California’s Most Taxed Cities

March 12, 2020 | Team Sundae Team Sundae

Here are the Golden State cities with the highest property taxes and the most homeowners behind on their taxes.

California offers an interesting disparity when it comes to property. There’s a high percentage of palatial homes that cost millions of dollars. These homes come with high taxes. This can turn even wealthy buyers off from an area simply because they’re worried about their own tax liability.

On the flip side are areas in California where homeowners are struggling to pay their taxes. Homes aren’t as big or expensive, yet outside circumstances cause many residents to get behind on their property taxes. Both issues come with their own set of costs and possible red flags for buyers and sellers, and each helps create California’s most taxed cities.

California property taxes

Although California property taxes fall below the national average by about .31 percent, the expense is not cut and dry. Because each city adds its own taxes to the general state property tax, where you live impacts how much you pay.

California collects an annual property tax of one percent of the assessed value of a home. Assessed value is typically calculated with the home’s purchase price as the base. The first year you own a home, you pay one percent of that as your property tax. The base “value” of your home then goes up two percent each consecutive year for tax purposes. This general property tax is the largest tax in the assortment of property-related taxes you’ll pay each year. In total, California property taxes include:

  • One percent general property tax.
  • Additional taxes to cover local items such as city, water, school, and community college.
  • District Levies that include additional assessments like sidewalks, flood control, and street lighting.
  • Mello-Roos taxes.
  • Parcel taxes.

California cities with the highest property tax

Because the size and cost of homes varies greatly throughout California, some cities end up with extremely high property tax burdens. Often just a few high-end neighborhoods within a single community can change the city’s median. With that in mind, here are the top five cities in California paying the most in property taxes.

5. Hidden Hills

Median property tax: $27,000.

A popular community for celebrities and equestrians, the largest home in the city, a 7.4 acre property, sold for $22.2 million in 2019 according to the Los Angeles Times. The appeal of this area is its proximity to Los Angeles and the bustle of Beverly Hills. Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West call this community home as do Drake, Miley Cyrus, and Jessica Simpson. 

4. Los Altos Hills

Median property tax: $28,000.

Adjacent to Silicon Valley, Los Altos Hills is one of only five American cities where more than half of the homes cost over $2 million. Known for its privacy, its nearness to places like Google and Yahoo draws in a wealthy crowd of tech industry leaders and executives. 

3. Newport Coast

Median property tax: $28,500.

An upscale community in Orange County, living this close to the beach comes with a cost. Home values average around $2 million, and the price per square foot for homes averages out at $824. Newport draws more than just those looking for a nice piece of property. The area’s abundance of outdoor activities and restaurants means a large influx of visitors coming for the day. 

2. Hillsborough

Median property tax: $ 30,000.

Located near San Francisco in San Mateo County, Hillsborough offers a more laid-back feel than being right in the city. It attracts residents who need to get away at the end of the day. Home to quite a few tech industry titans, the median home value is around $2 million, which is a lot to pay for a quiet atmosphere to call home. 

1. Atherton

Median property tax: $35,000.

Also located in the Bay Area, Atherton is known as the most expensive zip code in the nation. It  is a completely residential community with only high-end properties; no shops or restaurants. The median home sale price in this ultra private town is $6.7 million. Sitting within commuting distance to both Palo Alto and San Francisco, more than one tech billionaire calls this community home. 

 

Top 25 California cities with highest property taxes

RankCityMedian Tax BurdenNumber of Houses
1Atherton$34,9182,513
2Hillsborough$29,83023,963
3Newport Coast$28,4762,962
4Los Altos Hills$27,9852,795
5Hidden Hills$26,941584
6Ross$24,996809
7Rolling Hills$23,922827
8Rancho Santa Fe$23,7864,309
9Beverly Hills$23,10521,790
10Woodside$21,4003,730
11Monte Sereno$20,0701,206
12Diablo$19,844346
13Portola Valley$19,6112,345
14Malibu$19,1795,546
15Kentfield$19,1771,512
16Belvedere Tiburon$18,8424,324
17Pacific Palisades$18,6347,046
18Los Altos$17,55410,884
19Marina Del Rey$17,401772
20Saratoga$16,38211,536
21Piedmont$15,77121,944
22Palos Verdes Estates$15,0154,897
23La Jolla$14,8948,423
24Corona Del Mar$14,7963,882
25San Marino$14,7704,549

Tax delinquencies

In stark contrast to California cities with extremely high property tax burdens, are cities in the state where the struggle to own a home is still very real. When property tax goes unpaid after its due date, no matter how much it is, the tax becomes delinquent.

You have five years in California to pay delinquent property taxes before you run the risk of losing your home. However, in that time, should you want to sell your home, you still can. Keep in mind that the sale cannot typically close until you deal with the delinquency. The potential loophole is if the purchase price of your home exceeds what you owe and the sale will allow you to pay off your taxes after paying off the remainder of your mortgage. If this is a possibility, you may want a quick sale, and going off market can help facilitate that.

California cities where tax delinquency is high

Looking for property as a prospective buyer, you may want to tread lightly in areas where you know there is a high percentage of property tax delinquencies. They can create more complicated situations to sell or buy a home. In California, the list of cities with high tax delinquencies includes:

  • Lancaster with 5.06 percent delinquencies.
  • Rancho Cucamonga, coming in at 8.07 percent.
  • Fontana at 12.48 percent.
  • San Bernardino at 15.58 percent.
  • Victorville at 16.82 percent.

 

The majority of these cities are in or near San Bernardino County. Lancaster is the only city in a different county, but it’s relatively close to the other four. They’re all located around Los Angeles. Below are the top 25 California cities with the highest percentage of homeowners with tax delinquencies

Top 25 California with most tax delinquencies

RankCityPercent DelinquenciesNumber of Houses
1Victorville16.82%34,676
2San Bernardino15.58%42,466
3Fontana12.48%46,148
4Rancho Cucamonga8.07%36,257
5Lancaster5.06%44,012
6Stockton4.93%78,903
7Palmdale4.79%42,346
8Fresno4.62%125,224
9Santa Maria4.41%26,395
10Bakersfield4.14%128,112
11Visalia4.02%38,000
12Tracy3.82%29,081
13Los Angeles3.75%211,208
14Antioch3.62%26,880
15Sacramento3.27%177,160
16Hemet3.23%27,038
17Clovis3.02%33,888
18Whittier3.00%37,748
19Oakland2.68%61,280
20Long Beach2.66%61,035
21Moreno Valley2.61%43,858
22Modesto2.41%58,462
23Vallejo2.36%30,500
24Menifee2.27%29,703
25Elk Grove2.18%47,868

The challenge of selling in California’s most taxed cities

Whether having to pay high property taxes or running into issues around a tax delinquency, both situations can create challenges when you’re ready to put your home on the market. If these issues do become roadblocks to selling your home in an appropriate time frame, consider getting an off-market offer.

At Sundae we aren’t turned off by property taxes and can make a competitive offer that may help you with your own tax challenges. We also get you an offer much faster than through a traditional listing, and don’t require you to put any money or effort into readying your home for sale. If you’d like to learn more, contact Sundae today.

Read more: 25 Cities With the Oldest Houses

Methodology

To determine the cities with the highest property tax burden and those with the most tax delinquencies in California, we looked at public tax assessor records provided by First American Data. Property tax burden is the estimated annual median property tax made by an owner in each city. Percent of tax delinquencies is the estimated total number of homeowners who missed a property tax payment in the past year divided by the total number of homes in that city. 

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