has some of the highest taxes in the state – so you get the picture…..In some areas of Westchester, the taxes actually exceed assessed values.

Recently, Cut Property Taxes NOW rally signs have appeared around the city of White Plains. They are dotting the lawns of beleagured homeowners fed up with what seems like the unending tax hikes that show no signs of abatement. Right now the center of their wrath is on County taxes. However, many are pointing fingers at local taxes and school taxes.

It was just a few years ago that White Plains enjoyed significantly lower property taxes then the rest of the county thanks mostly to our large commercial and retail base. But even though that base has increased, the number successful certioari actions has also increased exponentially. The net result has been a shrinking tax base in the commercial/retail sector pushing the lions share of the burden on homeowners. Most notably: owners of single family homes. Although there was grumbling during the housing boom – residents were mollified by increasing home values. Now that that bubble has burst, the tax bubble has become the elephant in the room.

Homeowners and city officials in White Plains need look no further than Sleepy Hollow to see what happens to home prices when the homeowners are saddled with an ever more onerous tax burden. This burgeoning problem needs to be nipped in the bud or home values could well suffer.

I chose Sleepy Hollow for a comparison because it is an analogous community in many ways to White Plains. Although city officials prefer to liken White Plains to Scarsdale and Larchmont where high taxes are better tolerated, our community profile is in truth more like that of Sleepy Hollow – with respect to its diversity and schools. The commute to Manhattan is similar the two neighborhoods I chose to focus in are are quite comparable in terms of home size, amenities and lifestyle.

Gedney Farms is an established upscale neighborhood in White Plains. Over the past ear the average sales price in Gedney was $993,000 – just shy of $1 million dollars. The average tax bite in these sold home was slightly more than $16,000 per year.

Philipse Manor in Sleepy Hollow is quite similar in many ways to Gedney Farms. However, Sleepy Hollow is a village with relatively little commercial activity resulting in a higher tax burden on the homeowner. Over the past year the average sales price in Philipse Manor was $847,000 – a significant 15% drop from the prices enjoyed by Gedney residents. That’s a difference of $147,000 – not exactly chump change. When you look at the tax bite that Sleepy Hollow extracts from Manor residents, one can see why. Its enough to make your head spin. The average tax on the homes sold that year was a crushing $22,500 or 29% higher than what is seen in White Plains.

Does the tax rate account for the price difference? Uh….ya think? Sure does! Think of it this way….taxes that high are like another mortgage payment. For Gedney residents its about $1333.00 a month, but that goes up almost $550 a month for Sleepy Hollow residents. Assuming a 6% tax rate (assuming they have enough cash to not need a jumbo loan) that translates to a drop of over $90,000 in buying power. If you don’t believe me – the charts below tell the story.

Although White Plains has a way to go before it matches the tax rates of Sleepy Hollow, it is catching up fast – and the city and schools need to think seriously about the damage they could do to home values if they don’t get their budgets in check. White Plains still has a relatively low tax rate when compared with other parts of the county. However, that advantage has been eroded over the past few years and the residents must not allow that trend to continue.

City, county and school officials take note. I know you have turned a deaf ear to the voters on this issue for many a year. Home owners were just giant money cows to be squeezed to your hearts content. But declining home prices translates into lower property values and lower assessed values – and that should put the fear of God into you. The message is loud and clear! Keep hiking taxes and you erode home values AND your tax base.

Housing Prices in Westchester NY

Property Taxes in Westchester NY

Further Reading:

Certioraris a Taxing Situation for New York Homeowners
© 2009 Ruthmarie Hicks, https://thewestchesterview.com. All rights reserved.

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