Contributed by Prince William County
The total assessed value of all property types in Prince William County came in at $49.9 billion in 2014, up 8.19 percent over assessed property values of $46.1 billion in 2013. Of this increase, 6.54 percent, or roughly $3 billion, was due to market appreciation and 1.65 percent, or roughly $760 million, was due to new construction.
A tight residential real estate market with a limited inventory of residential property, low interest rates and an improving economy led generally to a healthy increase in sales prices and corresponding assessment increases, according to a county staff report. Home values county-wide appreciated an average of 7.5 percent.
Assessors with the Prince William County Real Estate Assessments Division take many factors into account as they assess real estate in the county. They use a Mass Appraisal Process, which allows them to arrive at residential assessments that are as close to market value as possible. The process includes verifying sales that occurred, adding new construction, and physically reviewing descriptions of a percentage of residential properties in the county, said Prince William County Assessments Coordinator Kerem Oner. “We reassess all properties every year, and we visit about 10 percent of properties. We rotate throughout the county to look at every property over a period of time, so that we have accurate physical descriptions which are required in order to arrive at credible assessments.”
The other component of the mass appraisal process involves evaluating sale prices of all property sold in the county. In many of the county’s roughly 600 neighborhoods, Oner said, the houses are homogeneous and the sales price of one house will likely be similar to other houses in that neighborhood. Those are the neighborhoods where assessments will come closest to sales prices, Oner said.
In rural areas, Oner said, establishing assessments can be a little more challenging. Houses and housing values might differ widely in rural areas, and sales prices might not be easily compared to neighboring properties. In those cases, assessors look for similar houses that sold in comparable neighborhoods and assess accordingly.
Oner said “State law requires we assess at fair market value, so we try to be as close to 100 percent of market value as possible.” The assessments office considers all sales that occurred in setting the assessments.
The steps in the process allow assessors to be as accurate in their assessment of roughly 130,000 residential properties as possible. Should the property owners disagree with their assessments, there is an appeals process whereby they can contest their assessments. Residents are encouraged to contact the Real Estate Assessments Office at 703-792-6780 to speak with the appraiser of their area to obtain more information about the valuation process and their assessment. If the appraiser is not able to satisfy their concerns, they may request an administrative appeal of their assessment. The deadline for filing a 2014 administrative appeal with the Real Estate Assessments Office is June 2, 2014.
For more information about real estate assessments in Prince William County, visit www.pwcgov.org/finance. The online assessments database is located at pwc.publicaccessnow.com/ where taxpayers can search by address to find the property description that is on file.
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