Saturday, April 20, 2024

Breaking Down the James City County Real Estate Assessment Process

Photo by Kostiantyn Li on Unsplash

JAMES CITY COUNTY — This week, James City County (JCC) addressed the upcoming 2024 real estate assessments on the county’s podcast.

Financial and Management Services Director Sharon McCarthy and Real Estate Assessments Director Dayle Gallagher, guests of the program, explained how the process works and what citizens may expect when real estate assessments arrive in mailboxes later this month.

Screenshot of This Week in James City County podcast.

Property assessments are performed in the county every two years. The JCC webpage explains that the funds from assessments provide “necessary county services, such as schools, police, and fire protection. Real estate assessments are how localities fairly distribute the tax burden among all property owners. The distribution from the assessment is proportionally based on the market value of individual properties.”

Real estate assessment affects how real estate tax is determined.

The real estate tax rate is set by the James City County Board of Supervisors annually and determines the amount of the tax that is levied on property.

Gallagher stated that the assessments are based on state code that requires localities to be at fair market value, defined in Virginia as “the price that a good or service would bring between a willing seller and a willing buyer in the open market after negotiations.”

Sales not used in determining the reassessment include family sales, foreclosures, trustee sales and new construction.

Using 27 valid sales from the past two years as an example, Gallagher points out the discrepancy between those current sales and the assessment in 2022. Homes used for this demonstration were all of similar size, quality of construction and year built.

Comparing sale prices to the 2022 assessed value shows that JCC is not at fair market value, according to Gallagher, and “the appraiser will try and find out if something is incorrect with our data or if it is the market. We want to find out if there is a reason why this is selling so differently.”

Another way an assessment is calculated is through sales ratio, which is assessed value divided by the sale price. “The lower the ratio, the higher the market is compared to assessed value,” said Gallagher.

Current sales ratios are lower than in 2022, which shows the market is going up.

Home valuations can go up due to a number of factors, including as incorrect data in square footage and upgrades.

Real estate assessments will be sent out at the end of February 2024, but only to JCC homeowners whose assessments have changed since 2022.

If citizens feel their assessment is incorrect, there is a 30-day appeal window that begins on March 1. The property owner can contact the Real Estate Assessments Division and discuss their concerns with their property assessor. A change in assessment may be possible if data is incorrect. Outside of a data change, property owners can appeal their assessment during the appeal period.

“If a property owner has a question, give the Real Estate Assessment office a call,” said  McCarthy. “It is a great place to start. You will be able to speak to the actual assessor about your specific property and other factors that may come into play that are outside of your specific property; maybe more neighborhood driven.”

“This Week in James City County (with Renee Dallman): 2024 Real Estate Assessments” can be viewed here. Frequently Asked Questions regarding assessments are available here.

“I suspect we will see an increase,” said JCC County Administrator Scott Stevens. “Preliminary data, looking at York County being at about 20% and New Kent being somewhere in the 24% range, I wouldn’t be surprised if [JCC] is in the same range. If their property values have increased like that on both sides of us, ours likely have too.”

“My neighbors ask me, ‘Are you raising my property taxes?’ and I am not trying to but, I am supposed to get your assessment closer to what you would sell it for.” Stevens continued, “Obviously, it is not the same — an assessment is not an appraisal — but, we are supposed to be close to what you would sell for.”

The results of the 2024 reassessment will be presented at the Feb. 27 JCC Board of Supervisors 1 p.m. business meeting.

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