5 On Your Side

Timing of assessment says it all for property taxes

Posted May 21, 2012
Updated May 22, 2012

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— No one wants to pay more than they have to, for anything. Yet, many of us pay property taxes on a much higher value than our homes are really worth.

The difference can be tens of thousands of dollars, as an Apex homeowner found out.

"One of the main reasons we moved in the first place was to get into a better school district," said Charles Simmons.

He and his wife bought a newly built, 3,000-square-foot home last fall. Soon after, the tax bill arrived.

"It just kind of surprised me because, at first, I thought, 'Gee, that's nice that my house is worth that much,'" said Simmons. "Then, on second thought, I thought, 'Well, I don't think I could sell it for this, because nothing in the neighborhood is going for anywhere near this.'"

He paid $340,000 for the house. His tax bill value is $405,000 – a $65,000 difference.

The numbers are based on two things: how often the county tax office reassesses properties and market conditions when that assessment happens.

Simmons' assessment is based on numbers from 2008, the last time Wake County did a reassessment. It was years before the home was even built.

property tax, home Timing of assessment says it all for property taxes

Simmons called Wake County's Department of Revenue to appeal and said he didn't get anywhere. WRAL's 5 On Your Side talked with Wake County Revenue Director Marcus Kinrade.

"If they're appealing solely based on the market downturn since the last revaluation, that's not appealable, bottom line," Kinrade said, stressing market conditions have no impact on appeals.

Across North Carolina, assessment timetables vary from every four to eight years. More than half of the counties, including Wake, reassess every eight years. So does Durham County, where the tax administrator says 85 percent of appeals are based on market conditions and are therefore automatically denied.

WRAL's 5 On your Side looked further and found there's no national standard for assessments. Across South Carolina, reassessments happen every five years. It varies in Virginia, but Richmond recalculates every year.

Kinrade cautions that that comes at a very high cost.

"Doing a revaluation is very expensive," he said. "It can cost anywhere from $6 to $8 million."

Kinrade points out that most Wake County homeowners would not benefit from a reassessment done now after four years. 

His example: a home with a median tax value of $225,000 in 2008 might be valued at $202,000 today. Because tax rates would be adjusted to make sure the county continues to receive the same amount of revenue, that homeowner would now end up paying about 10 percent more in taxes.

The tax rate would increase to make up for the lower value of the home.

With current market conditions, lower-priced homes typically lose less value than high-end homes. People whose homes are valued at about $600,000 and less would pay more in taxes. Those with homes valued above $800,000 would pay less.

Many tax assessment experts say four-year cycles probably work best for both sides. Any proposal to increase an assessment cycle would likely have an uphill fight because of the additional staffing and money it would require.

Kinrade says, between 2000 and 2008, their appeal rate was quite low "because that was a very good market."

"Our assessments were far below fair market value, and, of course, no one's going to complain about that," he said.

"I have no problem paying my taxes on the house, but I'd like it to be at least reasonable," Simmons said.

For Simmons, reasonable would be to have the tax value on his home more in line with what he paid for it.


Homeowners should make sure their property is valued at a similar range as their neighbors'. Governments ideally distribute the tax base evenly across similar properties.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • sammy12 May 23, 2012

    I am only missing Alaska,Louisiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

  • sammy12 May 23, 2012

    Just because the economy suggests that the value of our homes is less, doesn't mean it will cost less tor provide the utilities and other services that your county provides (police, fire, etc.) That money has to come from somewhere which is why we are charged the way we are. Do some of you really think that if our house is worth less that the cost of providing these services goes down????

  • JustOneGodLessThanU May 22, 2012

    @tdebord, only homeowners get the mortgage tax deduction and only homeowners pay property tax on their house. People here are whining about the latter and conveniently forgetting about the former.

  • superman May 22, 2012

    The price you pay for a house is not necessarily what it is worth. Everyone wants to get a bargain and often times especially now people are having to sell for less in order to avoid bankrupcy.

  • bggnet2000 May 22, 2012

    Since buying a house in Wake Forest almost 20 years ago, my taxes have gone from about $2000 to about $4000 per year, a whooping 100% increase. I make less money today then I did 20 years ago. I see the town manager got another 4% raise this year - now making close to $150,000 per year. I think I see what is happening here (if you work in the private sector = you're screwed). The assessment/tax rate scheme is a joke and is self-serving to the people the work in the system.

  • carlostheass May 22, 2012

    "A bit longer drive into work in Raleigh, but who cares. Much lower taxes, no city tax, good schools, lower crime, etc etc." --UNC PH.d

    All good points and I agree completely. Just also remember to consider the extra wear-and-tear on an expensive vehicle, lots more expensive fuel, expensive tires, and much less appreciation on the home (when applicable!). It generally also takes longer to sell homes the farther out from town you go, which may mean more price concessions at selling time. You also lose a LOT of time to driving when you could be doing other things. Your points are perfectly valid if balanced with these other considerations.

  • tjdebord May 22, 2012

    hereandnow99, mortgage interest deduction is base on IRS guidelines, not local tax law. It's like comparing apples and oranges.

  • tjdebord May 22, 2012

    It would be nice if the article included under what circumstances one can appeal the valuation. If market value is not a criterion for appeal, what is? Condition of home?

  • JustOneGodLessThanU May 22, 2012

    I don't hear anyone complaining about their Mortgage Interest Deduction...a tax *break* that only homeowners can enjoy.

  • NeverSurrender May 22, 2012

    "Of course, the gov't also wouldn't care if you paid twice as much as a house was worth...they would still tax you based on comparables."

    What gets called "comparable" is obviously going to be skewed in the county's favour when they know that perhaps 1-2% of taxpayers will even bother with an appeal.

    In my case, they chose houses that sold for $277K (1.5 stories, 2875 sq ft) and $253K (1.63 stories, 2896 sq ft) as comparable to mine which is two stories, 2635 sq ft.

    A quick check of the website for my property found two that were the same configuration (2 stories) and much closer in size that sold in 2007 for $216K and $213.5K and an outlier two-story at 3460 sq ft that sold for $220.

    They had a real hard time trying to sell theirs as comparable after that.