Paul Cowdery presents to CLSA’s Northern Counties Chapter


Paul Cowdery, Director of Sales and Business Development at ParcelQuest, has spoken at a variety of public engagements on various topics related to California property issues. More recently, Paul has engaged several customer audiences on the history of the property assessment process and the recent impact of the real estate market crash. Because of ParcelQuest’s unique relationship with CA County Assessors and the daily process that ParcelQuest uses to standardize and analyze the property tax roll data provided by the counties, we’re in a unique position to understand actual effects of the new ‘Prop-13 and Prop-8 paradigm’.

Most are familiar with Proposition 13 that passed in 1978 that limits property assessment increases to 2% annually regardless of market behavior. For much of the last 30 years, it’s represented a collective ‘win-win’ for state agencies and property owners. Agencies could enjoy revenue growth from small yearly property tax increases while both residential and commercial property owners could count on property tax stability. The real estate crash of 2007 changed all of this. It ushered in an era of uncertainty and, more importantly, it created the ‘event driven assessment process’. Proposition 8 (also passed in 1978) allows for reductions in assessed value ‘if a property’s value has been reduced by economic conditions’. In the 36 years since the passage Props-13 and 8, economic conditions have almost NEVER had a statewide impact on assessed values – until now.

For the first time since 1978, a large portion of California’s property tax revenue is tied to fluctuations in the real estate market. But almost no one understands why this new reality has occurred or knows what to expect in the future. Furthermore, after 33 years of highly predictable revenue, many are scrambling for insight into what makes some assessment values fluctuate while others remain stable, whether or not there is still a measure of predictability to this revenue source, and how long budgets will be subject to market forces.

In his presentation to the Northern Counties Chapter of C.L.S.A (CA Land Surveyors Assocition), Paul does an excellent job of breaking it all down and helps us understand how this once (somewhat) simple and straightforward process has become so complicated – and what it all means!

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This video tutorial is the third and final in our series geared towards basic searching examples and looking at the different ways you can get to the Navigator map. In this video, we’ll look at how the Geography search works.

  • For this search, you have two options for bringing up the map. There is the Section, Township and Range lookup or a search by latitude and longitude.
  • Either of these search types can be helpful in locating a parcel if you do not know its typical information such as the APN, address or owner name.
  • You also may just enjoy working with maps and finding things the old fashioned way. If so, the Geography search is for you.
  • Let’s start by seeing how the Section, Township and Range search works. First we’ll choose an option from each drop down box including the meridian where the parcel is located. For this example, let’s go with Section 35 in Township 11N and Range 11E in the Mount Diablo Meridian.
  • You should now see the red section outline showing up on the map. You can also click on the pushpin to verify the location information as well as link to the corresponding BLM maps.
  • Finally, let’s locate the parcel we were looking for and activate it.
  • The other search option you have is using latitude and longitude coordinates. There are several format choices available, which are shown to the right of the search area as well as in the user guide, but for this example let’s use decimal degrees. (38.758275, -120.709190)
  • Now when the map comes up, you should get a pushpin showing where the coordinates intersect.
  • As we did in our last search, let’s activate our subject parcel by clicking where the pushpin is located and verify the owner.

Thanks for watching!

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Find My Parcels!

This video tutorial is the second in our series geared towards basic searching examples and looking at the different ways you can get to the Navigator map. In this video, we’ll look at how the Find My Parcels search works.

  • What you will probably notice first about the Find My Parcels section is that occupies the majority of the search page. This is due to the fact that this search looks directly at our Assessor data so here is where you will have the most search options available.
  • The available categories are Ownership, Address, Assessment, Sales and Characteristics.
  • By using one or more fields in these sections, you can search for specific property information based on what the county has entered in their database.
  • Your search could be as simple as a single APN lookup that gets you one selected parcel on the map. Let’s bring up parcel 069-0390-044 in Sacramento County.
  • On the other hand, you may have multiple criteria entered that results in several hundred matches. Now let’s search only in the city of Sacramento for properties with an assessed value greater than $300,000 that sold in the last six months and have three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
  • Now you should see a summary of search results so you can confirm what you’ve entered before viewing the properties. First, there are the fields listed that we searched, followed by the criteria we entered and finally, the number of results found for each individual field. Then, at the bottom of the list, there is a Total Found count that shows the number of results where all criteria matched.
  • You also have the option of whether or not you want the Navigator map to display with your list of results. Let’s leave it checked and click View Results.

