To prorate means to divide something so that each person pays her fair share. The real estate term for dividing expenses that are paid after they are incurred or are prepaid is called prorations. For example, sometimes real estate taxes are paid in arrears. This means that they are paid currently for the year before. The practical effect of this is that the buyer will in many cases get a tax bill for time when she did not own the house and therefore was not responsible for the taxes.
An example will make this easier to understand. Let’s say you closed on the house you bought on August 31, 2007. You are responsible for 4 months worth of real estate taxes for 2007. Unfortunately, the tax bill does not arrive until May of 2008. This is where prorations come into play. At the closing, you will be responsible for 1/3 of the tax bill that will arrive in May, 2008. That means the seller will give you, the buyer, an amount equal 2/3 of the agreed to prorated tax amount and you will pay the real estate tax bill.
The tricky part comes about because real estate taxes always seem to be going up. This is usually handled as part of the negotiations. The buyer will ask for an amount based on the seller’s last year’s tax bill plus a small percentage, usually 5 or 10% extra, and some agreement will be reached.
An unusually large increase in the real estate taxes due to a reassessment, rate increase or both can further complicate matters. With the gains in real estate prices in the recent past, many taxing bodies have become eager to capture at least part of that gain. So it is buyer beware and make sure you check with the local taxing authorities.
Prorations can also be used to adjust for any expenses that have been paid by the seller ahead of time, such as prepaid mortgage interest, prepaid casualty insurance, or such items as rent or utility bills.
© 2007 Complete Books Publishing, Inc.