Sunday, May 3, 2009

Falls Church Assessments

Last month I complained about the good cop-bad cop routine I got in the Falls Church Real Estate Assessment Office when I went there to file my third protest in five years out that office's made-up real estate valuations (my other two protests were both successful). This time I was armed with a professional appraiser's report.

The good cop in the office, the nice woman, practically sniffed at the report. She asked if the appraiser had even used city addresses for his comps. (Yes.)

The bad cop in the office, the loud man, took that moment to converse within my earshot with his co-worker about how the office was going to turn all the sham low-ball appraisers in to the state certifying board this year for suspensions of their licenses and how, HA!, look at this! At that very moment a re-appraisal the city office did as a result of a protest had come in. The result was that the property valuation had practically doubled!

Out of the clear blue, the good cop called me at work last week to tell me her office had received my protest documents. Since I had left them in her very hand a week earlier, I already knew this. The office had never called me before during my two prior protests. Our conversation went something like this.

"Laura" at the city office: Hmm, it looks like you checked that you don't want our office to do an interior inspection.

Me: The professional appraiser did a full interior inspection.

Laura: I see you have a fireplace. You say it's "inoperable."

Me: That's right.

Laura: But you do have a fireplace.

Me: Silence.

Laura: You also claim that the basement is 100% unfinished.

Me: You mean the basement that floods practically every spring? Yes. Look, the appraiser took pictures of the entire interior, and they're all in his report.

Laura: The pictures were in color, and the copy I have only has black & white images. It's hard to see anything in them.

Me: Silence.

My thought bubble: I think that this office is trying to intimidate me and it's going to hose me in its re-appraisal. I sure don't want these folks walking around in my house.

The average city property valuation went down last year. In response, the city raised the mill levy four cents and the average homeowners' tax bill will go up by about $70 this year.

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