Albemarle Steeply Increases Assessments

It appears that Albemarle has increased tax assessments pretty sharply, if submissions are any sort of a metric. Writes mmike87: “It seems that Albemarle’s money troubles are over. With little fanfare, Albemarle County raises real estate assesments 20-30% for everyone I talked to. For many , this amounts to a tax increase of over $200 a year. Not bad – a 20+% tax increase with no press, no fuss, and no arguments from the general public.” And Big_Al writes: “We received our “Notice of Reassessment” yesterday, which introduced us to a whopping 26-1/2% increase over the 2001 assessment, and an equally startling 17% increase over our mid-2001 purchase price. I find it hard to believe that our property has experienced that much of a value increase in such a short time, and we’re not looking forward to the tax increase. Apparently, we’re not alone, as co-workers (and other posters on have related similar experiences. Am I wrong in thinking that this is an obscene attempt to raise revenues on the taxpayers’ backs without actually raising taxes? Surely, if the Board of Supervisors had attempted to raise ANY tax by 27% they’d be shouted down and possibly face difficult reelection prospects. This way, they can mask the increase by proclaiming Albemarle County is a great place to live with alarmingly rising property values.” Has anybody else had similar experiences? Aren’t Albemarle’s property values, like Charlottesville’s, simply based on market value, and not subject to forces of government whim? Or is there room for a sneaky tax hike?

22 thoughts on “Albemarle Steeply Increases Assessments”

  1. The assessors with Albemarle County and Charlottesville are ethical people who do their jobs honestly. They do not increase assessments because the BOS or the City Council tells them to but because the values have actually increased. A combination of national real estate trends, local land use policies and demand have dovetailed to create dramatic but still genuine increases in the value of real estate. The assessors are human though, and they make mistakes. If you think your assessment is inaccurate you can take your complaint to the Board of Equalization and they will give you a fair hearing. However, the assessments are usually done in a legally defesible manner and it is not real common for the Board of Equalization to overule the assessors.

    Kevin Cox

  2. Same here, in Southern Albemarle: up 11%. I have a call into the real-estate assessor since Friday to hear what he’s got to say about it.

  3. I believe that land values are up nationwide — I know that they have increased substantially over the past year in San Francisco, Seattle and New Orleans (and now Charlottesville). I think that the super low interest rates are making buying a much more attractive option, for homes, for businesses, for investment, etc., etc.

  4. No implication of impropriety was intended, though this certainly is a very convenient way for the county to increase revenues without citizen oversight (requiring each citizen to challenge the revenue increase individually doesn’t equate to oversight in my book). This very high increase is going to take a lot of money out of my pocket and out of the free economy at a time when the company I work for has a salary freeze in effect because the economy sucks right now.

    It seems the county is replacing the tax burden that used to rest with vehicle owners and diverted it to property owners. Definitely legally defensible, but not practically or morally defensible.

    However, a 27% increase is absurd, and a 17% increase over the lender’s appraisal (which is almost always somewhat higher than the assessment) done 18 months ago is, to me, very suspicious. I fully intend to appeal, even though I know I’ll probably lose. It’s hard to fight "city hall" when city hall makes the rules, hires the assessors, and decides the outcome of any appeal. It’s like filing a complaint against a cop. Faggetaboutit.

    Do you know if the burden of proof falls on the property owner or on the assessor? My guess (and it’s only a guess) tells me that the burden falls on the taxpayer, which is probably why these things are rarely overruled.

    In any case, there needs to be a limit on the amount a real estate assessment can increase over a given period (I’m not wirried about an assessment decrease, as that is extremely rare except in cases of natural disaster). As it is, the county can respond relatively quickly to a beneficial market, and ignore a depressed one.

  5. Personally I think you should appeal and that you may actually be supported by the Equalization Board. I do not know who the burden of proof lies with. If I find out I’ll post it.

    Real estate taxes are a lousy and unfair way to collect the revenue the government needs. People on low, fixed incomes who are living in homes they’ve paid for are often victims of the problems caused by real estate taxes. Rather than correct the basic problem the legislature just passes laws to create loopholes for senior citizens and farmers and that just shifts more of the tax burden to those who are ineligible for relief. There are thousands of acres of land in Albemarle County that are owned by developers and speculators but are hardly taxed at all because it is in the "land use tax" program, ostensibly to protect the land from development. The program is a failure at acheiving that goal but it gives enormous tax relief to some very influential people as well as a handfull of farmers who couldn’t make it without the relief.

