Dear Darrell: I live in Georgetown. In the process of thinking about selling my house over the past few years, I have twice asked a realtor to tell me how much I could get for it at that time. Both times the price she came back with was very different than the assessed value. Once it was higher and once lower. How is this possible? -Joan S., Georgetown
Dear Joan: I am guessing that the two realtor price opinions were in two different markets. Once when prices were on the rise, and once when they were declining. It’s common for the realtor’s opinion and the assessed value to be different. The higher/lower result is a function of the strength of the real estate market, and the fact that property assessments always lag behind what is happening in the day-to-day real estate transactions. Pricing is a subjective art in any case. The property owner and realtor are “reading” the market in a sort of snapshot. The price at the moment of that snapshot takes into consideration the recent sales of comparable properties. The tax assessors use the same process to set the assessed value, but it is six months to a year (or longer), after a given property has sold. By then the real estate market has changed — strengthened or weakened — and the assessors “snapshot” is somewhat outdated. If the gap between the assessor’s value and your opinion is quite large, it is worth challenging the assessment.
Darrell Parsons is the managing broker of the Georgetown Long & Foster office. Have a real estate question? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs at georgetownrealestatenews.blogspot.com.