Frequently Asked Questions About The Real Estate Assessment Process In The City of Fairfax

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Why did I receive a notice of assessment change?
What is the legal authority to assess real estate?
What is the assessment ratio in the City of Fairfax?
How are fluctuations in the real estate market reflected in my assessment?
What effect does the economy have on my assessment?
How is real estate appraised?
How does the percentage of my assessment change compare to that of others?
Why is the change in my assessment different than the percentage published in the local newspapers for properties in my area?
Why do some properties increase more than other properties?
How will I know if my assessment is correct? How do I find sales utilized to determine my January 1st assessment?
What is a Valid Sale and where is this information available?
How can a property be assessed for more than its purchase price?
What effect do foreclosures have on assessments?
How can I appeal my assessment?
What is the BOE?
My property record on the City’s web site shows incorrect data. How can this be corrected?
What is the current tax rate?
What was the tax rate last year?
How do I obtain a copy of my deed or Certificate of Satisfaction?
 

Why did I receive a notice of assessment change?

You are provided an annual notice which serves as an official statement of the assessed value of your real estate for local tax purposes. This is done in accordance with Section 58.1-3330 of the Code of Virginia.

The real estate assessment indicated on the notice represents the estimated fair market value of your property as of January 1 of each year. This notice is not a tax bill. The assessed value is the basis for your real estate taxes which will be due on June 21 and December 5.

What is the legal authority to assess real estate?

The Code of Virginia requires that all properties be assessed for taxation at 100% of market value. The same law requires cities to assess real estate annually or biannually. The City of Fairfax Council has decided that the City of Fairfax will conduct a reassessment annually as of January 1. During the reassessment cycle all property values are examined and adjustments made where necessary to ensure that all property is assessed at fair market value. This is done to ensure that taxes are distributed equitably and uniformly. The Real Estate Assessment Director is the assessor for the City. All real estate in the City of Fairfax, except the property owned by public service corporations, is assessed by the assessor.

What is the assessment ratio in the City of Fairfax?

The City of Fairfax has a mandated 100% ratio by law.

How are fluctuations in the real estate market reflected in my assessment?

Throughout the year the assessor researches and analyzes property sales and establishes trends which indicate how much values are decreasing, increasing, or if they are remaining stable. The assessor then takes the trend analyses into account when calculating assessments for the coming year.

What effect does the economy have on my assessment?

General economic conditions often affect the real estate market as well. The assessor quantifies this effect by researching and analyzing property sales and establishing trends which indicate how much property values are decreasing, increasing, or if they are remaining stable. The trends that are established are then taken into account when calculating assessments for the coming year.

How is real estate appraised?

How Information is Obtained

To determine the value of a property, the appraisal staff obtains and maintains many different types of information. The assessor's office keeps on file a property record card listing the physical characteristics of each property and its condition. This card is a matter of public record and may be reviewed at any time.
Property selling price in the City is an important factor in determining assessment values. The assessor's office regularly researches property transfer records, which are recorded at the Land Records Office in the Fairfax County Judicial Center.
Other types of information used in determining the value of commercial, industrial and special purpose properties include current building replacement costs, the operating and maintenance costs of various types of property, and rental rates certain properties can be expected to earn.

Estimating the Fair Market Value

The appraisal staff employs three universally accepted approaches in estimating market values, using the most appropriate for the type of property being appraised.

Residential Properties - The market data approach is preferred in estimating the value of residential property, which experiences a high level of sales. The estimated value is obtained by comparing similar properties of the same type and class which have sold recently in the same neighborhood, taking into consideration other factors which may effect value, such as location, condition and physical characteristics. This approach is considered the most reliable in determining value because it reflects the balance of supply and demand in the marketplace; it is based on the principle that a typical buyer will not purchase property at a price higher than the selling price of similar property.

Non-Residential Properties - Properties such as shopping centers, office buildings and apartment complexes are purchased based on future earning capacity. These properties, therefore, are most often valued by the income approach, which recognizes the relationship between the property's value and the income it is expected to earn. The appraiser uses certain market data and mathematical computations to translate the estimated future income of a property into an estimate of present day market value.

Special purpose properties that rarely sell, such as schools, churches and banks, are valued by the cost approach. The current cost of replacement of the building, less accrued depreciation, plus the value of the land as determined by recent sales provide an estimate of value.

How does the percentage of my assessment change compare to that of others?

There are approximately 7592 taxable residential properties in the City of Fairfax, and the overall average assessment increase was about 2.5% in 2016. For the 1145 taxable non-residential properties, the overall average increase was about 2.0%. However, market activity varies from one neighborhood to another, and from one property type to another, and as a result the percentage of change in assessment is also variable. For example, in 2016, assessments on single-family homes changed anywhere from 0% to +9%, depending on the sales activity within a particular neighborhood.

Why is the change in my assessment different than the percentage published in the local newspapers for properties in my area?

Periodically newspapers will publish average sales prices or average assessments for a particular area and sometimes compare one time period to another. While this may give a general indication of a percentage change in sales prices, it should not be compared to the percentage change in your individual assessment, for the following reasons:

--The time period shown may not match that of the January 1 effective date of assessment.

--Areas covered are typically a zip code or other large area and not individual neighborhoods or subdivisions. In addition, property types may have been combined, and therefore different percentage changes for single-family, townhouse, and condominiums are all blended together into one.

