St. Johns County Property Tax Tips Home Buyers Need to Know

Homeowners should factor property taxes in as one significant cost of homeownership. Both Florida and St. Johns County property tax rules may confuse some homeowners; and certainly, these misunderstandings could cost homebuyers more money than they originally planned to spend. This is particularly true for folks who have just purchased their first home or who are new to this area.

This quick primer covers essential tips about handling St. Johns County and Florida property tax. If you plan to buy a new MasterCraft Home in Oxford Estates, Shearwater, RiverTown or Villages of Valencia, or even if you have just purchased one, this information could keep you from overpaying your property taxes.

Quick Tips About St. Johns County Property Taxes for New Home Buyers

The first thing to understand is that the county bases taxes on a home’s “assessed value” and “taxable value.” If all other things are equal, a home with a higher assessed value will generate a higher property tax bill than a home with a lower assessed value. In addition, homes within different taxing districts inside the county may get taxed at somewhat different rates—called “millage rates.”  For instance, a home within the City of St. Augustine will pay higher taxes than a home with the same assessed value that lies outside of the city limits because the City of St. Augustine has a higher millage rate. Millage rates in these different districts depend upon the tax revenue allocated for the school district, water management district, public safety, mosquito control, and so on within each particular district. The chart below illustrates the breakdown of the millage rate for St. Johns County in 2015.

ROAD 0.7100
HEALTH 0.0171
SJRWMD 0.3023
FIRE 1.4625

St. Johns County Homestead Exemption and Other Exemptions

Homeowners who buy a primary residence can enjoy a substantial tax break called “homestead exemption.”  A primary residence is defined as a home in which a person resides in and maintains a place of abode in that county which he or she recognizes and intends to maintain as his or her permanent home.  The homestead exemption is available if you meet the following criteria:

  • Per the Florida Constitution (VIII) (6) (b), each individual or family unit is entitled to ONE homestead exemption. If you or your spouse claim(s) residency at another location in Florida or in another state and benefit(s) from a tax credit or exemption on property you own at another location in Florida or in another state, you are not eligible to file for homestead exemption in St. Johns County unless or until the other exemption/benefit is relinquished.
  • Filers must have made the home their permanent residence by the 1st day of the filing year—so on or before Jan 1.

A homestead exemption essentially reduces your assessed value by $50,000 which makes the “taxable value” of your home $50,000 less. $25,000 of the $50,000 is a full reduction of the taxable value of your home.  The second part of the homestead exemption, which passed in 2008, allows for an additional $25,000 off the assessed value of your home as it relates to the various parts of the millage rate except the portion of your taxes attributed to schools.

As a quick example, assume the assessed value of your home is $200,000 and you’re eligible to receive the homestead exemption.  The taxable value of your home (the value used by which to multiply the millage rate) would be as follows:

Assessed Value of Your Home $200,000
Homestead Exemption (part 1) $25,000
Taxable Value for School Portion of the Millage $175,000
Homestead Exemption (part 2) $25,000
Taxable Value for All Portions of Millage except School $150,000

Homeowners who qualify for the homestead exemption might also qualify for some additional exemptions for their property tax.

These additional exemptions include tax breaks for:

  • Seniors
  • Widows and widowers
  • Service-related or non-service-related disabilities
  • Blindness

Homeowners may save quite a bit on their property taxes by learning about the various exemptions, making sure they qualify for them, and applying for them in time.

First Year of Taxes on a Newly Constructed Home

If you buy a newly constructed home, it’s important to understand how the county will calculate your assessed value for the first year the home was built versus the following years as the tax bill will be significantly different.

  • For the year in which your home was built and closed, your tax bill will classify your property as unimproved or vacant property—or in simple terms, just the value of the lot.
  • The tax bill for the calendar year after your home was built will classify your home as improved property and will therefore be based on the lot and the home.

Since the value of the lot on which your home is built is significantly less than the overall value of your home on the lot, the tax bill for the first calendar year of ownership will be significantly less than the following years.

“Save Our Homes” Amendment and Portability

The “Save Our Homes” regulation, usually called SOH, helps current property taxpayers by capping increases in tax assessments from one year to the next. SOH was put into place to help those property owners in areas where values are rapidly increasing.  The SOH keeps these assessments from increasing by a) more than three percent, or b) more than the increase in the consumer price index, whichever is lower. It only applies to Florida residents who use the home as a primary residence and qualify for a homeowner’s exemption. However, this rule may artificially deflate the taxes paid on an existing home because the taxes will be reset to the updated present value once the home sells.

For example, lets say you purchased your home 10 years ago for $200,000 but it’s now worth $300,000.  Assuming an increase of the maximum 3% per year, your assessed value would be $260,955 at the end of the 10 years.  Since your home is really worth $300,000, you have a savings (in assessed value) of $39,045 ($300,000 – $260,955).

The portability part of SOH is a tremendous savings to homeowners in Florida that wish to buy a different home (assuming a primary residence).  Portability allows a property owner to transfer the savings in assessed value (the $39,045) to the new primary residence.  Therefore, if your new home has a market value of $500,000, your assessed value would be $460,955.  The limit on the portability is $500,000 so long as the home you’re purchasing is of a greater value than the one you just sold.

You should apply for your SOH transfer at the same time you apply for your new homestead exemption. Again, the deadline is March 31 of the second calendar year. You can learn more about transferring SOH caps and find the forms at the Florida Department of Revenue.

The Importance of Managing Property Taxes

If you qualify for exemptions or caps, make certain that you apply for them on time. Otherwise, your second property tax bill could hold an unpleasant surprise. As a homebuyer, you should consider your property taxes as a cost of homeownership. As with other costs, proper management of property taxes can help save money. The St. Johns County Property Appraiser’s Office has a handy online property tax calculator that can help you understand your millage rate and estimate your tax bill.

As an award-winning Northeast Florida homebuilder, and as residents of this part of Florida, the team at MasterCraft Builder Group works hard to give each customer a chance to learn about the value their new home. For more information about our new home communities, we invite you to contact us or register to receive email updates on all that’s happening in St. Johns, Florida.