January 26, 2012 at 10:26 pm EDT | by Sue Goodhart
Gauging value

Along with this newsletter you may have or will soon receive your city or county real estate assessment, which is different from an appraisal that one does when buying a home or refinancing a mortgage. An assessment is done by the governing agency of the jurisdiction in which you own the property.

The Department of Real Estate Assessments will value real property based on closed and recorded property transfers that occurred during the previous calendar year and issue an assessment to the property owner. If few homes have sold in a neighborhood and were all small homes and/or in poorer condition, the value will tend to be pulled down. If higher value properties sell it will tend to pull up the assessments in a neighborhood. The evaluations are done on a broader scale and many times the assessor has never been to your home. An appraisal is quite different.

When you refinance or buy a home, an independent appraiser is hired by the bank to value a property using current as well as sold sales. However those sold properties must have sold in the past three-to-six months. This will markedly differ from an assessment if market conditions are improving or declining. The appraiser will also visit the property and walk through the interior of the home, around the exterior and the lot.  The appraiser will make note of any improvements or if the home is in poor condition.  The appraisal is private information and is not made public. An assessment is public record and can be viewed by anyone on a website.

Should you believe that your assessed value is not the proper market value, you can request a review of the assessment or file an appeal. Give us a call or send us an e-mail to find out how to appeal. Before you go to the trouble to file the appeal take a number of steps:

* Start by checking all the information on file with the Assessment Office about your property.

* Call the Goodhart Group to compile sales information about comparable properties that sold in your neighborhood.

* Decide whether the information provided will help you achieve what you want.

We are happy to help you decide whether it is worth your time to appeal. Usually the deadline is April 1, so contact us soon if you have concerns.

Sue Goodhart is the top-producing agent at McEnearney Associates in Alexandria and is licensed in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. She can be reached at 202-507-7800 or sue@suegoodhart.com

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