    Kevin Cox

  6. Again and again and again we witness the need to reform our governing systems. Our crooked, unwieldy, incomprehensible, unfair, counter-productive tax system is an example of the need for total reform. Yet when a candidate suggests “Flat Tax Rates”, he/she has already lost the elections [in doing so]! When will the sleeping giant that is the American Public wake up?

  7. I think that you are right in your characterization of how the assessors do their job. However, I am curious as to whether their superiors may have given them any changes in guidelines for determining values. I am also curious as to whether the Board of Supervisors has expressed the slightest concern over the consequences of the increase in the size of assessments.

    As an insurance broker, I deal with high-end homeowners insurance every day. Right now I have a stack of inspection reports in front of me. I have read probably hundreds of appraisals and I like to think that I have a good idea of what home values in this area are like- both in terms of market value and replacement cost.

    In the past year I have definitely seen home values jump. Falling interest rates and a bearish stock market have encouraged a swell of new homeowners entering the market, pushing up prices of homes beyond the typical rate of appreciation .

    That said, a 30% increase over a 12 month period is out of line. Unless they found oil on it, a 10% increase in property values seems a little more realistic.

    In my opinion, the characterization of the present real estate market as a bubble is probably a valid one. There are going to be a lot of unhappy ‘investors’ in a few years finding out that they’re going to have to hold on to their property for a lot longer than they figured in order to turn a profit. A bubble is bad enough for people who believe the hype and adhere to the ‘buy high, sell low’ philosophy of investment. But now Albemarle County is asking the innocent bystander to pay for the irrational exuberance that has taken hold of local real estate.

    Ultimately, this wave of Value America style tax assessments will contribute to the sad process of forcing out much of Albemarle’s economically and racially diverse population. Our own Board of Supervisors has, time and time again, betrayed their constituents by contributing to the gentrification of Albemarle County. If the Board cared even remotely about your housing costs, they would have done something already.

    I encourage any of you who have a problem with your tax assessment to make as much noise as you can. When election time comes around again, find candidates who care about providing affordable housing and high quality of life to all of their constituents- not just the developers. Otherwise, those of you who are still here in 10 years can expect to be surrounded entirely by old, white millionaires.

  8. Oh man, r u in for a surprise… as in I may be the only one to join your ‘Team Rev’!

  9. I am not a person who believes in coincidence, and with the County spending the last few months whining about revenue shortfalls, then suddenly receiving a 27% tax increase I am certainly suspicious.

    I have talked to at least a dozen people, living in all sorts of neighborhoods all over the county, and every’s assessment seems to have gone up by about the same about – apx 25% or so. I am sure there are exceptions, but this smells like a deliberate, planned conspiracy to generate revenue for the county by the county.

    Let’s assume that it is entirely innocent. The County must have knew that assessments were going to go up by such a large amount, yet they made no announcement ahead of time. They just sent out the notices and held on and hoped for the best.

    This is BS. We should be kept informed as to what’s goin on in our County government, and they should not be playing silly games behind our backs. They didn’t say anything because they knew there would be outrage from the populace who is already pissed at them because of the water crisis of 2002.

    My escrow account does not have sufficient funds to pay my 2003 taxes, so my mortgage payment will have to increase, again. It already went up a couple of months ago when State Farm doubled our homeowners policy rate.

    Is the County legally entitled to raise the assessments? I am sure they are. Is it ethical to perform what amounts to a huge tax increase that skirts any public scrutiny whatsoever? Hell no. Remember the fallout of the 10% assessment hike a couple of years ago? Everyone knew about it ahead of time, and cried foul. They did a hell of a job avoiding that, this time.

    The County have performed in a deceitful manner and should be ashamed.

  10. When I finish my basement, I’ll be damned if I am going to tell them just so they can jack my rate again in a few months.

    They can get a warrant and try and come look for themselves.

    Building permit? Bite me.

  11. Are we really comparing Albemarle to San Francisco? Say it isn’t so … :)

    Yes, I understand that assessments should fairly be up. But ~25% is WAY to steep to do at one time.

    This is a sneaky, dirty, underhanded trick by the County to fill the County coffers. What peeves me the most is how they kept is a secret, a total surprise. You would think that the County government, charged with SERVING US and providing for OUR WELL BEING would (could) have given us some notice that property values were increasing steeply and people should be on the lookout for higher assessments.

  12. +3 insightful, actually.

    Hopefully someone with connections to the local news media will get them to do some investigating, and publicly proclaim the names of those who are behind this.

    Then come re-election time for those individuals (or those who appoint them), the happy citizens can demonstrate directly their like or dislike for such schemes.

