Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Inflation & Valuations

I know people don't enjoy paying property taxes. But like any other investment or purchase, one must consider taxes (along with other expenses) when weighing the pros and cons of buying a property.

One factor that seems to slip most everyday homeowners' minds is inflation. This depreciates your home's value a few percentage points each year. Everything generally tends to cost slightly more each year. This process automatically lowers the values of properties. So even in the years when your property assessment valuation remained the same as previous years, you were actually losing money due to inflation. Some of this is offset during an appreciating market. But this can also be exacerbated during a downturn in the market, such as we're experiencing now.

Now one can always say, "I want the assessed value low so that my taxes are lower. I can always ask whatever I want, and get more than that, when and if I sell."

That is a bubble market mentality. "I can always get above the assessed value. Real estate doesn't depreciate." Savvy buyers, and those whom have been brought back to reality by our recent financial upheaval, would not pay a large amount above an assessed valuation - since it's based on sales of comparable properties. Hoping to pay a property tax amount below a property's fair share and then reaping large rewards later upon a sale is: 1) mostly a pipedream, 2) unfair to those paying their fair share, 3) hurtful to needed programs funded by property taxes, and 4) selfish.

Just something to think about as people complain about the [supposedly overly high] value of their properties. Do owners actually want to see their values decrease? It would be analogous to wanting your stocks to stay low in value (or decline) so you don't have to pay capital gains tax. Taxes are the price of civilization and we all need to be more aware of such when we make our investments and purchases...rather than complaining after we've overextended (bought too much house) ourselves.

For Further Reading:
Assessment v Property Tax
Tax Burden Shifting: Exemptions
Wisconsin Tax Truths in the Land of Tax Trickery

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