Property assessments in Prince William County arrived in resident’s mailboxes today, and more than a few are rather surprised, given the emails I’ve been getting. Drops of more than $100,000 are common, shaving off 30% or more of a home’s assessed value. While the decreases were expected, seeing the actual numbers show up is a bit of a shock for many.
Residents should take some solace in the fact that the relationship between these numbers and actual values are somewhat tenuous. The county took real estate data, extrapolated a bit, and figured that if the houses that sold were selling for 30% less, that means your house is likely worth 30% less as well. Although it’s a relatively fair way to establish values, in that everyone is effected equally, it’s not necessarily an accurate representation of what values for any individual house actually are.
Many of the homes that sold, and were used as the basis for these figures, were foreclosures at bargain-basement prices. Some of these had serious deficiencies. Comparing your well-kept home to a bank-owned property with all the appliances stripped and holes in the drywall isn’t going to yield an accurate evaluation. While it’ll get you a nice break on your property taxes, and an opportunity to speak with the folks handling your escrow account to reduce the amount you have to pay, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your home is actually worth as little as the county says in the open market.So take these numbers with a grain, or perhaps a full wheelbarrow of salt.
The residential real estate market is actually recovering pretty well. In February, inventory levels dropped to about a five month supply and the number of homes on the market has fallen continuously to the nearly pre-bubble levels of August 2005. Thge average number of days on the market has decreased, and the sales price vs. listing price ratio has improved. If you look around the neighborhoods, there are a lot less houses with “for sale” signs in the yard than there were a year ago, while the number of home sales has nearly doubled. Looking at this strictly from a supply and demand standpoint, the market is improving considerably, and residential values will soon reflect that. Regardless of these property assessments, the market is poised for recovery
In the meantime, we can take heart in that our elected officials in Prince William County have decided to ensure that in the midst of this they’re not going to demand a higher proportion of our wealth. At least at the county level, our government hasn’t decided that economic uncertainty is necessarily an opportunity to increase our taxes.
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