PART FIVE: Coronavirus Crisis in California Motivating State Politicians to Push Unpopular “Split-Roll” Property Tax

Property Taxes In California

Property Taxes In California

As we get close to wrapping up this six part report on the devastating affect the Coronavirus crisis has  had on the California economy, and the housing market throughout the state, let’s clarify one thing – not all the news is negative.  There are positives, or upsides, in view.

California, unlike most other states in America, still provides citizens with property tax relief benefits from Proposition 13 and Proposition  58 with loans to trusts (or loans to irrevocable trusts), the legal right to transfer parents property taxes when inheriting property and inheriting property taxes.

With Proposition 13 and Proposition 58, California gives beneficiaries and property owners the ability to keep parents property taxes no matter how low the base rate is — upon property tax transfer…. with parent to child transfer or, as estate lawyers refer to it, “parent to child exclusion”.  No other state gives citizens property tax breaks anywhere near this type of property tax relief.  So no matter how challenging things get as a result of the current health crisis, Californians can always turn to these property tax benefits for positive options when dealing with inheritance assets such as real property, trust loans, sibling property buyouts and related matters.

Aside from that, there are a series of objective, updated conclusions and assumptions that the California Association of Realtors has recently provided; that they want residential and commercial as well as industrial property owners, and beneficiaries, to be aware of:  

(a) Mortgage rates are expected to remain low, or even go lower, as Coronavirus outbreaks continue nationally, as well as in California.   Therefore, economists anticipate that this will most likely help lower the cost of borrowing money and this is expected to make housing more affordable over the short term, which, if this projection is accurate, will help mitigate some of the uncertainty and negative impact on housing demands in California.

(b) Potential home buyers might be discouraged by increasing uncertainty and fear of oncoming recession. However mortgage rates recently fell to an all-time low of 3.13%. Down from 3.80% at the beginning of the year, representing cost savings over the life of a 30-year loan. These anticipated short-term economic risks are genuine,  however they may be offset by the long-term benefits of lower rates for individual borrowers.

(c) Economic volatility in California may lower demand for luxury housing, as overall household wealth declines; however this volatility may also create unique opportunities for luxury home buyers. With less luxury buyers in the market, there could be opportunities for price discounts for buyers who remain in the high-end market.

(d) Demand from foreign home buyers could be vastly reduced. As domestic buyers generally finance homes in much larger proportions to their foreign counterparts, low rates could be stimulating more domestic demand in California – offsetting the negative impact that typically goes hand-in-hand with foreign buyer demand.

(e) Much of California’s Building Industry materials are purchased from Asian countries such as Japan and China or Malasia. As the Coronavirus crisis disrupts these supply chains, the cost of these materials may increase over the short-term and become limited, thereby increasing cost of construction and reducing the pace of already tightening residential development in 2020 – 2021.

(f) Improved affordability may emerge from lower rates plus fewer new homes being constructed – as the material supply chain is impacted. This may lead to an upward pressure on home prices in California. Unsold inventory is already at low levels, so reduced construction means that is likely to continue – especially if buyers respond to lower rates.

(g) The situation in California remains fluid, and conditions could deteriorate beyond the current severity of the virus outbreak. Yet if   current economic forecasts of modest declines in GDP growth are realized, the effects of lower rates should help offset the effects of a slow economy with increased economic uncertainty so  California could still experience improved home sales and prices this year.

It’s clear that the Coronavirus is having, and will continue to have, a material impact on the California economy, and in particular the housing market through 2020 on into 2021… However, it is also safe to say that this is not necessarily the right time to panic.

The effect of lower rates will help to offset some of these movements in the housing market, and forecasts of economic growth by the California Association of Realtors and other organizations have been revised in a  downward direction, but only by tens of basis points – not hundreds.

The situation in California remains fluid; therefore C.A.R. along with attentive and realistic economists at the Public Policy Institute of California or Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, and other responsible organizations, will certainly be closely monitoring all of these property matters and financial issues… and will be providing all of us with accurate data, as updated information continues to develop and surface.   

>> Click Here: To Continue to Part Six…

PART ONE: Coronavirus Crisis in California Motivating State Politicians to Push Harder for “Split-Roll” Property Tax

California Property Taxes

California Property Taxes

The Coronavirus crisis is having a profound effect on various social-economic facets in California, however we will be focusing to a large degree on the real estate market, residential and commercial property issues, and property tax relief.

Moreover, the Coronavirus Pandemic has also apparently infused new support for the Split-Roll property tax in California, to pursue what would without question (if passed) be a “Pyrrhic victory”.  For those of you who might not know what that means, it’s a victory that results in such devastation to the so-called “victor” that the outcome may as well be an actual defeat! Named after King Pyrrhus of Epirus, his army suffered irreplaceable casualties in defeating the Romans at the Battle of Heraclea, in 280 BC.

