Frequently Asked Questions

General Assessment Questions

What is a property revaluation project?
Why does property have to be assessed?
What is an assessment?
What is market value?
What causes market value to change?
How will I know if my assessment is correct?
What evidence do I need if I decide to make a formal appeal to the Board of Assessments?
What is an assessor's role?
What will happen to my assessment if I improve my property?
Will my assessment go up if I repair my property?
How can my assessment change when I haven't done anything to my property?
Do all assessments change at the same rate?


General Assessment Questions

What is a property revaluation project?

Property revaluation is a systematic review of all real estate within the county for the purpose of setting fair market values as of a specific point in time. During a revaluation, every property is examined and adjustments are made to county records to be sure that all property is assessed at market value. Revaluation in Pennsylvania is done only on a county-wide basis.

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Why does property have to be assessed?

Under Pennsylvania law, property taxes are the primary source of revenue for county and municipal governments and school districts. Property taxes, which are calculated using the assessed values and millage rates set by local government authorities, fund critical services including public safety (fire, police, and ambulance), education, corrections, the court system, public health programs, and human service programs.

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What is an assessment?

An assessment is a fractional portion of the fair market value of your property. In Pennsylvania, the County may choose an assessment ratio from 1% up to 100% of market value. Fayette County recently changed its ratio from 35% to 100% for the 2001 fiscal year. This was intended to make it simpler for the property owner to understand. A property owner can now look at his or her statement and see exactly the value placed on the property by the County.

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What is market value?

According to the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, market value is defined as "the most probable price which a property should bring in a competitive and open market under all conditions requisite to a fair sale, the buyer and seller, each acting prudently and knowledgeably, and assuming the price is not affected by undue stimulus. Implicit in this definition is the consummation of a sale as of a specified date and the passing of title from seller to buyer under conditions whereby: 1. Buyer and seller are typically motivated; 2. Both parties are well informed or well advised, and acting in what they consider their own best interests; 3. A reasonable time is allowed for exposure in the open market; 4. Payment is made in terms of cash in U.S. dollars or in terms of financial arrangements comparable thereto; and 5. The price represents the normal consideration for the property sold unaffected by special or creative financing or sales concessions granted by anyone associated with the sale."

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What causes market value to change?

Time and inflation (or deflation) are the primary reasons for market value to change, but there are other reasons as well. For example, if a major industry leaves an area, property values can decline. On the other hand, when transitional neighborhoods are discovered by young homeowners, values may increase quickly as these areas become more popular. Even with no extraordinary pressure in the marketplace, inflation alone may increase property values. In the forty-plus years since Fayette's last property valuation, the market values have changed many times.

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How will I know if my assessment is correct?

You should first try to decide for yourself what your property is worth. Look at area sales, contact appraisers, and compare assessments of similar homes.

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What evidence do I need if I decide to make a formal appeal to the Board of Assessments?

State law puts the burden of proof on the property owner to show that the assessment is incorrect. Your evidence must be strong enough to prove that the assessor's value is incorrect. Only relevant testimony given at the hearing will be considered by the Board. Stating that property taxes are too high is not relevant testimony.

You should establish in your own mind what you think your property is worth. The best evidence for this would be recent sales prices for properties similar to yours. The closer in proximity and similarity, the better the evidence. Another type of evidence is oral testimony from a witness who has made a recent appraisal of your property. If your home has a structural problem or some other deficiency (such as mine subsidence damage) that would affect its market value, collect documents such as repair estimates or photographs and take the information with you.

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What is an assessor's role?

The assessor's duties are to discover, list, and place a value on all taxable real property in the county in a uniform manner. The assessor is not involved in collecting property taxes. The assessor does not create a value, but rather interprets what is happening in the marketplace.

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What will happen to my assessment if I improve my property?

Generally speaking, improvements that increase the market value of a property will increase the assessed value. The following are typical items that will increase the assessed value of your property:

  • Added rooms or garages
  • Substantial kitchen or bath modernization
  • Central air conditioning
  • Fireplaces
  • Extensive remodeling

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Will my assessment go up if I repair my property?

Good maintenance will help retain the market value of your property. Generally, your assessment will not be increased for individual minor repairs such as those that follow; however, a combination of several of these items could result in an increased assessment.

  • Repairing concrete walks and driveways
  • Replacing gutters and downspouts
  • Replacing hot water heater
  • Repairing or replacing the roof
  • Repairing porches and steps
  • Repairing original siding
  • Patching or repairing interior walls and ceilings
  • Exterior painting
  • Replacing electrical fixtures
  • Replacing exterior awnings and shutters
  • Adding or replacing weather stripping on screens, windows, and doors
  • Adding or upgrading landscaping, including lawns, shrubbery, trees, and flowers

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How can my assessment change when I haven't done anything to my property?

General economic conditions such as interest rates, inflation rates, supply and demand, and changes in tax laws, will influence the value of real estate. As property values change in the market place, those changes must be reflected on the assessment roll.

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Do all assessments change at the same rate?

There are differences between individual properties and between neighborhoods. In one area the sales may indicate a substantial increase in value in a given year. In another neighborhood there may be no change in value, or even a decrease in property values. Different types of properties within the same neighborhood may also show different value changes. For example, one-story houses may be more in demand than two-story houses, or vice versa. Older homes in the same area may be rising in value more slowly than newer homes.

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