As a follow-up on last week’s post about how falling home values can still lead to an increasing property tax bill, I thought I would go a little more detail on how the county assessor comes up with that magical home value number on which they base your tax bill.
Here’s how the King County Assessor’s website explains the process:
Residential property is assessed each year at its full market value, which is defined as the amount a buyer, willing but not obligated to buy, would pay to a seller willing but not obligated to sell. For residential parcels, fair market value is determined by analyzing recent sales of comparable properties in the same area.
In addition to statistical analysis to determine value, all properties are physically inspected once in every six year cycle.
When your “Zestimate” is off by 20%, it’s not really a big deal. When your property tax assessment comes in 20% higher than the actual market value of your home, that’s a different story. According to locally-based property tax appeal specialists at ValueAppeal, the problem of over-assessment affects as many as one in four homes in any given year.
In King County, the assessor’s office mails out property tax notices to 92 different neighborhoods staggered over a period of a couple of months, beginning in June. So far, 24 neighborhoods have received their 2010 tax assessments (comprising roughly 22% of homes in the county). Using data on 2010 assessments in King County provided by ValueAppeal, I have generated a “heat map” of sorts for these neighborhoods.
Each dot on the map is roughly centered over a neighborhood defined by the county assessor. Float your mouse over the dot to see the name of the neighborhoods covered by that dot, and to view the detailed stats. Head over to the King County Assessor’s website for detailed pdfs that include maps of each area.
According to ValueAppeal, of the neighborhoods released by the assessor so far this year, Fauntleroy in West Seattle has by far the most over-assessed homes, with more than one in four home owners likely to be receiving an unfairly high tax bill. “Eastern West Seattle” comes in second with 18% of homes likely to be over-assessed. The ranked list of most over-assessed neighborhoods will change as the assessor releases new assessments for additional neighborhoods throughout the summer.
So what can you do if your assessment is too high? We have covered this topic a couple of times in the past, with posts from our local escrow expert Tim Kane and a guest post from ValueAppeal CEO Charlie Walsh. If you think your assessment is too high, start by reading over those posts, or just punch your address right into the ValueAppeal widget right on the Seattle Bubble sidebar for a no-strings-attached free evaluation of your home’s assessment.
Do you have a tax assessment horror story or success story, or some advice on how to deal with the appeals process? Let’s hear it in the comments!