First Law of Internet Research: Go to the Most Reliable Source

Real Estate Appraiser with Richard L. Sanderson Consulting AAS #239



Why Local Property Assessors are Your Most Reliable Source for Tax Assessment Concerns

When you have a question about your property assessment, go directly to the source: your local assessor.  In visiting the advice or community discussion forums on many real estate information websites (ActiveRain, Trulia, Zillow, etc.), I am often amazed that property owners first pose their questions about assessments to real estate experts and not go directly to the local assessor.  Don't get me wrong, I love real estate professionals, but they are not necessarily experts on property assessments.  (My sincere apologizes to those who are.)  And most local assessors pride themselves on the public outreach that they perform for citizens and property owners.  They are literally waiting for your call or e-mail.

So, when you have a question about property assessments, I urge you to go to the source, your local assessor.  If you live in a very small assessment jurisdiction that does not have informative data on their website (or heaven forbid, no website at all) visit the websites for larger assessment offices in your area.  Most assessors are carrying out the requirements of state law and their practices should not differ a great deal from one location to another, especially concerning general practices.

Another advantage to visiting a reliable source early in your research is to establish key terms and phrases.  For example, if you visit the website for your local assessor first, you may find that the value the local assessor determines is called the "assessed value" or "assessment."  Knowing this can save you time, because if you would have searched on the term "appraisal" or the phrase "appraised value," you may not have gotten the information that you desired.  (Only assessors determine assessed values or assessments, while appraisers estimate values for a variety of purposes, which may include an estimated value that you can use to challenge your assessment, but they don't assess property, they appraise it.)

Lastly, visiting the website for a reliable source increases the possibility that you will find additional information at the site that will increase your understanding of the topic beyond the scope of your immediate need.  While this can be dangerous if you want to spend as little time as possible researching your topic, it can also reap personal benefits.  For example, while scanning the website for your local assessor you can find out the deadlines for challenging the assessment and what evidence you will need.  As with most things, you need to ask yourself, "Do I really need to go down this alternate route now?"  Remember, you can always bookmark it for later use.

May all of your Internet searches bring you the essential and truly useful data that you need.

Posted by

Richard L. Sanderson - Property Tax Consultant & Valuation Specialist


If your company or membership organizaton would like to know more about our services please contact me through this profile or through soical media.

Richard L. Sanderson



Comments (2)

Jim Mushinsky
Centsable Inspection - Framingham, MA

Hi Richard, Excellent advice!

Whenever I have the time, I prefer to view the Property Card prior to the home inspection.  I am surprised at how many Property Cards do not match the house.  I guess that is one of the reasons for the disclaimer that the online version is not an official copy.

Feb 05, 2011 05:39 PM
Richard L. Sanderson
Richard L. Sanderson Consulting - Kalama, WA
helping improve local property tax systems


Thanks for your comments.  Not all assessment records are as up to date as we would like them to be, especially if it's been a long time since the last re-inspection program or reassessment.  Some states require a re-inspection every 5 to 10 years.  Then it's a matter of updating the records every time a permit is taken out for a change, alteration, or addition.

Feb 10, 2011 01:52 PM