Yesterday evening I was chatting with a friend of mine who happens to be a resident of Vienna and she was expressing some concern over the increase in her property assessment. I told her that the bad news was she would probably have to pay more taxes but the good news is her home was undoubtedly worth more than it was last year. She was pretty firm in her belief that her assessment did not reflect the actual market value of her home. So, I thought I would share a little bit about the process here in Arlington, Va.
Do you live in Arlington?
Do you think your assessment is more than your property value? I know everyone thinks they pay too much taxes. In Arlington you are paying .996 per $100 of assessed value. In Fairfax they are paying $1.090 per $100 of assessed value.
Do you know what your assessment is? The county mails out assessments but if you don’t know what you did with yours go here:
Accept the terms and enter your address and you will see what your property is currently assessed at.
If you are sure your home’s value is less then the assessment then Arlington has an appeals process in place. It does work. I’ve used it myself. If you have questions about how to determine comparable values, you can always contact me and I can probably help you out.
So, here’s the process… hot off the county website (obviously we’ve passed the deadline for this year, March 2 but the process will still be here next year)
Appeals Filing Period
Individuals and businesses seeking to appeal their property tax assessments to the Department of Real Estate Assessments may do so between Jan. 1 – Mar. 2 for year 2015.
Applications must be postmarked by March 2
As appeal reviews may not be completed prior to the Board of Equalization appeal deadline of April 15, if you have not received your appeal results by April 1, you must file an appeal application with the Board of Equalization to preserve your right for an appeal before the board.
Property taxes are primarily based on assessed value as determined by the County Assessor. If you disagree with the value established by the Assessor, you can appeal to the Department of Real Estate Assessments and the Board of Equalization.
An assessment appeal is not a complaint about higher taxes. You must attempt to prove that your property’s market value is either inaccurate or unfair. Instructions and deadline dates for appeals are on the assessment notice you receive after Jan. 1.
You may appeal based on the following:
The Department of Real Estate Assessments has incorrect data on items that affect value – i.e. number of baths, error in square footage
You can prove that during the analysis period (September 1, 2013 – August 31, 2014), similar properties sold for less than the estimated market value of your property. Use the Property Data Search feature to compare assessments and view sales.
You can prove that while the estimated market value of your property is valid, it was not appraised in a manner equitable with similar properties during the analysis period.
There are three steps in the Appeal Process
Appeal to the Department of Real Estate Assessments
Appeal to the Board of Equalization
File suit in the Circuit Court
First Appeal: Department of Real Estate Assessments
Your first step is to contact the Department of Real Estate Assessments appraiser assigned to your neighborhood. Call 703-228-3920 for an informal session to find out how the assessment was determined.
If, after speaking with the appraiser, you still think the assessment is incorrect, you can submit a formal appeal form application.
An appraiser will contact you to schedule an inspection of your property. During the inspection, you may point out any information you believe should be factored into the value. You will receive a written notification of the decision by mail.
Second Appeal: Board of Equalization
If you disagree with the value established by the appraiser, your next appeal is to the Board of Equalization, which conducts hearings on assessment disputes. After weighing evidence submitted by both the property owner and the Department of Real Estate Assessments, the Board must make a fair, impartial decision.
State law puts the burden of proof on the property owner to show that the assessment is incorrect. You must have strong enough evidence to show that the Assessor’s value is incorrect. Stating that your property taxes are too high is not relevant testimony.
The best way to judge the assessment of your property is to compare it to recent sales and and assessments of surrounding properties. Since all real estate assessments are a matter of public record, you can find the assessment of any property and a list of recent sales in the neighborhood using the Property Data Search site.
Establish what you think your property is worth by comparing recorded arm length transaction sales (those sales where the buyers and sellers have no relationship to each other) of similar properties between September 1 2013 – August 31, 2014 of the year in question.
Show that similar properties have inequitable values.
Submit all supporting evidence to the board by April 15, 2015.
Appeal Application Forms
Third Appeal: Circuit Court
If you do not agree with the decision from the Board of Equalization, your final step is to file suit in Circuit Court. This will usually involve hiring an attorney to represent you. For more information, contact:
Arlington County Circuit Court
1425 North Courthouse Road
Arlington, VA 22201
Ok, so now you know the process. However….before you go through all this, keep in mind that if you are going to be selling your house in the near future you may just want to suck up the higher taxes for a bit. Even though assessed value rarely mirrors market value, your buyer will be asking their agent about the assessment. Having your assessment at a higher level may give you a edge (even if it’s psychological) in negotiating for a higher price.
Sometimes it’s best to leave those sleeping dogs lying.
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