Let’s be frank: When you get out your checkbook to pay your property taxes, you’d prefer your house’s appraisal was low. However, when you want an equity loan or it’s time to sell, you’d like it to be high.
That’s just the way it is for most people.
Today as we continue our series from our conversations with the County Assessor’s Office we will explain just how the county’s six residential appraisers determine how much a house is worth.
WHEN IS IT APPRAISED?
First we thought we’d review the recent changes in how often a house is re-appraised.
Beginning in 2014, state law requires that each residential and commercial parcel in each county be re-appraised each year. (For Grays Harbor that’s currently 67,562 parcels.)
Before 2014, an appraiser would take a look at your house in person every four years, and the taxes due would be figured using that same appraisal amount for four years.
Now each year the county’s appraisers determine the worth of your house solely by comparing it to recent, “arm’s length” sales of houses that are similar to yours. Every six years an appraiser will come to take a look at the outside of your house to determine its current condition and appraise it in person. This means that one-sixth of the county is physically inspected each year. The other five-sixths of the county are updated statistically using a mass appraisal model to arrive at a current value.
NEW TOOLS FOR APPRAISALS
Over the last two years, the Assessor’s Office has made some major upgrades to its in-house mass appraisal system and processes, said Grays Harbor County Assessor Dan Lindgren.
Instead of taking notes and pictures in the field and then entering the data when they return to the office as they have done for many years, the appraisers now have I-pads that save them that step and lots of time.
And thanks to brand new computer software that is a great platform for an amazing database of Grays Harbor properties, the appraisers will be able to begin to make progress toward more accurate and timely assessments over the next many years as each area is inspected using the new system.
This software was a major issue in Lindgren’s campaign for Assessor. The appraisers and others in the Assessor’s Office have just begun to use the new software and field devices. Soon all that information will be available to the public on a new Assessor parcel database search tool called “taxsifter,” and a new parcel mapping system called “mapsifter” that will be available through the existing Assessor’s website and will replace the search tool that has been in place for more than 15 years. These new tools are slated to be unveiled by April 6.
Lindgren credits Ron Malittzia, of the Grays Harbor County Central Services Department, and all of his staff for working hard to successfully make this necessary conversion, which has been underway for the past year and a half.
We here at NeighborWorks have had a sneak peek at the new tools – in fact we use it several times every day – and can say it is a great improvement. This new website will be a terrific tool for people in real estate and many other businesses, as well as to those wanting to buy or sell a home.
HOW HOUSES ARE APPRAISED
Whether it is a home or commercial building, the location, age, square footage, building materials and condition of a home are all considered when comparing it to recent “arm’s length” sales of similar properties.
Examples of sales not considered “arm’s length” would be when parents sell property to children, or a bank forecloses on a house or any other distressed sales.
Also, keep in mind that a new mansion in the neighborhood doesn’t mean that your modest 1980s house will necessarily go up in value. The only thing that will affect its fair market value is sale prices of homes similar to yours.
One key to figure out the value of your house is determining what the “quality grade” is.
“We just recently had several members of our staff receive some refresher training on this,” Lindgren said. “And just here in the office, we often review what various qualities look like using slides of houses. We want to be as consistent as possible across the appraisers,” he said. “If we are all within a half of a grade, that’s good.”
The quality grades used by the Assessor consist of low, fair, fair+, average, average+, good, very good, excellent and there is even a category for “mansion,” which is how a handful of residences in Grays Harbor are listed, Lindgren said.
“It can be tricky because we don’t get to see the inside of a house so the interior features of a home are not always considered. The assumption is that the interior quality matches the exterior quality of the home. We do the best we can with the information available to us,” he said.
“Mistakes can happen, so if anything is listed wrong about a property, call the office. We want it to be right,” he said.
If you receive a Change of Value Notice, you have up to 30 days to contact the office to discuss it.
CONTACT THE ASSESSOR
In the next few weeks, we’ll be writing about many aspects of the Assessor’s Office and your property’s value. If you want more information about your assessment or any duties of the Assessor’s Office, take a look at the Grays Harbor County website at www.co.grays-harbor.wa.us or call the Assessor’s Office at 249-4121.
Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks® of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is the executive director. This is a non-profit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing for all residents of Grays Harbor County.
Do you have questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or becoming a homeowner? Call us at 533-7828, write us or visit us at 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen