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Real Estate Assessments In Record # Of Appeals

This February, the City of Falls Church’s real estate assessor, Erwving Bailey, announced new real estate assessments, revealing a whopping 11.4 percent jump for local property owners. Due to the shock of this increase, and the higher tax bills that they led to, many citizens appealed the bills they received. Indeed, it is a record number.

In the City of Falls Church, overall residential real estate values increased 13.72 percent from January 2021 to January 2022. Single family homes had their assessment increased by 14.43 percent and townhouse assessments went up 11.60 percent. According to the City, condominium values increased by 12.31 percent over 2021.

This year’s assessment increased 11.4 percent from last year’s, leading to 141 appeals this year, setting a new high for the Real Estate Assessor’s Office in City Hall. (Photo Courtesy: Susan Finarelli)

As of January 1st, 2022, the total taxable assessed value for all properties in Falls Church is $5,093,848,600; with new construction accounting for 6.6 percent of the increase due to its value of $34.6 million. This means the Falls Church assessment was higher than the neighboring Fairfax County assessment, which only saw a 9.57 percent increase for property owners.

Bailey, in his first year on the job, said the Real Estate Assessor’s office received a total of 141 commercial and residential appeals this year. He told the News-Press that while the number of appeals this year are higher than previous years, “it is in line with other localities in the region,” because the residential housing market during the pandemic in this region has been “robust” with the values going up as a result.
Bailey stated if a property owner wants to appeal their assessment, he asks they call the Assessor’s office first. Bailey and his team would explain the assessment process to the property owner, which often clears up confusion or misunderstandings.

If a property owner decides to proceed with an appeal, Bailey suggests they file an application to appeal to his office. That will allow the property owner to then provide “comparable sales properties that demonstrate the assessment is or is not at fair market value,” or show similar properties that are assessed at a value “that is not similar.”

The assessment office “may conduct an interior and/or exterior inspection of the property.” Bailey says after the submitted information by the property owner is analyzed, the assessment office “will make a determination to change the assessment, or let the original assessment stand.”

As for what the process of a property assessment entails, and what was exactly measured, Bailey told the News-Press the Virginia Constitution requires real estate “assessed at 100 percent of fair market value.” The City’s Office of Real Estate Assessment “calculates property value each year using mass appraisal techniques that are standard in the real estate assessment industry.” Two calculations Bailey says that were used were the “Assessment to Sales Ratio” and the “cost to replace each structure in a neighborhood.”

There is no criteria for a property owner to appeal their assessment, Bailey stated, however, “data in support [of] a request to change a property’s assessed value must be provided by the property owner.”
Assessment notices were mailed to property owners on March 25, with property tax payments based on the new assessments not due until December 6 of this year and June 5 of next year. This year’s deadline to appeal to an assessor was at the “end of April,” with the deadline to appeal to the Board of Equalization was “early June.”

As for future assessments, Bailey says a rise in appeals is expected “when there is a robust real estate market,” and welcomes anyone “who has questions about their assessment, the calculation, and the process.”