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 email, 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.
- What is my assessed value intended to reflect?
- How is my residential assessment determined?
- How is my commercial assessment determined?
- What is a “Study Group”? How do I find out my property’s study group?
- How do I find the sales analyzed to determine my January 1 assessment?
- 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?
- Can I use current year sales or listings as a basis for my Review or Appeal of my property’s assessed value?
- 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?
- How can I change my mailing address for assessment notices and tax bills?
- How does the percentage change in my assessment compare to other properties?
- How does Alexandria compare to other parts of the state or to other Northern Virginia jurisdictions?
- Is there a state law that prevents assessments from changing more than a certain amount each year?
- Should my assessment change be the same as what has been published in the newspaper for my zip code?
- How much are my taxes going to be in 2021?
- What were the tax rates for the last several years?
- If I find incorrect data on the website for my property, how do I ensure that these data are corrected?
- My property is under construction and only partially complete. Why aren’t you waiting until it is complete to assess it?
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 probably price, as of a specified date, for which the specified 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.A simple question to ask yourself is: “Would I be able to sell my property for this assessed value as of January 1?
Alexandria utilizes mass appraisal methods in determining 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 2021 assessment is based on sales that occurred during 2020. Appraisers start 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 and determine 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 determine what action to take regarding the assessed values.
Think about it in terms of house hunting – if you really wanted to live in X neighborhood, but for whatever reason couldn’t buy there (nothing on market, too expensive), where else would you look?
Commercial properties are more complex in nature than residential property. Commercial properties are analyzed by their property class (office building, apartment, hotel, etc.) and are valued based on the income, sales, and/or cost approaches.
A study group is a four digit number that identifies a group of properties that we analyze to determine the market value of a subject property.
Your study group can be found on the property information page of our website ( alexandriava.gov/RealEstate). The study group is also on your assessment notice.
All valid sales used to determine the assessments are listed on the website. Start by clicking on the “ Search Property & Sales Data” link on the Office’s webpage. Then enter in the subject property’s address or databank number. At the top of the screen, click the tab titled “Sales Used for Assessment”. The list that appears shows all of the valid sales that were analyzed to determine the 2021 assessment. The column headings (in blue) are all sortable, which should help in determining the most comparable properties. Once you have located the sales you believe to be most comparable, compare the sales price and the assessed value of those properties to your own. The more similar the comparable property, the more likely the assessed values will be closely related.
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 it incorrect, you should file for a “Request for Review” of your assessment. The request can be submitted online, via email, or regular mail. It is important to note that the deadline to file this is March 15, 2021. Please be as specific as possible when stating your reasons for the disputed value. Do not hesitate to call the Office and talk to 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 and under state law are required to have a January 1 effective date of each calendar year. Therefore, the valuation of real property is conducted using closed and recorded property transfers that occurred during the previous calendar year. This methodology was affirmed by a recent advisory opinion issued by the Virginia Attorney General which concluded that, "the sale of real property after January 1 does not impact real property assessments for the current tax year." Therefore, it would be erroneous to use information subsequent to the effective date of valuation because it would reflect future market conditions that could not have been foreseen at the time of valuation. However, subsequent sales information may be used as evidence of the fair market value of the property during the annual assessment cycle that occurs 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.
Any property owner who wishes to update the address to which real estate tax bills and any real estate tax-related correspondence are mailed must update the mailing address on file with the Real Estate Assessment Division .
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, mail, or in person. The mailing/billing address cannot be updated over the phone. All requests should include the property address and the new mailing address.
Requests may be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Address change forms may also be mailed or delivered in person during regular office hours to:
Real Estate Assessment Division
301 King Street, Room 2600
Alexandria VA 22314
If you are an authorized agent, please review the requirements for valid Letters of Authorization prior to submitting a change of address request.
The mailing/billing address cannot be updated over the phone or by any other office. The Finance Department is required by law to mail the biannual real estate tax bills and related correspondence to either the owner's mailing address on file with the Real Estate Division or to the owner's mortgage company (whichever is applicable).
The percentage change of your assessment will generally be close to the assessment change of other properties located in your study group. However, 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. Reasons for this include cases where properties have received improvements over the past year that would cause the assessment to change at a different percentage rate. Also, staff appraisers physically inspect a number of neighborhoods each year and occasionally make adjustments to property data based on what they observe during the course of their inspections.
11. HOW DOES ALEXANDRIA COMPARE TO OTHER
PARTS OF THE STATE OR TO OTHER NORTHERN VIRGINIA JURISDICTIONS?
Each jurisdiction is unique, but surprisingly enough, assessment changes in Alexandria as of January 1, 2021 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 2020.
Assessment information for the following nearby jurisdictions can be found on their assessment office websites:
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.
City Council will set the tax rate in May 2021.
To calculate your taxes use the following formula:
(Assessed value ÷ 100) (tax rate).
For example, in tax year 2020, the real estate tax on a residence assessed at $200,000 is $2,260 ($200,000 x 2020 tax rate of $1.13 per $100).
(per $100 of assessed value)
16. IF I FIND INCORRECT DATA ON THE WEBSITE FOR MY PROPERTY, HOW DO I ENSURE THAT THESE DATA ARE CORRECTED?
The Office of Real Estate Assessments prides itself on maintaining accurate real estate data for the basis of the assessments for all property owners and for use by the public. Please notify us immediately if you note an error in your property information by sending an e-mail to email@example.com, or by calling 703.746.4646.
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 1st of each year. New construction that is not fit for occupancy is assessed at a value reflecting the percentage of completion as of January 1 (e.g. 50%, 75%, etc.). Upon completion, it is assessed at its full value at the end of the month of completion.