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Article of the Month for October 2002 Printer friendly version

Assessed Values Are Meaningless

In the California election year of June 1978 nearly two-thirds of the voters voted for Howard Jarvis' Proposition 13, which severely limited the government's ability to raise property tax assessments above a cap of more than 2.0% per year. And that legacy is still in place to this day.

So now, more than 20 years later, when our annual property appreciation rates often go up into double digits, year after year, a property's assessed market value quickly falls behind its actual market value.

Thus a property's assessed value becomes meaningless until it catches up-when there's a sale of the property and it's re-assessed at its full market value. A year or two later though, our volatile housing market makes the capped assessed valuation fall way behind again.

So if assessed values are misleading (as to the real current market value) why do most foreclosure notice companies incorporate them in their notices? The most common answer is that, because their competitors include such info in their notices, they feel compelled to do so too.

If a newbie subscriber compares competitive foreclosure notice services side-by-side, she would readily notice the absence of assessment values, and possibly think that that service is deficient in an important detail.

So forget trying to devine property values from assessed valuations. The best way to determine the current, fair market value of a residential property is to find current sales of similar property in the same immediate area (i.e. comps). The most effective of these tools seem to be those designed for appraisers, and in California it's hard to beat the county comp service called AIRD (www.airdport.com).

AIRD stands for the Appraisal Institute Residential Database. The phone number for their West Coast office in Costa Mesa, CA is 800-446-1099.

We pay approximately $480.00 per year for their quarterly book for San Diego County. They have the same information available on-line but at different costs per different levels of use. I personally find the book a lot more useful because I can take it out in the field when I'm working with pre-foreclosure sale properties.

There are online and CD-ROM services for appraisals from DataQuick, Metroscan, 1st American Real Estate Services, etc.

And finally, if you qualify for access to your local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) it'll cost you about $45.00 per month and provide you with a fairly accurate source of current sales comps according to whatever sort parameters you set up.

Information provided by this website is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Please consult your investment advisor and/or attorney before entering into any transaction. Read our privacy policy.

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