How is my property assessed, why is my property's value increasing, and what can I do about it?
Many citizens have questions about how their property is assessed and what they can do if they dispute the assessment. We at the county assessor's office think it's important you understand why and how assessors and their staff do their jobs, and we'd like to clear up a few misconceptions.
The duty of the assessor's office is simply to keep the assessed value of your property as close as possible to the actual market value.
Also,older neighborhoods need extra care in valuations. In modern subdivisions, all the homes are pretty much the same size, the same age and in the same condition, which makes our job a lot easier. But the same things that make an older neighborhood so attractive and charming(the diversity of home styles, ages and appearances, and small commercial center in the neighborhood) also make its homes harder to assess, and this makes your feedback all the more crucial.
If you call our office to discuss your valuation, please read the following beforehand; it will likely answer some questions you have:
Why is my home assessed, and how?
Property taxes are a principal source of income for cities and counties and special-purpose governments like fire, schools, library, cemetery and other districts. Each of these local governments applies a tax rate to the value of your property. For example, let's say your city levies$1.50 for every $1,000 of taxable value; if your house has $100,000 of taxable value, you would owe the city $150 a year in property tax.
The county treasurer sends you a bill and collects the tax, then distributes it to the local governments. At the assessor's office, our job is to make sure homes and businesses are valued correctly. Under Idaho law, our assessed value must be the same as the actual market vale of that property.
To make the process as fair and consistent as possible, we use three methods to value homes:
Annual updates. Every year, the county updates your home's value based on the price of similar homes in the neighborhood (this is called trending).
Five-year updates. These are more detailed than the annual updates. Once every five years, a deputy assessor walks by your property to determine if there have been any obvious additions, improvements or anything else that would affect your home's value, such as the condition of surrounding homes.
Citizen feedback. Citizen comment is important to us. Since we aren't in the habit of looking in people's homes uninvited, there are lots of things we do not know that could influence a home's value. We want property owner to let us know if they think our valuations are too high (or too low, but not many people complain about that!). You may also ask us to visit your home and do a more detailed assessment. We may discover our assessment was too high, too low, or about right. You can appeal any decision we make to the Board of Equalization when you receive your assessment notice.
Why is my assessment going up so much?
Many things can affect the value of your home and some of them are under your control and some are not. Things you can control are the appearance and the size of your home. Things you can not control are the location and the value of surrounding homes and the general neighborhood. If a neighborhood falls into decline, its property values will decrease. But sometimes, older neighborhoods become desirable once again and are "gentrified." While this sort of neighborhood revitalization is good, it can cause values to rise steeply in just a few years.
Also, physical appraisals are the most accurate appraisal method. The current process requires the counties to appraise all properties every 5 years. In the intervening years the counties are required to do an adjustment to ensure that all properties are at current market value.
How does my assessment affect my tax liability?
Other factors affect your tax bill, such as the addition or retirement of school bonds, local improvement districts and special levies. Ultimately, however, the free market determines your property's value. When supply is limited and demand increases, values go up, just like any other commodity.
The effect of value increases on your property tax depends upon the rate of increase in your property value compared to the rate of increase or change in value of all other properties. If your value increases more rapidly than that of all other properties then your taxes will increase more rapidly. In any event, the increase in value does not lead to increased budgets or revenues for taxing districts. Taxes are budget driven not assessment driven.
If my home's assessed value increases 15 percent, does that mean my taxes will increase 15 percent? Don't local governments have a 3 percent cap on their annual budget growth, and if they do, how can my taxes go up more than 3 percent?
The assessed value of your property is not the only factor in determining your property tax liability. Your value could stay exactly the same and your tax bill could still go up (or down). For example, if every property in your taxing district increased in value the same amount and the budgets of the taxing districts stayed the same, you could expect your tax bill to stay the same. Local governments do have a 3% cap plus new construction value on their budgets. Another example is, your assessed value decreases but a special levy (such as a new school) is voted in by the public, you may see your tax bill increase. Another reason your tax bill could increase by more than 3% in one year is the value of other properties in your taxing district decrease while your value stays the same.
While no one wants to pay more in taxes, there are some good things about the value of your property increasing. For most people their home is their single most valuable possession and greater value represents greater equity. So, if you sell your home, it will be worth more, even if you did little or nothing to increase its value. (In fact, increasing homes values is one of the greatest reasons we feel good about the economy.) If you need a mortgage loan, or you need to use your home to help with retirement, you will have more equity to draw on.