Appraisals For Property Tax Appeal

Appealing Your Property Taxes

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Appraisals for Property Tax Appeal
When real estate property taxes are wrong,
a solid appraisal is a vital part of your tax appeal.

If you are going to contest your property taxes, a strong, accurate, real estate appraisal is a vital component of your argument. Your property tax appeal must be based on accurate information, not emotion. We can help!

How to reduce your property taxes.

Background on property taxes
In most states, real estate is taxed based upon its “market value” as of a certain date. Usually the value is set as of January 1 of each year. States have laws relating to the process and how each county tax auditor go about the business of property taxation. In the State of Washington RCW 84 is the governing law. View the law here: RCW 84

From the State of Washington RCW 84 (Property tax law):

The department of revenue shall:
Exercise general supervision and control over the administration of the assessment and tax laws of the state, over county assessors, and county boards of equalization, and over boards of county commissioners, county treasurers and county auditors and all other county officers, in the performance of their duties relating to taxation, and perform any act or give any order or direction to any county board of equalization or to any county assessor or to any other county officer as to the valuation of any property, or class or classes of property in any county, township, city or town, or as to any other matter relating to the administration of the assessment and taxation laws of the state, which, in the department's judgment may seem just and necessary, to the end that all taxable property in this state shall be listed upon the assessment rolls and valued and assessed according to the provisions of law, and equalized between persons, firms, companies and corporations, and between the different counties of this state, and between the different taxing units and townships, so that equality of taxation and uniformity of administration shall be secured and all taxes shall be collected according to the provisions of law. (Phew!)

The amount of property tax you pay depends on:
a) the value of your property and,
b) the cost of state and local government.
About half of your property tax is determined by the levies you and your neighbors have approved for services such as schools, parks, water districts, emergency medical service and fire protection, among others.

How the County Explains Things

In valuing residential real estate, we look at both land and improvements (buildings, bulkheads, etc.). We begin by establishing land value, which state law requires us to value as if it is vacant. This value is determined by analyzing sales of comparable bare land. If there have been no recent sales, we use other recognized appraisal methods.

Our next step is to study sales and market trends of improved (developed or built-on) properties in a selected area. This sales analysis is used to determine total market value based on size, year built, quality of construction and other characteristics. From this total value, we subtract the amount determined for the land. The balance is allocated to improvements.

In addition to this Market Approach, residential property can also be valued using the Cost Approach, which sets the value based on what it would cost to reproduce or replace the property, minus its depreciated value.

In addition to statistical analysis to determine value, all properties are physically inspected once in every six year cycle.

Whenever we revalue your property, you will receive an Official Property Value Notice showing your old and new total values with separate values shown for land and improvements.

Determining your property tax
The amount of property tax you pay depends on the cost of state and local government, including the operating costs of schools, roads, parks, libraries, hospitals, city and county government, and your local taxing districts such as ports, fire districts, utility and sewer districts. A large part of each property tax dollar goes to pay off construction bonds for school buildings and other public projects.

Depending on where you live, the specific taxes levied in your area, and local real estate values, it's possible that your taxes can increase, even if the appraised value of your home decreases. That's because about half of your property tax is determined by the levies that you and your neighbors approve for such services as schools, parks, water districts, emergency medical service and fire/rescue, among others. If these levies stay the same or increase from the year before, your property taxes may increase. Similarly, if other valuations decrease more than yours, your taxes may also increase.

Value Change Notice
Here’s what a real estate property “Value Change Notice,” from a county assessor looks like:

Value Change Notice

Typical Tax Assessed Value Problems
In our experience we find the following are the biggest reasons for tax problems:

  1. Disagreement with the property value;
  2. Misunderstanding of the size or condition of the land;
  3. The county ignoring the impact of wetlands, creeks and, slopes on the subject property;
  4. Misunderstanding of the home’s condition, quality, amount of remodeling or, view;
  5. Misunderstanding of the “valuation date” for tax purposes;
  6. Incorrect information regarding the sales price or condition of other properties that were used to establish the subject’s value.
  7. Misunderstanding of the property zoning;
  8. Misunderstanding of the Uses allowed under the Growth Management or Shoreline Management Acts, both of which may place restrictions that contradict zoning regulations.
  9. How American Home Appraisals Can Help You
    In Your Property Tax Appeal

    Step #1
    Review and confirm all of the information the county has on your property. Our most successful property tax appeals are when county records contain incorrect information about your property. Where the data is incorrect, our measurements, appraisals and, reports are often the basis for a tax reduction.

