Assessment

What is 'Assessment'

An assessment occurs when an asset's value must be determined for the purpose of taxation. Some assessments are made annually on certain types of property, such as homes, while others may be made only once. For example, homes are often valued every three or four years according to their physical condition and comparable values of surrounding residences.

BREAKING DOWN 'Assessment'

The most popular form of assessment is done on properties in order to calculate the amount of property tax owed to a municipality, township or county. These assessments are done by an assessor, who evaluates the physical structure of a property, its overall condition, land size, etc. and compares these to other comparable properties in the same area. This assessment is then used to determine just how much tax is owed by the property owner. 

Breaking Down the Assessment

The assessments are done by a tax assessor, who is typically appointed or is an elected official. That person will determine the values of properties in a specific area. The information gathered by the assessor is then used by local governments to set tax rates in order to support the community’s annual budget. Sometimes the assessor will visit the property, but that's not always the case. Some states have requirements of how often they need to visit properties in order to determine their values. Most assessed values are determined by real estate data, which means an on-site visit may not always be necessary.

In some areas, the assessed value is the market value, but in others, the market value is multiplied by an assessment rate to determine the assessed value.

What if You Don't Agree With the Assessment?

Property owners do have the right to contest their assessment if they do not agree with the original value assigned by the assessor. Perhaps it's too high, or there were certain factors that were not considered in the original assessment. That's when a reassessment, or a second evaluation, can then be done.

If you want to know whether your home was properly assessed, you should take a look at the assessments of comparables, or any other homes sold in the area. This information can be found on several popular real estate websites or through your municipality. The other option is to hire your own appraiser to do the job. While it may be an added expense, you may get a more accurate value placed on your property.  

One important factor to note that while you can disagree with the property assessment, you can't necessarily contest your property tax bill.

How Your Assessment Works for You

Once the assessment is complete, it goes to the municipality, township or county to determine how much you will owe in property taxes. These taxes pay for amenities used by the community including public schools, libraries, parks, swimming pools and other recreational activities, sanitation, fire, police and sewage services, and roads. 

Assessments and Your Tax Bill

Some people believe that a low property assessment will automatically decrease their tax bill. But that isn’t always the case. Your tax bill can increase even if the assessment on your property can drops, and the same can be true in the reverse. 

For example, say your property was assessed at $100,000 last year at a tax rate of $30 per $1,000 in value, you would have owed $3,000. But if your property assessment increased by 5 percent and the tax rate dropped to $27.78 per $1,000, you’ll only owe $2,917 this year. This means that despite a jump in value, the actual amount of your tax bill dropped. Conversely, if your property assessment decreased by 5 percent and your tax rate increased to $32.48, you would see an increase in property taxes this year to the tune of $3,085.60.