Question: My property taxes didn’t change much this year, but the County announced that residential home prices increased 3.9%. Are the County’s tax assessments a good way of determining the market value of my home?
Answer: Tax assessments are not a good way of establishing the market value of your home. In fact, if Arlington homeowners used their tax assessment to determine their asking price, on average they’d be undervaluing their home by 10%!
Also, just because the County saw appreciation of 3-4% this year doesn’t mean that will be applied to all homes. Tax assessments are adjusted on a much more localized level based on neighborhood, number of bedrooms, square footage and other factors specific to your home. I would also advise that just because your tax assessment did not increase, doesn’t mean the market value of your home did not increase (and vice versa).
Market Values Higher Than Assessed Values
The following table compares the average sold price (market value) with the average 2017 tax assessment for all homes sold in 2017. I cleaned up the data a bit by removing Co-op sales (River Place), Ballston’s Senior Living Community, new construction (new tax assessments may take a year to catch-up) and a handful of sales that didn’t have a tax assessment available.
- The average Arlington home has a market value 10% higher than its tax assessment
- Only 14% of homes sold in 2017 sold for less than their 2017 tax assessment
- The County struggles the most assessing the value of detached homes in Arlington, likely because of how difficult it is to assess land value with due to the proliferation of tear-downs being bought for land only
- The most under-assessed zip codes were 22213, 22205 and 22204 with homes selling for 12% or more above the assessed value
- The most accurately assessed zip code was 22201, with assessments coming in within 7.4% of the average market prices
Appealing Your Assessment
For the 2017 tax year, Arlingtonians will pay .996% of their assessed value in real estate taxes, up from .991% in 2016. Every year you have an opportunity to appeal your assessment and yes, it has worked, but the burden of proof is on the homeowner, not the County. Arlington provides an informative website on the appeal process.
Quick hits on the appeal process:
- You should have received your 2017 tax assessment in the mail some time this month
- Your first appeal with the Dept of Real Estate Assessments must be filed by March 1, 2018
- Step 1: Call (703)228-3920 for information on how your assessment was determined
- Step 2: File your appeal online here (First Level)
- Step 3: An assessor will visit your home and you can provide relevant info to make your case
- Step 4: If you’re not satisfied with the decision or have not received written notice by April 1, file your second appeal with the Board of Equalization online here (Second Level) by April 15
- Step 5: If you’re not satisfied with the decision, your final option for appeal is with the Circuit Court, which will likely require you to hire an attorney
If you’re considering appealing your tax assessment, feel free to reach out to me to discuss building a case. I have access to micro and macro market data that can help you determine if your property is over-assessed and can help you create a clear report supporting your appeal.