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Adding insult to injury; distressed entry-level neighborhoods now over assessed by thousands in San Francisco and San Mateo Counties.

San Francisco, CA - August 26, 2008 - While properties that declined in value in Marin, Sonoma, Contra Costa and Alameda counties have had subsequent declines in their tax assessments, the distressed properties in San Francisco and San Mateo counties have not had the same trending by their county assessors. Consequently, many of the entry-level neighborhoods in San Francisco and San Mateo Counties are now over assessed by as much as 35%.

With the assessment appeal deadline of September 15 rapidly approaching, San Francisco appraiser John Emery cautioned that “homeowners, who purchased in entry level neighborhoods between 2005-2007, can save thousands every year by filing a timely appeal with their Assessors office”.

John Emery, a 30 year veteran appraiser in San Francisco, recently completed a study identifying which areas of San Francisco have declined in value and by how much. The study also cites hundreds of recent sale and list prices of homes and compares them to their current tax assessments and valuations from two major online valuation services.

“To make matters worse, the online valuation services are also overvaluing these same areas by as much as 30%. Many homeowners are unaware of the value declines or by how much” Emery warned. “property owners can save $250/yr for every $25,000 reduction in assessed value, so determining a fair and accurate value is essential”.

The study found that Bayview has been hardest hit with some current assessments now running $200,000 over current list price. “Many homeowners could save over $2000 a year” said Emery “but most have not yet filed an appeal”.

While the San Francisco County Assessor has had an increase in appeals, Emery believes the actual number of over assessed properties is much greater. “there are about 2,500 people who purchased at peak levels in the afflicted areas of San Francisco” said Emery, “so I suspect we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg for appeals”

Emery, an appraisal specialist for San Francisco and the Silicon Valley, has appraised thru two prior market declines in his 30 year career. “In the past, we’ve seen assessment appeals double every year that a downturn continues” said Emery, noting that “while values are probably near the bottom, we’re unlikely to see any improving trends for at least another year”.

“Unfortunately, these disproportional assessments are affecting those who can least afford it. And most homeowners in the afflicted areas are first time homebuyers who are less savvy in knowing the how, when and where to file assessment appeals”

Emery recommends that homeowners check their assessments with actual listings and sales in their neighborhoods and not to rely on online valuations. “The online valuations usually only vary by 10-20%” said Emery, “but now we’re noticing 20-40% variations, leaving them utterly useless to the homeowner fighting city hall”

For properties over assessed by less than $25,000 Emery does not recommend spending money to gather data for an appeal. “most homeowners can get all the listings and sales they need for an appeal from the internet for free” Emery suggested, “so don’t waste money on data”.

“If a property is over assessed by more than $50K“, Emery advises, “an actual appraisal may by worthwhile.“ The best form of evidence for valuation is an appraisal performed by a state certified appraiser. To keep the costs of an appeal down, Emery suggests obtaining “drive-by” appraisals that usually cost $200-$300 instead of full appraisals, which typically cost $350-$500. “Shop around and find a nearby appraiser. They can perform the best work at the lowest cost”, advised Emery.

Emery also noted that while some areas of San Francisco and San Mateo Counties have declined, most neighborhoods have held in value. And because of Prop 13, all homeowners who purchased prior to 2004 are unlikely to be over assessed.

The study data and results can be viewed at