Robert and Bonnie Peterson* were shocked when they received the assessed property value of their Brush Prairie WA home – and the corresponding tax bill. They couldn’t imagine why the difference was so great in such a short period of time – from one year to the next. Believing the amount was a mistake, or at least unreasonably high, they had their home professionally appraised. Sure enough, the appraisal came in markedly below the assessment. The Petersons used the appraisal to challenge their property taxes. After contacting the county assessor’s office and requesting a review of the valuation, they were pleased to find that a new assessed value was determined. The property taxes they owed subsequently fell by more than $2,000.
Municipalities rely on property assessments to structure their tax bases. If you were surprised to find what you owed in property taxes this year, you’re not alone. The assessed value of a property usually can’t keep up with the often rapid fluctuation of the real estate market, in part because assessments are generally conducted in cycles of 3-5 years. A lot can happen in that period of time. The peaks and valleys of the average real estate market can be challenging to monitor.
Additionally, tax assessors are typically not real estate appraisers. Property tax assessors conducting periodic assessments use mass appraisal techniques to evaluate homes for value according to a specific set of algorithms. After the assessment is completed, taxes are levied against each home according to its assessed value. A recent decline in home value could result in the homeowner paying more in property taxes than is fair.
By contrast, appraised values are determined at a distinct point in time and are performed by licensed or certified real estate appraisers. A home appraisal typically reflects market value. For mortgage related transactions, appraisals exist to protect the lender, ensuring that the home buyers aren’t borrowing more than the house is worth. This is an important number, especially if the loan defaults.
Unlike assessments, appraisals take into account the condition of the home, any improvements made to the home, the school district, the view, positive or adverse location, and other intangible but important considerations.
It’s quite common for assessed values and appraised (market) values to be different.
Current Real Estate Climate
In our current real estate climate, it’s also common for assessed values to be less than accurate. This could mean the difference of hundreds --or even thousands-- of dollars on your tax bill. If the assessed value of your home seems high, call Porch Light Appraisal at 360-474-4147 to see if you’re right.
About the author:
Steven P. Gray, SRA, IFA, AGA, MNAA
Steven P. Gray is a Washington and Oregon State Certified home appraiser and owner of Porch Light Appraisal. He’s been appraising homes in Washington and Oregon for more than 13 years. Steven can be reached at 360-474-4147 or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Web: www.porchlightappraisal.com
*names and details changed to protect homeowner privacy