So there you have the mapped results and down below is the list.

Oh, and by the way, please check out our video covering various search tips and tricks so you can make the most of finding your parcels.

Thanks for watching!

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Get Me Close!

This video tutorial will be the first in a series geared towards basic searching examples and looking at the different ways you can get to the Navigator map. In this video, we’ll look at how the Get Me Close search works.

  •  The three basic options for this search are an address, cross streets or point of interest. Let’s use each one as a different way to get to the same place on the map.
  • For an address, let’s search for 4141 Audubon Dr Camino CA. Note that this search is not case sensitive, punctuation is not required and you don’t even need a full address. In fact, this search works the same as a search with Google Maps so you can technically go anywhere in the world but keep in mind that we only have parcel data for California.
  • Now let’s go to the Navigator map and see how close we get. Then if you left click to turn on the parcel where the pushpin is located, you’ll see that we’ve found our address.
  • For the second example, let’s get close to the property by using two cross streets in the area. We’ll search for North Canyon Rd and Audubon Dr. The key here is that you need an “and” separating the two streets.
  • Also, when searching by cross streets, you typically won’t need any more criteria than the street names since this is a fairly unique combination. However, if you’re ending up in Saskatchewan or downtown Omaha, you may need to add a city or state.
  • Now when the map comes up, the pushpin should be where the two streets intersect so you will then need to use the satellite map to visually locate your parcel.
  • For our last example, let’s get back to the same area by using a point of interest search. We’ll search for Larsen Reservoir in Camino.
  • As with the cross street search, you may need to add more specific criteria if you’re being taken somewhere else in the world. Also note that in order to search by a location, it will need to have a label on the Google map.

So now there’s the map with the pushpin over the reservoir and again, using the satellite imagery, you can visually locate your parcel and click on it.

Thanks for watching!

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Did you know? We now offer RECORDED DOCUMENTS!

In this video tutorial, we’ll go over how to find and order a recorded document.

  • There are two ways you can find a link to a recorded document. The first way is by looking up a particular parcel or some kind of general search to get a list of results.
  • For this example, let’s look for a subject parcel in El Dorado County and find its corresponding document.
  • The one we’re interested in is in the Sale2 column. When we click on the document link, a prompt comes up asking for password verification since this will result in a $5 charge to your account. At this point, you can either enter your password to download and view the document or click Cancel to go back.
  • Let’s go back for now and instead click on the Sale1 document link, which will go right to the download prompt since it’s one I purchased earlier.
  • Now we can open or save the file as a PDF. Let’s go ahead and open it so you can see an example of what a recorded document looks like.
  • Another place you can go to access recently purchased documents is through the News&Preferences link in the My Account menu. Here you can see all the relevant information for your downloaded documents and have a quick way to link back to them.
  • The second way you can get to a document is by searching for the document number directly. Let’s search for our previously purchased document in El Dorado County.
  • First, verify your county, then open the Sales section and enter the doc number in the box. For this example, we get more than one result but don’t panic because often times counties will reuse document numbers over the years.
  • Once you are viewing the results, this is where you would need the specific parcel number or address to locate the correct doc number. Then just click the appropriate APN and there’s our document.

Thanks for watching!

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Use Code v. Use Type

In this video tutorial, we’ll explore the differences and purposes of the use code and use type fields.

  •  The main difference between the two are that the use code comes directly from the Assessor’s office whereas the use type is a field that ParcelQuest created through a standardized process.
  • This process involved looking at all use codes for each county and grouping them based on common descriptions.
  • The purpose of the use type field is to allow you to search for properties based on a general category instead of having to look up specific use codes.
  • For example, in Sacramento County, if you wanted to search for agricultural property by use code, you would have over 20 different codes to choose from. On the other hand, if you chose the use type field, you would simply click on the Agricultural option in the search list and be able to search them all at once.
  • Now, that being said, you can still take the use code route and click the See Table link to view the use code list for a selected county. Then you can enter one code, a range of codes, or multiple codes separated by a comma to specify your search.

