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El Cerrito Property Tax Explained

When looking to buy an El cerrito home, it’s crucial to know everything you should expect from life there. El cerrito property tax is a very important consideration. You need to know what you will pay and what might affect it. Those questions are answered in this article.

3d tax icon on a colorful background and text that reads El Cerrito property tax
Renée White

May 4, 2023
Table of content

    How Much Are Property Taxes In El cerrito?

    The State of California sets the base rate for property tax at 1%. Contra Costa County adheres to this, but different locations set the actual rate at different levels depending on a number of factors. Property tax in El cerrito varies based on:

    • Average real estate values
    • Budget needs for funding in the locale
    • Whether or not any direct/special assessments are in place

    At the time of writing, the average property tax rate in El cerrito is 1.11%.

    The property tax rate in El cerrito is close to average compared to the median rates for California and Contra Costa. Naturally, there is variation between different households in the city. It is recommended to do your homework and learn the exact tax rates for any addresses you are considering moving to.

    Property tax rates across the USA tend to fluctuate up and down depending on changes in average real estate values. Prices across the Bay Area have been consistent of late. But you should keep an eye on these trends as you explore the possibility of moving here.

    How To Calculate Property Taxes In El Cerrito?

    As previously mentioned, the base rate of property tax in California is 1%. You can use this as a simple means of estimating the most you can expect to pay in property tax in El cerrito. Simply divide the purchase price of the property by 100 and the answer will give you some guidance on the highest annual property tax amount you can expect to pay. Bear in mind, however, that property tax rates vary around the city and the average is lower than 1%.

    For determining property tax, a formal appraisal of homes must be carried out semi-regularly. An appraisal must be conducted as part of a real estate transaction to determine its fair market value. Once the sale is complete, the purchase price will serve as the basis for calculating property tax. Property appraisals are carried out based on:

    • How much comparable properties are selling for in the neighborhood
    • Notable features of the property like pools, garages, extensions, etc.

    It’s important to note that a property’s assessed value can only increase by a maximum of 2% per year. In some areas of Contra Costa, real estate has soared in value by more than 20% in a year, but the assessed market value can still only increase by 2% (unless there is construction on the property or it changes hands). This is why property tax rates sometimes do not reflect the true market value of real estate.

    Let’s consider the following example:

    • A 2-bedroom home with a garage is valued at $450,000 in El cerrito
    • The property tax rate in the area is 1.11%
    • The first step is to divide the property value by 100: 450,000 ÷ 100 = 4,500
    • Next, you multiply the answer by the actual tax rate: 4,500 x 1.11 = 4,995
    • So the annual property tax for this home would be $4,995

    There are some options to consider for reducing your annual tax liability. This will be covered later on.

    How To Pay Your El cerrito Property Taxes?

    Property taxes in San Ramon are paid in the same ways as elsewhere in Contra Costa County. The Contra Costa Tax Collector’s office collects all payments for the county. When payments are due, you can choose from the following:

    • Attend the office to pay in person
    • Make the payment over the phone
    • Pay it online
    • Use an electronic funds transfer
    • Send a check in the mail

    The payment method you choose is entirely your decision. The range of options available is designed to accommodate the maximum needs of citizens. The details for using different payment methods are always included in the information pack that goes out with property tax bills. You will need to know your property tax account number, which is printed on your bill.

    The Contra Costa Country Tax Collector’s office is in the Finance Building in Martinez, CA. Opening hours are Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm. This is where you must go to make your payment in person.

    Payments are accepted by:

    • Cash
    • Check
    • Cashier’s check
    • Certified check
    • Money order

    You can also pay by credit/debit card if you so choose, but there will be a service fee.

    If you wish to pay over the phone, you will need to call 925-608-9500 and follow the prompts of the automated system. The call can be carried out in English or Spanish and you will need your tax bill number as part of the process. Payments are made via debit or credit card and will incur the service charge – more details below.

    The online option is a popular one among El cerrito residents. You can do this over at the Contra Costa County website. Payment by credit or debit card will incur a service fee of 2.5%, with a minimum charge of $3.50.

    Whatever payment method you choose, be sure to read the information that comes with your property tax bill. It will let you know everything you need to know about payments, including due dates and deadlines.

