Assessment Process

All real property, including commercial & residential, are re-assessed annually. Determining the value involves a combination of factors, which include but are not limited to:

  • The price a typical buyer would pay for the property in its current condition in a competitive and open market.
  • The value that similar properties 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

As market values change, in general so do assessed values. Market values change because the property has changed or because market conditions have changed. For example, if you were to add a garage to your home, the market value and the assessed value may increase. If you add new siding, the market value and the assessed value of your home also may increase. However, if your property is in poor condition, the market value and assessed value may decrease over time. In many areas, market conditions have led to increases in market values and assessed values without any changes to the property or surrounding areas. Other areas have experienced declines. In estimating the value of your property, the assessor reflects the conditions that are occurring in the current marketplace.

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 paid a higher than market price
  • Another might have sold for less than it was worth because the owner needed to close right away
  • Certain homes may have been over- or underpriced 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 may rise slower than newer homes.

Residential assessments are based on sales that occurred within a neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods during the analysis period which runs from September 1st to August 31st of the year leading up to the January 1st assessment.

Cost Approach: How much it would cost, at current material and labor costs, to replace a property with similar physical characteristics. If the property is not new, the appraiser must also estimate how much value has been lost due to wear and tear and adjust for this “depreciation,” by deducting it from the replacement costs. The cost approach can vary from year to year based on the cost of labor and materials changing. The depreciated cost plus the value of the land 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 the capitalization rate, determines the assessment value. This method is most often used for commercial properties, and seldom for single-family homes.

Assessment Process

  1. Appraisers visit properties across the county for permit work, after recent sales, or due to outdated records.
  2. Sales analysis is performed for a neighborhood based on open-market sales to bring assessment values in line with market values
  3. Values are reviewed by the department
  4. Assessment values are posted on the website and mailed to owners
  5. Owners may contact appraisal staff with any questions regarding their assessment.
  6. Owners may file for an administrative review of assessment by March 1st or a Board of Equalization appeal of assessment by April 15th.

For questions or corrections to your property record, please contact the assessment office at (703)-228-3920 and request to speak with your assigned Appraiser. For mailing address changes, please use the Address Change Form

  • Interior inspections: These are desirable, but not always possible. Arlington keeps records on physical characteristics of each property from previous years and factors these into the overall assessed value. 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 market value, 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.