So whether you want general use types or specific use codes, with ParcelQuest, you have options. Thanks for watching!

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Why did my property tax bill increase so dramatically?

Why did my property taxes increase so much this year? This is a question a lot of us could be asking when we open our property tax bill based on the latest assessment this fall. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t so simple – but we’ll do our best to break it down…….

Information from the Department of Industrial Relations shows that the CCPI (California Consumer Price Index) increased 3.81 percent. Because of Prop-13 however, property assessment increases are limited to +2 percent annually regardless of how much the market increases.

Chart 1 lists the value change percentages used by California County Assessors since 1999/2000:


So what does this mean in terms of property tax increases? For many homeowners, property taxes will increase 2% over last year – regardless of market value changes. For Californians who have owned and occupied the same home for several years without any construction modifications, this isn’t necessarily NEW news. They’ve come to expect a moderate increase in their property taxes each year, and unless Prop-13 changes or goes away, they’ve no reason to expect anything different in the near-term. However, for the majority of Californians who have purchased their home in the past 7-10 years, our ‘near-term’ might look very different in terms of our property tax bill increases – and it has everything to do with a long-forgotten Prop-8.

Passed in 1978, Prop-8 requires a reduction in assessed value if “the property’s value has been reduced by ‘other factors’ such as economic conditions.” Put simply, Prop 8 allows for the temporary lowering of the assessed value of properties whose market value falls below their Prop 13 value. As a result of the historic decline of the housing market in recent years, county assessors throughout California have moved a large majority of our homes from Prop-13 to Prop-8 status (e.g., More than half of all parcels in Sacramento County are Prop-8). What does this mean? For those of us with a Prop 8 status, it means that our property tax bills are no longer calculated based on a moderately increasing Prop-13 base year value trend, but rather based on our property’s current market value. If you’re in this boat, you’ve likely enjoyed a minimal, or even drastic, decline in your property tax bill in the last few years. However, if the revival of the housing market continues (and many analysts predict it should), we could be staring down large increases to our property tax bills for years to come.

I know you’re probably thinking “I thought my property taxes couldn’t increase by more than +2%?” This would be true for a home assessed under Prop-13 , but Prop-8 parcels are tied directly to fluctuations in the real estate market which can adjust up or down much more radically and without limit. As long as a parcel remains in Prop-8 status, property taxes for that parcel are based on market values that can exhibit much more erratic behavior and increase at a rate much greater than +2%. Keep in mind also that a parcel’s Prop-13 base year value trend line never ‘goes away’. In fact, it continues to ‘trudge’ along in the background, increasing by the CCPI each year, while the parcel remains in Prop-8 status.

Chart 2 provides a common example of a new home purchased in late 2004 for a price of $475,000. Although the market value of the home during the first three (3) years increased at rates of +5.3%, +7.0% and +1.9%, respectively – property taxes were calculated against the Prop-13 trend line that prevented increases from exceeding +2% per year. In 2007 however, the housing market began its steady decline, and consistent with California law the county assessor moved the home from Prop-13 to Prop-8 status. Property taxes for this particular home then are no longer calculated against current Prop-13 base year value, but against the current Prop-8/Market Value. As a result, property tax bills also began to steadily decrease. However, as the market value of this home grows, so will its property tax bill – likely at a yearly rate much greater than +2% as long as it remains in Prop-8. So where’s the ceiling? Remember the Prop-13 base year value trend line hanging around in the background? That’s the ceiling. In the case of the home exemplified in Chart 2, that ceiling is currently $547,716 – the likely value of the home had the market never fallen and +$174,716 greater than current market value.


As long as this particular home’s market value remains below the Prop-13 base year trend line, the county assessor will likely retain Prop-8 status. While homeowners with homes that are assessed under Prop-8 can take solace in slowly regaining lost equity, larger (than historical) increases to their property tax bills can also be expected – at least until market value catches up and the home is moved back to Prop-13 status.

For more information, please contact your local California County Assessor.

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