Q: With housing prices and home values declining all over town, are property taxes here in Clark County going down? If not, why is that? I guess I'm wondering how our property taxes work and how the government determines the property tax bill for my home.
-- Rod R., Las Vegas
A: With home prices down from their peak a few years ago, more local homeowners probably have similar questions these days.
The short answer to your question is that property taxes on single-family homes here in Clark County are not necessarily declining from year to year -- even though the market value of your home may have declined during that time.
According to Clark County Assessor Mark Schofield and information distributed by his office, this is basically due to the statewide property tax cap passed by the Nevada Legislature in 2005. Since the tax cap was based on property values as of the 2004-2005 tax year, local property taxes are typically going up by as much as 3 percent per year since 2005 -- instead of at a much higher rate had the cap not occurred.
It's difficult to generalize, since every homeowner's situation varies. But don't expect your property tax bill to drop any time soon. Schofield says home values would have to drop significantly, to values below 2004-2005 levels, before anyone would see property taxes go down.
You probably noticed that the most recent property tax bill for your home here in Clark County actually increased slightly from the previous year.
The good news about this is that -- thanks to that property tax cap -- property taxes for most local homeowners can't go up by more than 3 percent per year.
Again, as the assessor points out, that's less of a tax increase than would have occurred without the tax cap.
Admittedly, this issue can get complicated. You can find more information on all this at accessclarkcounty.com/assessor. You can also call the Clark County Assessor's Office at 455-3882.
Meanwhile, I'll do my best to simplify a few of the finer points here. Two main factors seem to be prompting questions like yours.
One is current conditions in the housing market. Local homeowners are generally aware that home prices in Southern Nevada are going down, this coming after the unprecedented boom in home prices we experienced a few years ago. Naturally, some homeowners are wondering why their property taxes aren't declining at the same time.
The other factor, and part of the answer to this question, is the aforementioned statewide property tax cap passed by the Nevada Legislature in 2005, then modified further during the 2007 legislative session.
The 2005 law limited property tax increases in Nevada to a maximum of 3 percent per year for a single-family home occupied by its owner.
The same 3 percent property tax cap also applies to certain residential rental properties that are rented at rates at or below what the federal government has determined to be the fair market rate for such a property.
For all other property in Nevada, including commercial real estate, state law now caps property tax increases to no more than 8 percent per year.
One more bit of background: In Clark County, property is assessed at 35 percent of its current appraised value. In addition to parcels of real property (land, homes, commercial buildings, etc.), the assessor must value personal property, ranging from multimillion-dollar hotel-casinos to one-person businesses, manufactured homes, aircraft and any other personal property that is taxable.
In talking with the assessor's office, it's clear that many homeowners have been asking similar questions, especially after receiving a "notice of value" in the mail at their home. Schofield said his office mailed these notices to local property owners in mid-December.
After reviewing this information, if you believe your property has been assessed incorrectly, you had until Jan. 15 to file an appeal. If you missed that deadline, you can appeal by next January. Either way, I'd encourage you to contact the assessor's office and its helpful staff with any other questions you may have.
Patty Kelley is the president of the Greater Las Vegas Association of REALTORS and has worked in the real estate industry for more than 30 years. GLVAR has nearly 16,000 members. To ask Kelley a question, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit lasvegasrealtor.com.