Frequently Asked Questions

The following are questions commonly asked about real estate assessments in the City of Alexandria and other Northern Virginia jurisdictions. You may reach us via e-mail, or by mail or in person at the Department of Real Estate Assessments, 301 King Street, City hall, Room 2600, Alexandria, VA.

Page updated on Feb 15, 2017 at 12:50 AM

The following are questions commonly asked about real estate assessments in the City of Alexandria and other Northern Virginia jurisdictions. You may reach us  via e-mail, by phone at 703.746.4646, and by mail or in person at the Department of Real Estate Assessments, 301 King Street, City hall, Room 2600, Alexandria, VA. Office hours are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  1. What is my assessed value intended to reflect?
  2. How is my residential assessment determined?
  3. How is my commercial assessment determined?
  4. What is a “Study Group”?  How do I find out my property’s study group?
  5. How do I find the sales analyzed to determine my January 1 assessment?
  6. I received my notice and believe that the assessment is too high (or too low), how do I have an appraiser take a second look at the assessed value?
  7. Can I use current year sales or listings as a basis for my Review or Appeal of my property’s assessed value?
  8. Why does the assessment notice include prior year’s tax levies, and why is the percentage change shown on the assessment notice different from the percentage change in assessed value?
  9. How can I change my mailing address for assessment notices and tax bills?
  10. How does the percentage change in my assessment compare to other properties?
  11. How does Alexandria compare to other parts of the state or to other Northern Virginia jurisdictions?
  12. Is there a state law that prevents assessments from changing more than a certain amount each year?
  13. Should my assessment change be the same as what has been published in the newspaper for my zip code?
  14. How much are my taxes going to be in 2017?
  15. What were the tax rates for the last several years?
  16. What is the assessment ratio in the City of Alexandria?
  17. My property is under construction and only partially complete.  Why aren’t you waiting until it is complete to assess it?

1. WHAT IS MY ASSESSED VALUE INTENDED TO REFLECT?

Your total assessed value is the Office of Real Estate Assessments’ estimate of the 100% fair market value of your property as of January 1.   Fair market value is defined as:

The most probable price, as of a specified date, for which the specific property rights should sell after reasonable exposure in a competitive market under all conditions requisite to a fair sale, with the buyer and seller each acting prudently, knowledgeably, and for self-interest, assuming that neither is under undue duress.1

"Market Value." The Dictionary of Real Estate Appraisal, 5th Edition. 2010. Print.

The question to ask is: “Would I be able to sell my property for this assessed value as of January 1?


2. How is my residential assessment determined?


Alexandria uses mass appraisal methods to determine the fair market value of your property.  Your assessment notice allocates a land value (as if vacant) and an improvement value.  The total value as it appears on your notice is intended to be your property’s fair market value.

Your 2017 assessment is mostly based on sales that occurred during 2016.  Appraisers stat by grouping properties into study groups.  Then the appraisers analyze the sales of properties that occurred in the subject property’s study group.  Since these properties are the group of properties that are determined to be most similar, they are the best sales to analyze.  The analysis of these sales determines whether to increase, decrease, or not change an assessment.

If no sales occur in a given study group,  appraisers must find a comparable study group to analyze and use to determine what action to take regarding the assessed values.

Think about this in terms of house hunting:  if you really wanted to live in X neighborhood, but there were no homes available for sale, where else would you look?


3. HOW IS MY COMMERCIAL ASSESSMENT DETERMINED?


Commercial properties are more complex in nature than residential property.  Commercial properties are analyzed as a whole based on their property class (office building, apartment, hotel, etc.) and are valued based upon the income, sales or cost approaches.


4. What is a “study group”?  How do I find out my property’s study group?


A study group is a group of properties that we have found to be similar.  We analyze the group to determine the market value of a subject property.  It is identified by a four-digit number.

Your study group can be found on the Real Estate Assessment Search page of our website at realestate.alexandriava.gov under “Detailed Property Description.”  The study group is also on your assessment notice.


5. How do I find the sales analyzed to determine my january 1 assessment?

All valid sales used to determine the assessments can be found in the Real Estate Assessment Search page.  From the main site, you may also click on “Search Property & Sales Data.”  You may search by property address, account number or map number.  Once an abbreviated description appears, click on “Primary Sales Comparables.”  The search will return a list of all of the valid sales analyzed to determine the current assessment.  The column headings (in blue) are sortable and can help you determine the most comparable properties.   Once you have located the sales you believe to be the most similar to your own property, compare the sales price and assessed value to your property’s assessed value.  The more similar the comparable property, the more likely that the properties will have close assessed values.


6. I received my notice and believe that the assessment is too high (or too low), how do I have an appraiser take a second look at the assessed value?

If you have researched the sales and feel your assessment is incorrect, you should file for a Request for Review of your assessment.   The completed Request for Review form can be submitted online, via e-mail, or by regular mail.  The deadline to file a Request for Review is March 15, 2017.  It is helpful to be as specific as possible when stating your reasons for the disputed value.   Do not hesitate to call the Office and talk with an appraiser before submitting a Review.  The appraiser can guide you through every step and answer questions regarding the assessment.