At any rate, if this misguided property tax measure wins by vote in November at the ballot, many politicians and newspaper editors falsely believe that this revision to the commercial property tax code will “raise billions of dollars for cash-strapped schools and California counties”… with no negative downside. 

Now there is where they are taking the wrong turn in the road.  They even have California Secretary of State Alex Padilla drinking the Cool-Aid, and  taking a stand as primary cheerleader for this tax on middle class small business property owners, modest landlords, and so on. 

Yes, some large cash-rich corporations and wealthy business property owners and landlords will be impacted, of course.  But the critics of Proposition 13 and Proposition 58 tax relief still are continuously attempting to convince  all of us that everyone affected by a business or commercial property tax will be super rich, and therefore it won’t really matter.  

Not so. Not even close to being so.  Sure, a Split-Roll property tax will affect some wealthy commercial property owners… but many  commercial properties are owned by middle class landlords, or even upper middle class commercial property owners basically leveraged to the hilt.  But wealthy?  No.  

In fact, many of these property owners and landlords are just “getting by” – and a property tax like the one these anti property tax relief politicos and newspaper editors want to impose on commercial property owners with the falsely named “Proposition 13” property tax (“coincidentally” with the same title as the 1978  genuine Proposition 13 tax relief measure… simply to confuse voters) would surely serve to destroy hundreds if not thousands of these modest or small business property owners.  With the end result being widespread foreclosure and bankruptcy, obviously.

Not to mention business tenants having to deal with increased rents they will no longer be able to afford… and so all of these goods and services from one end of California to the other will increase virtually overnight!  And we’ll discuss these disastrous side effects later on in this six-part article.

Interestingly enough, none of these critics of the authentic 1978 Proposition 13 tax relief measure acknowledge that any of these negative and dangerous outcomes are a realistic possibility.  They dance around the fact that small businesses and most landlords  in California will not be able to absorb immediate rent increases due to property tax reassessment. 

On the other hand, if small businesses in California aren’t able to raise prices – they will most likely be forced to cut internal costs, which will include cutting employee compensation and benefits, and/or laying off employees.  So we’ll have even more people out of work.  And some of these small businesses, and perhaps larger businesses as well, will have to relocate, or worse case scenario will go completely out of business – creating an oversupply of commercial space AND higher vacancy rates, which would cause commercial property rents and values to actually decline.  Yet another hidden problem. 

This will end up decreasing  job opportunities in California, due to decreased economic activity overall throughout the state. 

This is the guaranteed downside of the Split-Roll tax that, believe it or not, Secretary of State Padilla and other political critics of property tax relief in California are not looking at.  They would do well to start looking… or they are going to step into a disastrous quagmire of their own making, if this property tax actually passes in November. 

Another key point to consider, while we’re on the subject.  Even though politicians on the state and local level claim that a “revised  Prop 13 with Split-Roll tax” includes “a small-business exemption” – it would be advisable to not buy into these vague promises from local politicians whose word is highly suspect at best!  A suspect Split-Roll tax with a reassessment exemption that is highly questionable is only for the most naive of us to believe. 

A Split-Roll tax, supposedly only imposed on commercial property owners in California will be deeply crippling for many if  not all businesses and commercial entities that own business property in California.  The revised property tax measure supposedly expands the “reassessment exemption” to small business owners with property valued at $3 million or less, up from the initial $2 million threshold.  Frankly, this sounds like double-talk to most of us.

One of “us” being Rob Gutierrez,  President of California Taxpayers Association. Mr. Gutierrez says these supposed “protections” for small businesses, a Split-Roll tax with a reassessment exemption that isn’t even close to being strong enough to allow these business owners to survive… with thousands of jobs that would have been for Californians, down the drain!  More people on the Unemployment  Line.  A Split-Roll tax with a reassessment exemption, that is basically worthless. Next, when we’re not looking, they’ll target consumer property tax relief, as well as Proposition 58 property transfer tax breaks and trust loan tax benefits from trust lenders… That’s their playbook.

“Because so many small businesses rent as opposed to own their commercial space… higher property taxes on the buildings they rent space in will of course result in more expensive rent for them”, Mr. Gutierrez says… “What that translates into is higher prices for consumers and brick-and-mortar stores.  Dry cleaners, grocers, companies that cannot move, will have to find a way to pass these costs on, plus lay workers off…” 

And as usual, who does this get passed on to?  You and I.  The consumers.

>> Click Here: to Continue to Part Two…