A press release from City Hall made it official Tuesday morning. The real estate assessments in the City of Falls Church have leaped in the last year by an average 7.83 percent for single family homes, and by 6.77 percent overall. This is more than double the rate of increase for the year before, which was only three percent, while commercial real estate values lagged by increasing only 2.37 percent.
As the City reported, the total taxable assessed value for all properties in the City as of Jan. 1, 2014, is $3,549,167,400 ($3.5 billion), a 6.77 percent increase from Jan. 1, 2013.
City Manager Wyatt Shields, who tipped off the six-something percent number to the News-Press the week before, told the News-Press yesterday that the City’s assessments are “in line with the region,” noting that Arlington County’s residential real estate values came in with a 5.3 percent increase. The discrepancy between residential and commercial values is also par for the surrounding area, Shields said.
“It’s a general trend,” Shields said. “Commercial values are impacted by the high vacancy rates in the region, while residential properties are continuing to bounce back from the setbacks of the last few years.”
It means that property owners can expect their tax bills to go up by the percentage of increase even without the City Council voting to increase the tax rate. For example, the average tax increase would amount to almost $600 for the owner of a $600,000 single family home.
Citizens should be mindful that the City has tax relief options for lower income residents over 65 or with total and permanent disabilities. The deadline for filing for relief is April 15. More information and forms are available at the Treasurer’s office at City Hall.
It is also significant that beginning in June, the City will be exacting a Storm Water Utility Fee from all property owners that will be determined by a variety of factors including the percentage of a property covered by an impervious surface. This new policy, required to comply with federal and state Chesapeake Bay environmental standards as well as to buoy up the City’s ability to cope with runoff water from major storms, will hit businesses and churches with large asphalt parking lots especially hard.
A mailing was sent out by City Hall to all local residents this week explaining the storm water fee policy. The fee will be included in the bill sent by the City to property owners for the first half of annual real estate taxes in May.
Shields said that the City plans to mail individual real estate assessments announcements for 2014 later this week, so property owners should receive the notices on or after Monday, Feb. 17. Updated assessment information will be posted on the City website Monday, Feb. 17 but individual assessment information will not be available until after the mailing.
Overall residential real estate values increased 6.73 percent over the last year. Single family home values increased by 7.83 percent, townhomes increased by 3.38 percent, and residential condominiums had varying changes but overall condos increased 4.97 percent.
Overall commercial property values increased 2.37 percent since January 2013. The real estate value of multi-family apartments increased 11.15 percent, large office buildings are up 1.19 percent and large retail properties are up 8.29 percent. The value of City hotels remained flat.
In total, new construction accounted for $53 million of the $225 million increase in assessed value: $33 million in Commercial new construction and $20 million in Single Family Residential new construction, totaling 24 percent of the total growth, or 1.6 percent of the 6.77 percent increase.
As set forth in the Virginia Constitution, real estate is intended to be 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, the City’s press release stated.
The 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 28, 2014, when the Falls Church City Council adopts the Fiscal Year 2015 Operating Budget and Capital Improvements Program and sets the tax rate. Public hearings on the Fiscal Year 2015 Proposed Operating Budget will be held on March 24, April 14, and April 28 at 7:30 p.m. in Council Chambers (300 Park Ave.).
According to the City press release, homeowners wondering if their assessment is correct should 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,” contact the Office of Real Estate Assessment at 703-248-5022.
Deadlines for assessment appeals are Friday, March 14, 2014, for an Office of Real Estate Assessment review and Monday, July 7, 2014 for a Board of Equalization review.