Along with your tax documents from the previous year arriving each day, you may have or will soon receive your city or county real estate tax assessment. This tax assessment is quite different from an appraisal done when buying a home or refinancing a mortgage. An assessment is done by the governing agency of the jurisdiction in which you own the property. This is the number on which your property taxes are based.
How Is The Tax Assessment Calculated?
The Department of Real Estate Assessments will value real property based on closed and recorded property transfers that occurred during the previous calendar year and issue an assessment to the property owner. If few homes have sold in a neighborhood and they were small homes and/or in poorer condition, it will pull assessments down. If higher value properties sell, the assessments in a neighborhood will increase. The evaluations are done on a broader scale and many times, the assessor has never been to your home (unlike an appraiser).
Alexandria Real Estate Assessments vs. Appraisals
When you refinance or buy a home, the bank will hire an independent appraiser to value a property using current as well as settled sales. However, those sold properties must have sold in the past three to six months. This value will markedly differ from an assessment if market conditions are improving or declining. The appraiser will also visit the property and walk through the interior of the home, around the exterior, and the lot.
The appraiser will make note of any improvements or if the home is in poor condition. The appraisal is private information and is not made public or shared with any government entities. An assessment, on the other hand, is a public record and can be viewed by anyone on a website.
What if I Disagree with the Tax Assessment?
Should you believe that your assessed value is too high or too low, you can request a review of the assessment or file an appeal. Alexandria City appeals must be filed by June 1; Fairfax County residents only have until April 1.
Remember to keep in mind the following: your assessment is not necessarily what it will sell for on the open market, though many buyers do take it into consideration. Remember also that an increased assessment also means an increase in property taxes! Before you go to the trouble to file an appeal, take these steps:
- Start by checking all the information on file with the Assessment Office about your property. Click these links to visit the Alexandria City, Arlington County, Fairfax County, and Washington DC tax assessment offices.
- Call us here at The Goodhart Group to compile sales information about comparable properties that have recently sold in your neighborhood.
- Decide whether the information provided will help you achieve your goal. Is your goal to lower your assessment and thus your tax payment? Or is your goal to increase your assessment because you believe your home is undervalued?
We are happy to help you decide whether it is worth your time to appeal. Contact us soon if you have concerns. We are always happy to help with anything related to your home – for life!
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