Why do some properties increase more than other properties?

Individual properties differ from one another, as do entire neighborhoods. Homes in a particular neighborhood may vary in style, size, age, etc. As a result, for example, one story houses may be in larger demand than two story houses, or the values of older homes may change slower than newer homes. Sales in a particular neighborhood may indicate a substantial change in value, while sales in another may not indicate any change at all.

Numerous factors considered by the assessor when determining property values causes different neighborhoods and property types to change values at different rates.

How will I know if my assessment is correct? How do I find sales utilized to determine my January 1 assessment?

Visit the City’s online real estate assessment database and look up your property. Review the physical characteristics of your property for correctness. Next, you should view the sales within your subdivision that occurred in the previous year(search by Sale Date). You should find the sales of properties that are most similar to your property (i.e. style, age, and location). Once you have located sales data you believe to be most comparable, compare the sales price and the assessed value of those properties to your own. The more similar the comparable property, the more similar the assessed values will likely be.

What is a Valid Sale and where is this information available?

Valid sales used for assessment purposes are those that have been determined by City of Fairfax appraisers to be representative of fair market value (i.e., a willing seller and buyer, neither party related to the other, neither party under duress to sell or buy, adequate exposure of the property to the market, and financing terms typical for the current market). Non-valid sales are those that have been determined to be not representative of typical market value. Examples of non-valid sales may include short sales, bank sales, foreclosures, sales to a related party, quit claims or any real estate transfer with no money involved. On the public real estate web site all sales are labeled with a brief explanation regarding the type of transaction. 

How can a property be assessed for more than its purchase price?

Real estate may be assessed for more than the sales price because the assessment reflects “fair market value.” Fair market value is not necessarily the price paid for a particular property, but rather what it is worth in a competitive and open market under all conditions requisite to a fair sale. Values change, and the property value may have gone up since the purchase. 2016 assessments were based primarily on 2015 sales. 2017 assessments will be based primarily on 2016 sales. Also, a sale may be below market value if the owners were in financial distress and needed to sell quickly, lowering the price beyond what they might have otherwise accepted. Selling a property at an amount simply sufficient to cover the mortgage would be another example of a distress sale not reflecting fair market value.

What effect do foreclosures have on assessments?

In calculating assessments for a particular tax year, the assessment office only takes into account bona fide property sales and not transfers that are distress related in any way (e.g. related to foreclosure). Foreclosure related sales generally include court ordered sales by public auction, short sales, and bank sales. Auction sales are rarely used for assessment purposes since the high bidder is usually the financial institution and the bid amount is the amount of the defaulted loan. Short sales and bank sales are considered, but only used if the key elements of a valid “market value” transaction are met. The effect of foreclosure related sales on the marketplace and, in turn, assessments, is often felt indirectly. These types of sales may be so numerous that typical traditional sellers in the area are forced to lower sale prices in order to sell their properties.

How can I appeal my assessment?

If you disagree with your assessment, you may submit an administrative appeal whereby the City Assessor or a staff appraiser will review the calculation of your assessment and determine if a correction or revision is necessary. Administrative appeal forms can be downloaded from the City’s real estate web site at www.fairfaxva.gov. The deadline for filing an administrative appeal is in April of each year.

You may also appeal to the Board of Equalization (BOE). BOE appeal forms can be downloaded from the City’s real estate web site at www.fairfaxva.gov. The deadline for filing a BOE appeal is June 30 of each year.

What is the BOE?

The Board of Equalization is a three member citizen panel, recommended by the local governing body and appointed by the Circuit Court. By law, Board of Equalization members must be property owners in the locality in which they serve. The General Assembly, in the 1979 session, amended Section 58.1-3374, Code of Virginia, to require that members of local Boards of Equalization attend and participate in a basic course of instruction offered by the Department of Taxation in order to be eligible for appointment to the Board.

The Board’s primary and foremost concern is the equalization of real estate assessments to ensure that the real estate tax is borne equally by all. The Board of Equalization is a quasi-judicial body with specific legal powers that run deep, but are very limited in scope. That is to say that it has considerable powers in the matter of equalizing the burden of taxation but has no other legal authority.

My property record on the City’s web site shows incorrect data. How can this be corrected?

Visitors to the site are encouraged to contact the Real Estate Assessment Office at 703-385-7840 to report known discrepancies or errors that may be discovered while using the site or while viewing a property card. In such cases, property inspections will be performed to verify and correct the data. The site will be updated on a daily basis to reflect these changes, as well as to maintain current listings of property ownership and mailing addresses as changes occur.

What is the current tax rate?

The base real estate tax rate has been set at $1.062 per $100 of assessed value. Also, additional service charges may be applicable in certain districts. Those districts are:

-Commercial Real Estate (Transportation) – additional $0.095 per $100 of assessed value
-Old Town Service District – additional $0.06 per $100 of assessed value

What was the tax rate last year?

-Base - $1.052 per $100 of assessed value
-Commercial Real Estate (Transportation) – additional $0.075 per $100 of assessed value
-Old Town Service District – additional $0.06 per $100 of assessed value

How do I obtain a copy of my deed or Certificate of Satisfaction?

This information is available through the Fairfax County Circuit Court Land Records Division at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/courts/circuit/land_records_info.htm


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