Arlington County Property Tax Assessments

Arlington County’s tax assessments have been mailed, and most homeowners can expect a rise in their assessed values.  On average, Arlington’s residential assessments went up by 1.8%.  Of course not all neighborhoods rise and fall equally.  My own home in Lyon Park went up 2.6%, whereas my investment townhouse in Ballston, like 46% of Arlington’s residential properties, didn’t go up at all.  Twenty two percent actually saw a decline.  You can look up your FY2012 assessment here.

Property taxes are calculated based on these assessments and the tax rate, which is not yet finalized but was proposed as 97.8 cents per $100 in value.  So does the tax assessment represent actual market value? According to Arlington’s press release

“Real estate assessments are appraisals — the County’s opinions of value for each parcel of real property in Arlington. Assessments are made according to accepted methods, techniques, and standards of the real estate appraisal and assessment profession. The 2012 assessment is an estimate of the fair market value as of January 1, 2012. Residential assessments were based primarily on neighborhood sales occurring July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011.”

Note, however, that the assessments are based on sales from July 2010 to June 30 — so the most RECENT sale in that period is 8 months ago!  Real estate markets shift a lot fast than that.  Appraisers in a normal re-sale transaction will not look further back than 90 days unless there are extenuating circumstances.  So assessments are definitely LAGGING the market.

In practice, I find that most tax assessments also underestimate the market value. The County doesn’t want a flood of appeals, and if they need more revenue they just up the tax rate, right?

Want to appeal your assessment?  You’ll need to contact the assessor’s office by the deadline, and will need to have comparable sales from within the specified timeframe (mid-2010 through mid-2011 in Arlington’s case).  Better hurry – the deadline is March 1.  Need some help with research?  Contact us for data on your neighborhood, and a current market valuation of your home. 

 

More Resources:  See Arlington’s FAQs on tax assessments here.

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