    • Example:
    • The county indicated that the house had 3,000sf. Upon our measuring, we discovered that the house was only 2,000sf. The owner was being over-taxed based upon faulty information. Our measurement along with an accurate appraisal lowered the taxes.

    Step #2
    Perform a full real estate appraisal on your property which includes:

    1. Measure all buildings;
    2. Inspect and rate the quality and condition of all visible components within all buildings;
    3. Locate and research properties, that are similar to yours, that have sold in the past year;
    4. Drive-by and photograph all potential properties that have sold in the past six months;
    5. Determine which of the sales are the most comparables with the subject;
    6. Come to a value conclusion based on current market data;
    7. Prepare a written report which will include comparisons, descriptions, sketches, photographs and maps - A summary of our information and conclusions.

    Step #3
    Deliver our report to you. Combine our appraisal report with the county tax form filled out by you and submit the package to the county. The county will analyze your information (objection form and appraisal) and send you a “determination” via the mail.

    Your Increased Chances For Success
    We are unbiased third-parties who prepare well supported and documented reports concerning the market value of your property. When we start our appraisal process, we have no idea of what the final value conclusion will be. The value conclusion is the last thing that takes place......just before we sign our names to the report. Your best chance at obtaining a reduction in your property value is by supplying a high quality appraisal that has information more accurate and better supported than the county creates.

    For us to be effective we must be an unbiased third-party. As long as the county trusts us and believes in the quality of our appraisals, which they do, you have a great chance on receiving a reduction in your assessed property value which in turn produces reduced property taxes.

    If you have a disagreement with the property taxes that you’re paying, American Home Appraisals may be able to help you. Accurate information, backed by a great appraisal are usually all that you need to reduce your tax bill. Give us a call and lets see if we can help!

    Richard Hagar, SRA

    Definitions For Real Estate Tax Purposes
    Market Value
    The basis of all assessments is the true and fair value of property. True and fair value means market value (Spokane etc. R. Company v. Spokane County, 75 Wash. 72 (1913); Mason County Overtaxed, Inc. v. Mason County, 62 Wn. 2d (1963); AGO 57-58, No. 2, 1/8/57; AGO 65-66, No. 65, 12/31/65). The true and fair value of a property in money for property tax valuation purposes is its “market value” or amount of money a buyer willing but not obligated to buy would pay for it to a seller willing but not obligated to sell. In arriving at a determination of such value, the assessing officer can consider only those factors which can within reason be said to affect the price in negotiations between a willing purchaser and a willing seller, and he must consider all of such factors. (AGO 65,66, No. 65, 12/31/65)

    Retrospective market values are reported herein because the date of the report is subsequent to the effective date of valuation. The analysis reflects market conditions that existed on the effective date of appraisal.

    Additional Information and Links:

    State of Washington Property Tax Law:

    King County Tax Assessor

    King County Property Tax Payments

    Frequently Asked Questions Concerning Property Taxes:

    Snohomish County Assessor

    Pierce County Tax Assessor-Treasurer

    Additional Information from King County Tax Assessor:
    The following files are in .PDF format. You will need a copy of PDF reader to view these files.

    King County: 2011 Property Taxes Levy Rate Distribution

    Mission, Guiding Principles and Goals

    Information Phone Numbers

    Commonly Asked Questions

    Important Dates Relating to Property Assessment and Taxation

    King County Taxing Authorities

    Active Voter-approved Property Tax Measures

    Tax Statistics

    Percentage Distribution of Property Tax Dollars

    Real and Personal Property Account Statistics

    Voted vs. Non-Voted Tax

    Assessed Value and Taxes by City

    Assessed Value and Tax Comparison by School District

    Significant Events in the History of Property Tax

    Quick answers

    Property assessments

    Taxpayer assistance

    Online services

    Reports, data

    Public records request


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