Archive for November, 2007

How to lower your property taxes

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

If you purchased your home in the past few years you may be eligible to temporally lower your property taxes.  You must act by November 30th,   so call the Marin County Assessor (415) 499-7215 to verify details.

With all the newspaper headlines you might be tempted to think anyone that owns a home would qualify but it does not work that way.  For the current tax year vales are based on what your home was worth January 1, 2007.  The assessor’s office only looks at closed sales, not how much they are asking for the home next door.  The comparable sales should be plus or minus three months from January 1.

All of this is based on the difference between the current tax value (assessment) and the value of January 1.  If you have owned your home for several years in your assessed value is LOWER (this is true for most homeowners) than the January 2007 value don’t do anything.  Even if you bought your home two years ago you likely will not qualify for a reduction, it really depends on your home, neighborhood, and city.  Novato, and in particular Hamilton have seen reduced values.  From San Rafael south values are similar to two years ago, some more, some less. 

The tax reduction is temporary, only lasting until values go up again.  You can file for a permeate reduction if you have special circumstances.  For example, you bought your home thinking it was in great condition only to find out it needed a new foundation, plumbing and electrical.  Really what that means is you overpaid for your home and it basically did not have anything to do with then current market conditions.  Call the Marin County Assessor for details.

If after reading all this and you think you have a case get the form and visit the Marin County Assessor.  By the way, this applies to all of California. For more information Google “California Prop. 8”.

Have a great Thanksgiving, and let me know if you have any questions on this.  Remember, if you ever need a contractor or service for your home, I keep a list of the good ones.

Warren Carreiro

Marin Real Estate Market is Impoving

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

The statics shown below indicate the percentage of homes on the market that are in escrow (the higher the percentage in escrow, the stronger the market).  It is interesting to see how the market shows downs as the mortgage mess hits but have since started to turn around.  Because it usually takes a month or so for a home to sell once it goes in escrow the numbers tend to follow, rather than lead, what the market is doing.

Marin Real Estate Stats Nov 07

 Considering how badly real estate is in many parts of the state and country we are lucky the Marin real estate market is doing as well as it is.  Historically Marin prices have not taken the wild swings down so this is not surprising to see this again.  If you bought your home within the past couple of years and are trying to sell it now be prepared, you may be taking a loss.  Marin real estate, like all real estate is a long term investment.  Don’t look at real estate as day-trading or you may be taking the same financial hits day-traders do.

Warren Carreiro

New San Rafael Fire Vegetation Ordinance

Friday, November 2nd, 2007

San Rafael has created a fire ordinance that may cost taxpayers and homeowners well over $25,000,000.  We did not vote on this and good chance you didn’t see it coming but the law is here now.This ordinance bothers me on several levels. Yes, we have recently seen Southern California burn and it could happen here; however, San Rafael is the only city in Marin to enact such a plan.  Aren’t Mill Valley, Ross, Kentfield, and Fairfax more vulnerable?  How much is this going to cost homeowner and taxpayers?  Yes, taxpayers are responsible for clearing that portion of city owned property that goes beyond the owner’s property line to within 100 feet of the structure.  This means a larger budget for the city; more employees and we all know that means more power. Cities like that.

I certainly don’t remember the Marin Indecent Journal or the City of San Rafael going out of there way to inform the public the were enacting a law which would affect over ten thousand homes.  The cost to San Rafael homeowner could exceed $25,000,000.  There is no provision for people on fixed incomes.  I have no doubt that in the future we will be reading a story in the IJ about some old couple that have lived in the same home for 50 years and is forced to sell because they cannot afford to comply with the fire ordinance.  Funny thing is this is not a “tax” does not require voter approval, what will they think of next.

This is a short summary of how the plan will affect you:



1. Trim the limbs of trees up 10 feet from the ground. 

 a. Only trim limbs 3 inches or less in diameter.

2. Cut grasses to 3 inches in height above the ground. 

3. Remove or cut all combustible vegetation such as, and not limited to, broom, gorse and other highly non-native plants (see attached list of required removals)

 a. In areas on a slope, check with an arborist or nursery about the replacement of vegetation that is fire resistant and produces roots to prevent erosion if they are removed. 

4. Trim tree limbs to a minimum of 10 feet away from the outlet of chimneys for 360 degrees. 

5. Remove dead trees. 

6. Remove all dead vegetation. 

7. Trim all vegetation so each plant has separation of twice the height of the tallest of the adjacent plant. 

8. Remove or chip all cut vegetation. 

9. Maintain roof and deck areas free of combustible vegetation. 


1. Remove combustible vegetation from under structural overhangs, including decks. 

2. Remove all “gasoline plants” (Junipers and Bamboo) within 15 feet of your structure. 

a. Replace with fire resistant plants to achieve the desired ornamental planting should you desire. 

3. Remove all “gasoline plants” (Junipers and Bamboo) from between 15 feet and 100 feet from your structure by 2011. 

a. Replace with fire resistive plants to achieve the desired ornamental planting should you desire. 

4. Distance woodpiles a minimum of 2 times the height of the woodpile away from any component of the structure on the property.  


1. Trim and maintain vegetation to within 10 feet of roadways as required for defensible space. 

2. Trim trees so they do not hang lower than 13’6″ above the roadway

City of San Rafael details are here and a short overview of the program is here.

This link shows the addresses of homes within the city defined high fire zone so click here to find out if this affects you.

Let’s take a look at the cost of this ordnance to homeowners and/or lessors’.  The number of structures affected is over ten thousand and the cost to each over varies significantly, so let’s look at a few sample estimates:

Average Cost  #Structures     Total Cost

$1,000             10,000             $10,000,000

$2,500             10,000             $25,000,000

$5,000             10,000             $50,000,000

$10,000           10,000             $100,000,000

It would not surprise me to see $2,500 or higher as the average cost, after all how many homes have trees that will need to be trimmed or Junipers that need to be removed and replaced with something new?  Also, that cost does not include annual maintenance.

What are your thoughts is the city okay enacting this without a vote (I don’t mean legally but ethically)?  Does the decrease in fire danger justify spending any amount of money?  If other cities get to vote on a flood tax why can’t we vote on a “fire” tax?  The City of San Rafael seems pretty fast to put there hands in our pocket.  We are one of the few cities that have a transfer tax on real estate sales and we just had a whopping increase in our sales tax.  Don’t get me going on the sales tax, it is automatically adjusted upward just based on inflation without any extra percent added on.

Warren Carreiro