San Mateo County property values reach record high for 11th year in a row

Aerial view of San Mateo Bridge, connecting the Peninsula and East Bay; residential areas of Foster City visible in the foreground ; San Francisco Bay Area, California

Property values in San Mateo County reached a record high of over $265 billion 2020, according to an announcement from San Mateo County Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder Mark Church.

Church made the announcement Thursday via a press release describing the county's 2021-22 property assessment roll, which is the assessed value of all properties in the county as of Jan. 1 each year. The property assessment roll reflects overall growth throughout the county. 

The county's property assessment roll increased by $10.6 billion from the previous year. It is the eleventh year in a row that the property assessment roll has increased.

Church said the increase was largely driven by the strong demand for homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, which increased the value of single-family homes.

"Increased residential values were the surprise of 2020 given that the county was under Shelter-In-Place mandates for much of the year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic," Church said.

The median sales price of single-family homes grew to $1.7 million, a 9 percent increase from the previous year. However, the prices of condominiums and townhomes went down slightly.

Property tax revenue is expected to increase by $2.7 billion, as the shared property tax funding based makes up about 1 percent of the property assessment roll. This revenue will go towards schools, the county, cities, special districts and former redevelopment agencies.

The property assessment roll comprises a secured portion and an unsecured portion.

The secured portion of the roll comprises commercial, residential and agricultural real property and makes up most of the total roll. The secured roll increased by almost 5 percent to over $256 billion.

New commercial developments, sales and ownership changes, annual inflation, decreased foreclosures and the Proposition 8/Decline in Value program all contributed to the growth of the secured roll.

Church noted that the growth of life sciences companies during the pandemic helped drive commercial activity and construction in 2020, a trend that will likely continue in future years.

Office and life science developments made up 26 and 19 percent respectively of all major commercial developments in the county in 2020. Cities with the most major developments included Redwood City, Menlo Park, South San Francisco, Brisbane and San Mateo.

The unsecured portion of the roll makes up a much smaller portion - just 4 percent - of the entire roll. It includes business or personal property, airline property at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and other leased government property.

The unsecured roll declined by almost 10 percent, which was driven by the decreased commercial airlines property values at SFO and the shelter-in-place orders which forced some businesses to close.

However, the economy should return to normal quickly, according to Church's press release, especially as the county has diversified its economic activity.

"For years, a large percentage of our assessment roll was concentrated in the airline industry at SFO, and the adverse impacts of COVID-19 on the assessment roll would have been much greater," Church said. "However, today our diverse economic base and the growing economic strength of our technology and bioscience industries contribute to a more favorable long-term outlook."

Yearly assessment roll summaries are available online.