If I had the proverbial quarter for every time a client told me that they didn't want to pay city taxes, I'd be a millionaire! I thought this would be a great time to blog about this topic given Aqua's recent push to increase rates without utility hearings. Several neighborhoods in Forsyth county are serviced by Aqua, such as Abington and Salem Glen. Understandably, it is clear that the tax rate between cities and county rates can be far apart. The certain lure and appeal of the lower rate sure seems enticing but it's important to make sure you know what you receive and don't receive for those annual property taxes and how it impacts your monthly budget outlay. First let's look at some basic, general differences.
City taxes usually encompass services such as a dedicated police and fire department, parks and recreation, public water/sewer access, trash/recycling/bulk pick-up and street maintenance. Of course, this is not inclusive of all cities. Some cities provide more or less depending on their structure and budget.
County taxes in the Triad usually cover county-wide services such as parks, schools and have add-ons for local fire jurisdictions depending again, on county size, budget and location.
Let's start by talking specifically about Kernersville. I have clients that have purchased in Abington and enjoyed the lower tax rates. However, it does not take long for these folks to realize that the private water company rates are far higher than city/county utility rates and can often increase on a regular basis, sending budgets into orbit. Add to that, trash and recycling collection which can tack on another $40-50 every two months. There are instances when averaged out, the expense of living in the county, outside of the city limits, can actually be equal to or more than living in the city limits. Of course, keep in mind, this determined on a case by case basis, not a generalization across the board. These same residents in Abington are served by the Sheriff's department and a volunteer or limited staffed fire department which generally has a longer response time than city police and fire. Let me be clear, this is NOT because of inefficiency of the departments, but more in part to the amount of area these providers have to cover. Again, something to keep in mind if you or a family member have regular need of medical service.
If you are not hooked up to city services such as water/sewer, the maintenance of septic tanks and wells should also be considered in your budgeting. On the flip side, not having to rely on or pay a bill for well water or sewer can be an upside and a boon to budget savings. Again, all is situational depending on the past maintenance, age and depth.
The bottom line is that you need to know up front, using the assistance of your real estate professional, what services the property taxes include and what services you might be required to pay for out of pocket on a monthly basis. It is important to make sure that your agent understands and has access/knowledge of these items in the city or area of the county you are interested in living. These items, especially ones that could increase exponentially over time or that you could be assessed for in the future could play a large role in the affordability of your purchase. At first glance it might appear that you are choosing an area that is less expensive with a smaller property tax impact. Knowledge is certainly power and power comes from planning...Happy House Hunting!
If you are interested in this topic, check out my Facebook page at Brooke Cashion & Associates to view an article we posted today (November 19, 2013) on a potential rate increase by Aqua for their NC clients. If you do not have access to a Facebook account, feel free to email me at Brooke.Cashion@allentate.com and I will send you a link to the article.