    El Cerrito Property Tax Due Dates

    Contra Costa County imposes the same due dates and deadlines county wide for property tax payments. September-October is when the bills are mailed out to citizens and you can view them online from this date. Problems with mailing systems can occasionally lead to bills not arriving at the intended address, but this is not an excuse for not paying. It is your responsibility to get your tax bill and pay it on time.

    Learn these key dates:

    • November 1 – the date your first property tax installment becomes due
    • December 10 – the deadline for paying your first installment
    • February 1 – the date your second property tax installment becomes due
    • April 10 – the deadline for paying your second installment

    You will find all these due dates printed clearly on your property tax bill. That same information is available online. If you miss payment deadlines you will have to pay penalty charges. It could even lead to legal action being brought against you.

    What Happens If Your Payment Is Late?

    El cerrito citizens are subject to penalties and fees if they fail to pay their property tax on time. The purpose of these measures is to deter people from missing payments. The penalties arrive at a set rate as punishment for non-payment and the additional static fees cover the resulting administration costs.

    These are the penalties and fees:

    • 1.5% will immediately be added to the amount you owe for missing the first installment deadline. For every subsequent month that passes, a further 1.5% will be added until the payment is made in full.
    • The penalty for missing the second installment is 10%. A $20 collection fee will also apply and the remaining balance will increase by 1.5% each month until full payment is made.

    Tax authorities will pursue these payments and the amount owed can build up considerably over time. If your non-payment continues for several months, legal action may be filed against you. This will be expensive and may result in property being seized to cover your debt.

    If you know that paying your tax might be difficult, you should contact the tax office and inform them as early as possible. You may be able to negotiate an alternative arrangement to pay your tax. A tax advisor could be helpful in these circumstances if you can afford it – in any case, keep your tax office informed of your situation.

    How To Lower Your Tax Liability?

    There are several potential avenues for lowering your El cerrito property tax liability, depending on your circumstances. In a nutshell, they are as follows:

    • Apply for property tax exemptions
    • Appeal against property appraisals

    The exemptions available in the state of Contra Costa apply to the following people:

    • Veterans
    • Those aged 55+
    • Certain non-profit organizations like religious groups or charities
    • Homeowners exemption (see the next section)

    Proposition 19 is another option you could pursue. There are very specific criteria you must meet in order to qualify for one of these exemptions. They could lead to part or all of your property tax liability being removed. Contact your tax office to learn more about the criteria and whether you might qualify. If you believe one applies to you, request an application form and fill it out quickly. The tax office will make a decision based on your application.

    Many people choose to challenge their appraised market value for a reassessment. This can be done on two different grounds:

    • Sales comparisons – you must have market value estimated at a time when real estate values are declining in your area.
    • Unequal appraisals – this involves showing that there have been excessively high appraisals for comparable properties in your area

    An assessment appeal application can be filed between July 2nd and November 30th if any dispute remains. You could appoint a tax advisor to help with this appeal. But only pursue if you have a genuine case, otherwise it could end up costing you more money.

    What Is Homeowners Property Tax Exemption?

    Owner-occupiers in El Cerrito have a strong chance of qualifying for homeowners property tax exemption. If you own your home and it is your primary residence, you may be able to reduce the taxable value of that property by up to $7,000 or $70 off your bill. This could reduce the amount you have to pay for your property tax.

    Usually, you will be given a form to apply for this exemption upon purchasing your new home in El cerrito. If you don’t you can contact the Contra Costa Tax Collector’s office and ask to have one sent to your address. This is definitely worth doing to help reduce your tax liability.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How Much Are Property Taxes In El cerrito?

    Though tax rates vary throughout the city, the current average is 1.11%. This will change over time and it’s important to learn the exact rates for different areas.

    How To Pay Your El cerrito Property Taxes

    El cerrito property tax is payable in person, over the phone, online or via a few other avenues. Payments can be made by credit/debit card, cash, check and several other methods. Details are included with tax bills.

    What Happens If Your Payment Is Late?

    Late payments will incur penalties and fees that accumulate over time. Property tax is paid in two installments with separate deadlines for each.

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