F.C. Real Estate Values Grew at 1/2 National Average in ‘12 Says Assessor

5.5% Growth in U.S. Contrasted to 2.9% Here, Says Report

In a dramatic contrast from what was reported nationally this week as a robust rebound in the nation’s real estate markets, overall real estate values in the City of Falls Church reported as formal assessments by City Hall Monday grew by less than 3 percent.

The official assessments form the basis for what the City can count as projected revenues for its next fiscal year budget, and they fell far below the national average. According to the Case Shiller Index, as reported on national newscasts this week, home values grew by 5.5 percent nationwide in 2012, the highest growth rate in six years. In some areas, it noted, the growth in value was above 23 percent.

One report cited Virginia home builder Doug Smith of Miller and Smith, who said he’s building 43 homes now as evidence of the red hot market driven largely by record low mortgage interests rates.

The low growth rate figure for the City of Falls Church has many scratching their heads, however, as on top of low interest rates, the demand for housing in Falls Church is being driven by the reputation of its public school system, resulting in record growth rates in the enrollment at the City’s four public schools.

The 2.9 percent overall growth figure puts the job of balancing the coming fiscal year’s budget more difficult for the City Council, especially in the face of the schools’ record enrollment growth trends that led Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones to recommend last week an increase in the City’s fund transfer to the school by over 14 percent.

Anecdotal evidence, including the testimonies of numerous realtors who sell homes in the City of Falls Church, also contradicts the official numbers.

However, according to an official press release issued by City Hall Monday, “Real estate is assessed at 100 percent of fair market value. The City’s Office of Real Estate Assessment calculates property value annually using mass appraisal techniques that are standard in the real estate assessment industry.” This is in accordance with the Virginia Constitution, it noted.

As a result, the press release stated, “The total taxable assessed value for all properties in the City of Falls Church as of Jan. 1, 2013, is $3,324,120,300 ($3.3 billion), a 2.9 percent increase from January 1, 2012.”

The City plans to mail assessments for 2013 in February, so property owners should receive the notices on or after Tuesday, Feb. 12, it stated. Updated assessment information will be posted on the City website Monday, Feb. 11. Individual assessment information will not be available until after the mailing.

According to Monday’s release, overall residential real estate values increased 3.1 percent over the last year. Single family home values increased by 3.5 percent, townhomes increased by 3.6 percent, and residential condominiums had varying changes.

Overall commercial property values increased 1.6 percent since January 2012. The real estate value of multi-family apartments increased 5 percent, large office buildings are up 0.2 percent and large retail properties are up 3.9 percent. The value of City hotels remained flat.

According to the City, the forthcoming notice of assessment is an appraisal of the fair market value of the property; it is not a tax bill. Property tax payments will be due in two installments on June 5 and Dec. 5; property owners will receive bills prior to these dates.

The real estate tax rate will be determined on April 22, 2013, when the Falls Church City Council adopts the Fiscal Year 2014 Operating Budget and Capital Improvements Program and sets the tax rate. Public hearings on the Fiscal Year 2014 Proposed Operating Budget will be held on March 25, April 8, and April 22 at 7:30 p.m. in Council Chambers (300 Park Ave.).

While individual assessments will be mailed in February, if after evaluating the assessment, homeowners questioning if their assessment is correct are advised to ask the question, “Would my home sell for the assessed value if I put it on the market?” If the answer is “yes,” the assessment is probably accurate. If the answer is “no,” citizens are urged to contact the Office of Real Estate Assessment.

Deadlines for assessment appeals are Friday, March 15, 2013, for an Office of Real Estate Assessment review and Friday, July 5, 2013 for a Board of Equalization review.