How are my Thurston County, WA real estate property taxes determined?
Every year, Thurston County, WA homeowners get a notice of their assessed value and how much their property taxes will be for the year. If you track your property tax values, you’ll see that they go up and down every year, and don’t seem to be based on current market values (which is a good thing, and I’ll explain why later in this post).
First, let’s discuss the tax collection budget.
Let’s pretend we have a small town where there are only four homes.
The assessed values for the homes LAST YEAR were:
Home #1 - $325,000
Home #2 - $270,000
Home #3 - $185,000
Home #4 - $320,000
Totals $1,100,000 in assessed value.
Last year, the tax collection budget was $14,000.
To determine how much each homeowner pays in taxes, the budget is divided into the total assessed value to come up with the rate per $1,000 assessed value:
$14,000 / $1,100,000 = $12.73 per $1,000 assessed value.
Home #1’s taxes last year were $325,000 x $.01273 = $4,137
Home #2 - $3,437
Home #3 - $2,355
Home #4 - $4,073
The collected taxes total $14,000
THIS YEAR, the county is allowed to increase the tax collection budget up to one percent.
Let’s say for this year, the tax collection budget increased by $100, but $1,000 in levies were voted in to cover school improvements.
Last year’s budget of $14,000 + $100 budget increase + $1,000 in levies = $15,100 – this year’s new tax collection budget.
The property values increased to a total of $1,320,000.
$15,100 / $1,320,000 = $11.44 per $1,000 assessed value.
So the integer decreased from $12.73 per $1,000 assessed value to $11.44.
Home #1 – this year’s assessed value is $350,000 x $11.44 = $4,004 due in taxes.
Home #2 - now assessed at $300,000 = $3,432
Home #3 – now assessed at $225,000 = $2,574
Home #4 – now assessed at $445,000 = $5,091
Second, let’s discuss how your assessed value is determined.
For Thurston County, the assessor’s office divides the county into six sections where the assessor will drive by the homes in that section once a year. In other words, your property in Thurston County would be seen once every six years. The assessors are looking to see if your property varies dramatically from what the records show. Was there major improvement, an addition, or a significant decrease in the condition of the home?
Next is the market data. The data the assessor uses is two years old, and here’s why.
By January 1, 2018, the 2019 budget is determined and property values are assessed based on comparable properties from 2017. And this market data is a mass appraisal. It is not an individual appraisal of your home. Keep in mind, the assessed value is only a value that is used to determine what your share of the tax collection budget is. When you purchase a home, that sales price is not your new assessed value.
Third, should I contest my assessed value with Thurston County?
That depends. Are there discrepancies in the lot size or the square footage of your home? Has the condition of the home changed?
In a market where home prices are going up, you may not want Thurston County to re-evaluate your home. You might end up paying more in taxes. Remember your tax value is based on market data that is two years old, and the values were less two years ago than today (in an emerging market).
And instead of your home being assessed under the mass appraisal system, you now will have the assessor completing an individual appraisal on your property.
You will also notice that your assessed value is most likely what you would NOT sell your home for in the current market. In most cases, the market value of your property is probably higher than your assessed value.
If you have questions, please contact the Thurston County Assessor's Office.