  13. I’m sure there are exceptions, like some of those mentioned above, but i’ve felt that county assessments were most often below market value. i paid 50% more than assessment for my house in crozet in 93. based on comps of similar homes sold over the last 1-2 years, i have it listed for sale now at 50% more than it’s last assessment. well, the county caught up and raised my assessment $100,000 !! (from $196,000 to $296,000 in one jump). i agree that there should be limits on the percent increases allowed, unless there are mitigating circumstances due to additions and improvements.

  14. Assessments are typically lower than appraised values. The assessment was never meant to necessarily mean "this is what you should sell your house for." If this was the case, then we would not need appraisals and banks would use assessments for loan qualification.

    A good example of this is my vehicle property tax. The County has no idea how much my vehicle is REALLY worth (mileage, condition, certain features) and thay make a generalized guess simply because they need a number. I could probably sell my car for $2000 more than it’s assessed value, as could most people.

    To say that your assessed value needs to match the real value is pretty impractical. What your home is "worth" to someone is pretty subjective, and subject to the whims of the buyer (they REALLY like your deck). Should your assessment be subject to the whims of the assessor (you pay more taxes because he/she REALLY likes your deck?)

    This being said I think it’s appropriate that assessed values be conservative, which they always were before last week. If the County really needs more revenue, then they can raise taxes and hope they get re-elected. What they did was shortcut the public scrutiny associated with a tax hike in a vain attempt to play us all for fools.

    I have no respect for this, and no BOS member currently sitting will get my vote, because I REFUSE to believe that they had no idea assessments were going to skyrocket. I just don’t buy it. They knew, and didn’t say anything.

    Surprise, and happy New Year.

  15. I take most of your statement to heart but what it looks like to me is after years of charging 85% to 90% of value it appears to me that they decided to go to 100%- which is legally permissable.

    Though it always happens after an election doesn’t it

  16. I sorry, when did Ablemarle become racially diverse. The stats do not agree with you. Albemarle is much less diverse then Charlottesville The amount of poor is dropping rapidly in the county. This will continue

    And because of all the rich retirees coming here you are already surrounded. We are quickly becoming the east coast wine country. Values will continue skyward. And if we ever get light rail to DC it will get much worse. Imagine if people from northern Virginia could comute to Charlottesville in an hour to ninety minutes.

  17. Albemarle actually has a pretty high latino immigrant population according to census data. There is also a notable minority of rural blacks, but you are right that Albemarle is less diverse than Charlottesville.

    I agree with you about light rail to DC, but I think that you and I may have differing views about the future. I believe that through good government, active citizens and diligent planning, it is possible for Charlottesvlle and Albemarle to remain a viable community for people of different races and income brackets. I’m not gonna give up on this.

  18. "I’m not gonna give up on this."

    Sounds like a wish of last resort before the last straw?

  19. "Right now I have a stack of inspection reports in front of me."

    The real estate assessor doesn’t actually inspect the property, they simply look at what similar houses have sold for in that area.

    An assessment is different from an appraisal. An appraiser actually adds up what the value of your home is.

    So people are paying too much for houses, big deal. People are stupid, something about lower interest rates or something.

  20. The real estate assessor doesn’t actually inspect the property, they simply look at what similar houses have sold for in that area.

    Not always true – in Albemarle County the assessors routinely inspect properties. In August, the assessor toured our home, and proclaimed that the assessment would rise to the purchase price we had paid a year previously. He was very specific and clear about that, and we considered that to be exceedingly fair.

    When we got the bill, it was 17% HIGHER than the purchase price. What happened between the time the house was toured and assessed in person, and the time the notice was mailed?

    And if you really think an appraiser actually adds up the property’s value, perhaps you’ve never purchased real estate. Each time we have, the appraisal has come in less than $500 above the contract price. This is SOP – the lenders want to make the loans, and the appraisers want to continue to be referred by lenders and realtors. The appraisal process exists to satisfy the lender’s requirement that the property exists, is in appropriate condition, and the contract price passes a simple sanity check. I used to sell real estate many years ago, and only one time in two years did an appraisal ever come in below the contract price, and that time it was still $40k above the loan amount. Bank appraisals are nothing more than a lender covering his ass, while assessments deal exclusively with tax revenue generation. As an appraiser once told me, “I usually set the value at the contract price, because that’s obviously the market value.”

    Assessors and appraisers do essential the same thing, but they have totally different customers who don’t necessarily have the same needs.

  21. We recently refinanced, so had our county house reassessed professionally. The Albemarle county assessment was 25% higher than the professional assessment, and 35% higher than last year’s assessment.

    I don’t believe for a second that this isn’t some underhanded way to raise revenue. I’m very surprised there has been little coverage of it in the press. I am definitely going to call the county and contest this assessment. Is it legal?

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