Homeowners with almost insignificant property taxes and those with hefty burdens are, literally, about as far apart as you can get, according to a new report by Wallet Hub regarding the states with the highest and lowest property taxes in the nation.
The recently released April report finds that homeowners in Hawaii have the country’s lowest property tax burden, coming in at an average of $482 per year. Meanwhile, New Jerseyans must contend with the highest property taxes, paying an average of just under $4,000 a year. This puts the national average for property taxes at $2,089 a year, almost to the dollar what residents of Massachusetts, Alaska, and Minnesota (ranked 31st to 33rd) pay.
Wallet Hub’s rankings, however, do not factor in the hidden costs with which mortgage borrowers must often contend. Mortgage companies, for example, typically add one-twelfth of a borrower’s estimated property taxes to that client’s monthly mortgage payment (a process called escrow or impound) as a way to stave off costly filing and service costs they would assume should a borrower go delinquent.
But while some states, such as California, allow residents to pay property taxes as part of their mortgages, others do not. According to the National Tax Lien Association, property tax delinquency sends roughly $15 billion worth of homes into foreclosure annually. According to Thomas C. Kinnaman, a professor of economics at Bucknell University, every $1,000 in property tax increases equals a $50,000 increase in the cost of the house.
Diane Lourdes Dick, assistant professor of law at Seattle University, reminds that mortgage borrowers should be aware of more than just the dollar amounts quoted for a property tax bill, whether hidden in a mortgage loan payment or paid separately. “Taxation is not only important from a home affordability standpoint,” she says. “The way that tax revenues are used by the government to fund education, infrastructure, and public services should also be considered by prospective buyers.”
Alabama, Louisiana, Delaware, and South Carolina round out the five states with the lowest property taxes, each coming in at less than $1,000 a year. Michigan, Nebraska, Connecticut, Texas, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and Illinois join New Jersey in having annual property taxes that average above $3,100 a year.