Frequently Asked Questions
What is a reassessment?
A reassessment is the process by which the assessed value of real estate property is revised to keep the value consistent with what the property is worth on the open market, and to assess properties fairly in comparison to each other.
It is required by Code of Virginia 58.1-3252:
There shall be a general reassessment of real estate every four years. Any county which, however, has a total population of 50,000 or less may elect by majority vote of its board of supervisors to conduct its general reassessments at either five-year or six-year intervals. Nothing in this section shall affect the power of any county to use the annual or biennial assessment method as authorized by law.
Property assessments are intended to reflect market values at the time of reassessment. Between reassessment periods market values can change. These value changes may happen for a variety of reasons: appreciation or depreciation; structural changes (additions, remodeling), re-zonings, and land divisions. A combination of these factors can apply to the same property.
How does the Real Estate Assessor's office come up with a value for my assessment?
Mass appraisal is a comprehensive process. An accurate real estate property record database provides the foundation for the assessments. The first step is to narrow down a list of all the sales in the county to a list of qualified sales. An unqualified sale such as a family sale, foreclosure, gift, or short sale would not be used for the purpose of mass appraisal because it would not indicate what a typical, well-informed purchaser would be willing to pay for a property. Qualified sales are evaluated by location, condition, construction details, and other factual features to determine base prices per square foot. Further adjustments are made based upon acreage, right of ways, wetlands, and other access or use issues. The value of the adjustments is made by further analyzing the qualified sales.
The above description is an over-simplified translation of a very detailed process. It helps to understand that individual properties are NOT assessed individually. Onsite inspections are conducted to verify that real estate property records are accurate and up to date. Base price per acre and square foot amounts are determined by analyzing sales in given areas and are applied to like properties in given areas to determine a value after necessary adjustments are made for special conditions on the property.
What is the difference between the sale price, an appraisal, and an assessment?
Sale price is the actual price a buyer pays for a particular property. An appraisal is a detailed single property valuation, and may be obtained any time throughout the year. An assessment is a mass appraisal of property in a jurisdiction as of a certain date, which happens to be January 1st for the county of Prince George. Assessments are based on a large number of sales that are analyzed to determine values for large groups of similar properties.
If I just recently sold my home, isn't that the fair market value?
Not necessarily. One sale does not constitute market value. Sales of similar properties must also be reviewed and analyzed to determine if a single sale is an accurate estimate of fair market value.
How can a property be assessed for more or less than its purchase price?
Real estate may be assessed for more or less than the purchase price because the assessment reflects fair market value. Fair market value is not necessarily the price paid for a piece of real estate, but rather, what it is worth on the real estate market at the date of measurement. Market value is defined as the amount a typical, well-informed purchaser would be willing to pay for a property. Since the market value is determined at a place in time, market value continues to change after a sale takes place. Values also change, and the property value may have gone up or down since the purchase. This is especially true if a piece of real estate was purchased several years ago, or if a person happened to get a good buy because of a distressed sale. Assessed value should represent fair market value at the time of the reassessment, which may or may not be the same as purchase price or a real estate sales price.
Will my assessment go up or down after this reassessment?
A reassessment does not necessarily result in increased or decreased assessments for all properties as properties do not appreciate or depreciate at the same rate. In a given cycle, there will be assessments that rise, fall, or stay the same, based on internal and external factors that influence property values such as location; appreciation; depreciation; new construction; remodeling; or rezoning.
Why is my assessment changing?
There are many reasons for a change in property values. One of the most common reasons is that real property usually changes in value over time. Value changes can also be a result of additions, alterations, or the demolition of improvements. Property assessments can appreciate in value if the market desirability increases, even without physical improvements.
The purpose of a reassessment is to measure the change in market value of a home as of the effective date of the reassessment. An assessor that analyzes the market for the purpose of a general reassessment does not create value. Value is established through the buying and selling of real estate on the open market. An assessor’s legal responsibility is to determine the fair market value of a property and ensure uniformity and equity amongst all properties. Even though the market is constantly changing, assessed values do not change until the next general reassessment.
How will this affect my taxes?
General reassessments are not designed to be a county-wide tax change. This process is intended to fairly and equitably distribute the real estate tax burden among property owners in proportion to the fair market value of their real estate. The state code ensures that a general reassessment cannot be the cause of an increase in taxes. Once the reassessment is complete, state code requires that the tax rate be implemented by the Board of Supervisors. It is the responsibility of the Board of Supervisors to determine the budgetary needs of the County and adjust the tax rate to effectively meet those needs.
Do all assessments change at the same rate?
No. There are many factors that determine the fair market value of a home. Assessments in one area can rise while assessments in another area can remain the same or even decline even within a single jurisdiction such as ours. There are numerous factors within an area that can determine the rate at which an assessment will change. These factors can include, but are not limited to: desirability, age, location, condition, size, quality, bed and bath count, etc.
Why are some properties assessed higher or lower than what they sell for?
Mass appraisal is not an exact science. Assessments may not be exactly the sale price of a property due to the limitations of exterior inspections and knowing that even comparable properties do not sell for exactly the same price. A model is developed by the Real Estate Assessor’s office that uses all the qualified sales throughout the county that attempts to get as many properties as close to their market value as possible.
Why does the Real Estate Assessor's office re-inspect my property even if nothing has changed?
A physical inspection is required to check for overall condition of a property and to verify that all the information on property record is accurate and up to date. Even if only a some of the properties are physically inspected each year, all properties are reevaluated in a reassessment year.
Why do the appraisers not schedule for an appointment to come inspect a property?
Prince George County contains approximately 14,000 parcels that need to be reviewed once every few years. There are two field inspectors at this time. In the interest of cost, time, efficiency, and equal treatment of all properties the Assessor’s office is not able to schedule appointments to inspect a property. You may certainly contact the Assessor’s Office if you feel your property needs additional review.