By Cheri Weiss
Homeowners over age 55 who are considering whether to downsize or remain in their current home may wish to consider the following options:
DOWNSIZING YOUR HOME WITHOUT PAYING INCREASED PROPERTY TAXES
If you want to sell your home and purchase a smaller, more manageable one but are worried about incurring increased property taxes, here is some good news: You may be eligible for a unique government program that allows you a one-time opportunity to sell your current home and downsize to a new home but pay the SAME PROPERTY TAX that you currently pay.
Currently, homeowners purchasing a new home in San Diego typically pay between 1 and 1.25% of the purchase price in property taxes. However, under the rules of Propositions 60 and 90, qualifying age-eligible homeowners electing to downsize would not pay this tax rate; rather, they would pay their current base year value.
Under the rules of Proposition 60, an age-eligible homeowner must sell and buy a home in the same county, with San Diego being one of 10 participating counties in California. Proposition 90 offers a qualifying homeowner the opportunity to sell his or her primary residence in one of the participating counties and transfer the current tax base to a new property in any of the other participating counties, which currently are: San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, San Mateo, Alameda, San Bernardino, Santa Clara, El Dorado, Riverside. (This list is subject to change; please check with the County Tax Assessor’s office for the most up-to-date information.)
For more detailed information and to determine whether or not you qualify for these tax exemptions or programs, please consult with your tax preparer and/or attorney.
STAYING IN YOUR PRESENT HOME AS YOU AGE
Chronic illness or increasing physical limitations need not automatically force you to leave your home as you age. With thoughtful and careful planning, you may be able to “Age in Place”— which will help you to maintain the quality of life you desire in the home of your choice. The focus of “Aging in Place” should be on SAFETY and COMFORT.
Modifications to your home may include installation of additional railings, increased lighting, non-skid flooring and grab bars in showers or tubs, walk-in showers etc., all designed to help reduce the risk of falling. Removing clutter and loose rugs that do not have non-skid backing, widening doorways, modifying door handles for easy gripping, installing kitchen cabinets with roll-out shelves, installing strobe-lit smoke detectors are just a few of the many recommended safety modifications. A home remodeler with a CAPS (Certified Aging in Place Specialist) designation will be trained in Universal Design principles and is therefore likely to have the expertise needed to retrofit your home to meet your future needs.
“Aging in Place” also involves knowing what community services are available to elderly and disabled people such as transportation, meal delivery services, home care, etc.
Your financial circumstances will be a critical factor in determining your ability to “Age in Place.” Make certain to have plans in place that address all financial and legal issues that may arise, and consult with an attorney specializing in elder law as well as an estate or financial planner.
There are many on-line resources that can assist you in planning for your future including the National Aging in Place Council: www.AgeInPlace.org. Planning ahead may allow you to have the option of remaining safely in your home for as long as you desire.
CHERI WEISS is the Broker/Owner of Top Coast Properties in La Jolla. She holds the SRES designation (Seniors Real Estate Specialist) from the National Association of Realtors and has also completed a year-long Graduate School course in Clinical Pastoral Education. You may contact her at (858) 829-8178 or email Cheri@TopCoastProperties. Visit LaJollaAndBeyond.com for more information.