Great question! We realize not everyone knows what senior exemptions are or how they affect the sale of real estate. We thought we would clarify that.
When you are looking at a condo or house for sale and see that the taxes are significantly lower than you think they should be, you are likely looking at a property with a senior tax exemption. If a home owner is over the age of 61 and is in a low income tax bracket and meets some general criteria as determined by the county tax Assessors office, they can apply for a senior tax exemption, which will in turn cause the county to re-assess the property and assess a much lower tax amount to the home owner.
If you are a buyer of a property with a senior tax exemption you should be aware that you are entitled to that lower tax amount, even if you are a mature urban dweller over 61 years of age. After the sale is complete, the tax exemption no longer applies to the property. The county will re-assess your home value and your taxes will go up accordingly. Until that happens you will be dealing with an estimated tax amount so be aware that your mortgage payment can change after the re-assess occurs and if the estimate was low you would owe the difference. You can always re apply however if you meet the criteria.
On another note, if you are an Estate selling a property with a senior tax exemption and the home owner who originally applied for the exemption has passed away, the Estate is not entitled to the exemption. So, if the Estate has held onto the property after the passing of the home owner, they would be required to have the property re-assessed and pay for the higher non-exempt tax amount. If an Estate is unaware of this, they might have quite a bit of unpaid taxes to pay off at closing, especially if they held onto the property for an extended amount of time.
For information on senior tax exceptions, you can visit the county Assessors website at
By Marco Kronen with Seattle Condo Review: A guide to Seattle Condos exclusively for buyers and sellers