7. CAN I USE CURRENT YEAR SALES OR LISTINGS AS A BASIS FOR MY REVIEW OR APPEAL OF MY PROPERTY’S ASSESSED VALUE?

Real property assessments in the City of Alexandria are conducted annually, as allowed by the Code of Virginia, and are required to have an effective date of January 1 each calendar year.  Therefore, the valuation of real property is conducted using closed and recorded property transfers which occurred during the previous calendar year.  This methodology was affirmed by a recent advisory option issued by the Virginia Attorney General which concluded, “the sale of real property after January 1 does not impact real property assessments for the current tax year.”  It is erroneous to use information subsequent to the effective date of valuation because it reflects future market conditions that could not have been foreseen at the time of valuation.  Sales subsequent to the effective date of valuation may be used as evidence of the fair market value of the property for the assessment after the date of the sale.


8. WHY DOES THE ASSESSMENT NOTICE INCLUDE PRIOR YEAR'S TAX LEVIES, AND WHY IS THE PERCENTAGE CHANGE SHOWN ON THE ASSESSMENT NOTICE DIFFERENT FROM THE PERCENTAGE CHANGE IN ASSESSED VALUE?

A 2014 amendment to §58.1-3330(B) of the Code of Virginia requires the disclosure of tax rate, tax levy, and percent change from the previous year.  Since the tax rate is set by City Council after assessment notices are mailed, it is not possible to show the tax rate or levy for the current year's assessment.  The percentage change shown reflects the change in the tax levy, and not the change in assessed value.  This information is not intended to replace the tax bills which are mailed separately.


9. HOW CAN I CHANGE MY MAILING ADDRESS FOR ASSESSMENT NOTICES AND TAX BILLS?

Requests for address changes for assessment notices and tax bills must be made in writing by the property owner(s) or an authorized agent. These requests may be submitted by e-mail, fax, mail, or in person. All requests should include the property address and the new mailing address.

Requests may be emailed to:  realestate@alexandriava.gov or faxed to 703.706.3979

Requests may also be mailed or delivered in person during regular office hours to: 

Office of Real Estate Assessments 
301 King Street, Room 2600 
Alexandria, VA 22314 

If you are an authorized agent, please make sure to review the   requirements for valid Letters of Authorization prior to submitting a change of address request. 


10. HOW DOES THE PERCENTAGE CHANGE IN MY ASSESSMENT COMPARE TO OTHER PROPERTIES?

The percentage change of your assessment will generally be close to the assessment change of other properties located in your study group. In many of the City's residential areas, especially where there are a variety of building sizes, styles and quality, assessment changes may fall within a range of percentages. This may include cases where properties have received improvements over the past year that would cause the assessment to change at a different percentage rate or cases where staff appraisers have physically inspected properties and have made adjustments to property data based on their observations. 


11. HOW DOES ALEXANDRIA COMPARE TO OTHER PARTS OF THE STATE OR TO OTHER NORTHERN VIRGINIA JURISDICTIONS?

Each jurisdiction is unique, but assessment changes in Alexandria as of January 1, 2017 are comparable to those in the neighboring jurisdictions of Northern Virginia. Assessments in these jurisdictions are also based on the sales that occurred during calendar year 2016.

Assessment information for the following nearby jurisdictions can be found on their assessment office websites:

Fairfax County

Arlington County

City of Falls Church 


12. IS THERE A STATE LAW THAT PREVENTS ASSESSMENTS FROM CHANGING MORE THAN A CERTAIN AMOUNT EACH YEAR?

There is no provision to limit the amount of change from year to year.  The Constitution of Virginia requires that real estate assessments represent 100% of fair market value. 


13. SHOULD MY ASSESSMENT CHANGE BE THE SAME AS WHAT HAS BEEN published in the newspaper for my zip code?

Newspapers often publish sales data in a summary format for large areas, such as by zip code, by city or by county. This information can show general trends in the market. However, these trends should not be compared to the percentage change in your January 1 assessed value. One reason for this is that the time period can fluctuate for the reporting of the data. The assessment office primarily relies on sales during the past calendar year within precise areas and of properties that are more similar in nature to your property. In addition, data reported by the sources noted above are typically averages, which imply a range of percentage change.


14. HOW MUCH ARE MY TAXES GOING TO BE IN 2017?

City Council will set the tax rate in May 2017. 


15. WHAT WERE THE TAX RATES FOR THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS?

Prior Year Tax Rate chart


16. WHAT IS THE ASSESSMENT RATIO IN THE CITY OF ALEXANDRIA?

All jurisdictions in the Commonwealth of Virginia have mandated 100% ratios by law.


17. MY HOUSE IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION AND ONLY PARTIALLY COMPLETE. WHY AREN'T YOU WAITING UNTIL IT IS COMPLETE TO ASSESS ME?

The City assesses all real estate as it is on January 1 of each year. New construction that is not fit for occupancy is assessed at a value reflecting an estimated percentage of completion as of January 1 (e.g. 25%, 50%, 75%). Upon completion, a supplemental assessment may be issued effective the last day of the month in which the property’s construction was determined to be complete. 


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