Assessment Process

Property values are re-assessed annually. Determining the value involves a combination of factors, which include but are not limited to:

  • Price most people would pay for the property in its current condition in a competitive and open market
  • Value similar properties similar are selling for
  • Estimated cost to replace the property with today’s materials and labor costs
  • How much it takes to operate and keep in repair
  • Potential earnings if rented
  • Current rate of interest charged on funds borrowed to buy or build similar property

Valuing a Property

Assessors can take three approaches to valuing a property.

Sales Comparison Approach: Comparing your property to others sold during the same appraisal period – both the sale price and related factors.  For example:

  • A property might have sold for more than it was worth because the buyer was in a hurry and would pay any price
  • Another might have sold for less than it was actually worth because the owner needed cash right away
  • Certain homes may have been over- or under-priced given that year’s market
  • Changes to size, quality, condition, improvements/additions to properties can affect value,

Even within the same neighborhood, various factors can affect values of individual homes. For example, one-story houses may be in larger demand than two-story houses, or vice versa. Older home values might rise slower than newer homes.

Residential assessments are based on neighborhood sales occurring from September 1 of the previous year through August 31 of the current year, with an emphasis on current year sales.

Cost Approach: How much money it would take, at current material and labor costs, to replace your property with one similar (due to flood, fire or other circumstances). If your property is not new, the assessor must also estimate how much value has been lost to wear and tear and adjust for this “depreciation,” by deducting it from the replacement costs. The depreciated cost plus the value of your lot make up the total property value.

Income Approach: How much income your property would produce if it were rented as an apartment, store, factory, etc. The assessor must consider operating expenses, taxes, insurance, maintenance costs, and the profits most people would expect from the rental. The net income after operational costs, plus a capitalization rate, determines the assessment value. This method is most often used for commercial properties, and seldom for single-family homes.

Assessment Process

  1. Assessment process begins
  2. Assessor may visit your home or use records from previous years for a portion of the assessment (see “Interior Inspections” below)
  3. You receive a notice of the assessment value of your property and the related tax due
  4. Pay tax OR appeal

If you need to change your personal or property info at any time during the year, use the Address Change Form

  • Interior inspections: These are desirable, but not always possible (due to lack of time or access). Arlington keeps records on physical characteristics of each property from previous years and will factor these into the overall assessed value. All new property owners receive an information form in the mail, which they can use to update the County’s records. Note: You do not have to let the assessor in when an inspection is requested, although it is to your advantage to do so. In these cases, the assessor leaves an information request on your door.
  • Condominiums: Arlington relies on recent sales comparisons. Each condominium is treated as a separate neighborhood, with values on units within. When estimating replacement costs, the County applies a formula that is uniform to all units. (Formulas are based on such factors as living area size, number of baths, floor height, views, parking spaces, etc.)
  • Land values: Land values are determined by sales of vacant parcels or increased sales on properties being purchased strictly for land value. For most properties, land is assessed on a per site basis, recognizing that larger or smaller lots do not proportionately increase or decrease from typical market values. Values for sites under construction do not automatically vary as size grows.

Public Record

Real estate assessments are a matter of public record; for each parcel of real estate, the name of the owner(s), the amount of the assessment, and the taxes levied are recorded in the Land Book.

The information contained in Land Book is online and can be accessed via the Property Data Search.

Copies of the Land Book are kept in the offices of the Department of Real Estate Assessments, the Treasurer of Arlington County, and the Clerk of the Circuit Court.  Anyone is free to examine these books to compare assessments and taxes of properties.