Real Estate Assessments in F.C. Improve Despite Pandemic

F.C. City Council discusses some of the specifics of the Founders Row project with Joe Muffler (bottom right), a rep from the project lead Mill Creek

Pandemic? What pandemic?

One might consider such a reaction to the City of Falls Church’s annual real estate assessments released this week. They grew an impressive 2.7 percent overall, slightly ahead of estimates that the City has been operating from as recently as December.

According to City Manager Wyatt Shields, in an interview with the News-Press Wednesday, there were no surprises in the results announced by the Office of the Assessor’s chief officer Ryan Davis and appraiser Lisa Freeman.

The slightly better than expected increase came as part of the $55 million growth attributable to the progress in the construction of the Founder’s Row large scale mixed use project now under construction at the intersection of W. Broad and N. West Street.

“That major improvement and the spate of new individual home construction and renovations around the City account for the growth,” Shields said.

Shields said that as the economy begins to recover from the darkest days of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, it is hoped that pauses in some new developments will rev up again, bringing new jobs, indoor restaurant dining, retail rebounds and more new large scale development.

He said he’s very hopeful, for example, that a new movie theatre company will be eager to come into the Founder’s Row project (following the bankruptcy of the company that had signed a lease to come in there last year, which was announced in the fall).

All of this improves the chances that the real estate tax rate will not grow above its current rate of $1.335 per $100 assessed valuation.

With the announcement of the new annual real estate assessments came the report that all properties in the City of Falls Church were reported to be valued at $4,570,946,700 ($4.57 billion), a 2.72 percent increase from Jan. 1, 2020, according to a release City of Falls Church Assessors Office.

New construction (valued at $72.68 million) accounts for 60.58 percent of the increase in assessed value in the City, and market appreciation accounts for the remainder.

City assessments will be mailed to property owners in late February.
Updated assessment information will be posted on the City website by March 2.

Individual home owners are being told to expect to receive their individual assessments in the mail before the end of the month, and the tax rate will be set in late April by the F.C. City Council.

Residential new construction accounted for $17.68 million of growth; commercial new construction accounts for $55.0 million of growth.

Overall commercial property values increased 0.57 percent since January 2020 and multi-family property values decreased 2.78 percent; overall residential real estate values increased 4.07 percent over the last year.

Single family homes and townhomes had varying changes but overall were up 4.21 percent and 4.62 percent respectively; and residential condominiums had varying changes but overall increased 3.12 percent. As set forth in the Virginia Constitution, 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.

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 Dec. 6, 2021 and June 6, 2022; property owners will receive bills prior to these dates.

The real estate tax rate will be determined on April 26, when the Falls Church City Council adopts the Fiscal Year 2022 Operating Budget and Capital Improvements Program and sets the tax rate.

Public hearings on the budget will be held during regular City Council meetings on March 22, April 12 and April 26 at 7:30 p.m.

Individual assessments will be mailed later this month. City Hall has advised residents that after evaluating the assessment, 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 (TTY 711).

Deadlines for assessment appeals are Friday, April 2 for an Office of Real Estate Assessment review and Friday, June 4 for a Board of Equalization review.

In Falls Church City Council actions at its meeting this Monday:

It voted 6-1 to approve a modification of the negotiated terms with Mill Creek for the Founder’s Row project to substitute a third party escrow account for promises that a movie theater would be occupying the site.
It heard a report from the City’s Use of Force voluntary committee, whose findings will be reported in next week’s News-Press.