November 2017: According to the San Juan County Assessor’s Office 2018 Notices of Value have been mailed out! If you live on Orcas, Lopez, Shaw, Friday Harbor or the outer islands please read my blog about appealing your property taxes. Feel free to contact me at (360)317-5845 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. The Date
Your assessed valuation is based on January 1st of the current year, meaning only sales from the prior year are considered relevant. Your Notice of Value, likely received in the fall, reflects the Assessor’s opinion of market value on January 1st of the current year. For example, if you received your notice in November, 2017 the valuation date is retrospective to January 1, 2017, or approximately 11 months in the past.
Until you receive the Notice of Value in the mail. Wait to see how the Assessor assesses your property before deciding to appeal. Do NOT hire anyone (including me) to help you appeal before you know what your assessed value is. Carefully read the front and back of the notice for filing deadline information.
3. Call the Assessor’s Office
This is a free move. They are happy to answer your questions. Be polite and respectful, inquire about the details of your property and how the details were considered and reflected in your valuation. Try to resolve your issues, be reasonable and coherent in your discussion. Send information to the office; email or bring in relevant information for the staff appraiser to consider. Review the details of your property in advance online using the Assessor’s parcel search function found here, http://parcel.sanjuanco.com/PropertyAccess/?cid=0
4. My Recommendation
After considering the above three suggestions, I recommend talking with a trusted real estate professional before filing an appeal.
5. Your Wallet
Remember that every $10,000 in assessment ranges from $47-$75 out of your pocket (2017 SJCo). The levy rate varies depending on which part of the county your property is located; Orcas, San Juan, Lopez, Shaw and the outer islands all have varying and multiple levy rates. These areas are called the tax code areas, and the levy rate is based on many factors that change annually. You can review your levy rate in the Taxing Jurisdiction section of your property details found on the Assessor’s parcel search mentioned above, and find more information about levies on the Assessor’s homepage http://sanjuanco.com/149/Assessor.
6. Market Value
Understand that the assessment must, by law, reflect the market value of your property on the date indicated. This means how a typical buyer would value your property. Understand the difference between cost to build and market sales approach; a homeowner’s (often reduced) cost to build something does not dictate the market’s reaction ($) to that feature. The opposite is also true with custom or over improved property, where the market will not pay more for a specific characteristic, feature or structure.
The Board of Equalization is an independent volunteer board appointed by the County Council The appeal form and information about the board, deadlines, and the members can be found at http://www.sanjuanco.com/356/Board-of-Equalization. Read the form carefully! Pay special attention to the area asking for your opinion of value and your sales comparable support. Remember the burden of proof lies with you! The Assessor has the presumption of correctness in Washington State.
Don’t lowball your value. Remember the reasonable test; reflect on what the real estate professionals have shared with you. Do your research and understand the appraisal principles being applied.
9. Comp Sales
Use comparable sales that occurred near, ideally just before, January. Support your value with specific sales as close to January 1st as possible. Make sure your “comps” really are comparable. Don’t just use the lowest sales in the neighborhood, use whatever is truly comparable. Use specific market data; national or statewide trends are usually not specific enough. Look at your neighborhood, island and the county. Do not present information that does not correlate statistically to your specific property.
10. What Happens After You Appeal
The Board will review your application, contact you and set a hearing date. It is best if you come in person- or send a representative- to present your case. Demonstrate the efforts taken to resolve the issues with the Assessor’s Office prior to filing. Be polite, respectful and coherent in your presentation. Do not expect a decision at the hearing; usually the Board of Equalization issues a written decision with 30-60 days of the hearing. The board can raise, lower or sustain the county Assessor’s value.