Benton County: Why Do Property Value Assessments Seem So High?
Jaws are hitting the floor with this week's release of property value assessments. Property owners in Benton County are seeing increases as high as 25%.
So why such sharp increases?
State law requires assessors to value all taxable property at 100% of its true and fair market value in money according to the highest and best use of the property.
Market value is the amount of money that a willing and unobligated buyer is willing to pay a willing and unobligated seller.
The county assessor values real property using one or more acceptable appraisal methods: Market or sales comparison, cost approach, income capitalization approach for income producing property or a combination of the three.
"We go out and do what we consider mass appraisal, we try to find the market values of each property and place that market value on it. We do this by a calibrated cost approach. Basically, we take what it would generally take to build the improvements on the property, and then adjust it to what our market is currently saying." says Benton County Assessor Bill Spencer.
Year to year, the county adjusts up or down to stay on top of market value for each property.
"That way, no one shares more of the burden than the other," Spencer said. "We see pockets throughout the county that the properties are raising quite a bit over the last few years. And we're just really trying to keep up."
While many economists say the housing market is starting to cool off, Benton County operates a year behind in its analysis of home sales. In other words, the county assessor looks solely at what happened in last year's market and the year before.
"Right after COVID, I decided to take a measured approach, just to make sure we're reading the market right. So, our adjustments over the last two years haven't been as aggressive. And it showed in our ratios to the state." Spencer said.
As a result, the county became more aggressive this year to make up for the previous two years.
"The state really requires us to be at 100% of market value. I try to be between 90 and 95%, just because it's a broad brush that we paint with. Some are going to be higher; some are going to be lower," Spencer said. "This year, we saw that at 88%. So, we knew we were going to need to be a little more aggressive in that. Now we're looking as a county as a whole, we're getting between 93 and 95% of the market value."
If you would like to dispute your property value assessment, Spencer says he welcomes people to call, email or come into the assessor's office.
"We're not perfect. Sometimes we don't see everything that's going on with the property. It's great to be able to talk to the taxpayers and make sure we get things right. We're only as good as our data, especially when we're doing statistics. And if our data is off, because we don't have something correct, then our numbers are going to be off." Spencer added.
If you disagree with the county assessor’s valuation of your property, you have the right to appeal. We've set up a link here.