Receiving a new property assessment in the mail can be an unwelcome surprise, especially if the result will be a raise in taxes. On the flip side, however, a higher assessment of your property value means your family's primary investment has appreciated. Because the property you own is probably one of your most valuable assets, your ability to understand the abbreviations on your assessment form can be critical to wise management of your investments.
While assessment statements may look different from county to county, you can quickly locate the primary data by looking for specific, universal abbreviations for the bottom-line numbers. If you own more than one property, locate the "APN," or Assessor's Parcel Number, to decipher which property the assessment refers to. The APN should be the same as your parcel number on the county plat map, and may also be cited in your real estate deed, although this does not constitute the legal description of your property. To find the assessed value of your property, find the entry under "Land." The value of any manmade improvements to the bare land, such as your home, fencing or landscaping, will be under "Imprv," meaning improvements.
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If your new assessment is noticeably higher or lower than the previously assessed value of your property, you may want to verify some key parameters. If you have a large parcel, check that the assessment reflects the correct size by consulting the "Acg" entry for acreage. If your property falls into a special tax category that affects your tax rate, verify this by looking for such abbreviations as "Wd Lnd" for woodland or "Ag" for agricultural. For an investment property, check that it is properly categorized as "Ind" for industrial or "UD" for undeveloped, as applicable, because correct categorization can impact your tax rate.
An assessment of new construction will contain details that help the county assessor determine the value of property improvements. Going over this document to make sure that the facts are accurate can be critical to future assessments that are based on this initial data. For an existing residence, you can view your property record card at the assessor's office to make sure the information is accurate. Check that construction materials are accurately listed, such as "Br" for masonry, or "Art br" for an artificial brick façade. If your "Rfg" – roofing – is "Comp," or composite, make sure it is not assessed as "Met," or metal. If your home's foundation, or "Fdtn," is reinforced concrete, "Rein Conc," check that it isn't recorded as "CB," or concrete block. While these items may seem to be unimportant details, each entry can add or subtract from the assessed value of your home.
To determine your annual property taxes, your county assessor multiplies the property's taxable assessed value by your location's tax rate. Additionally, factors, such as the property's tax class, will affect your tax rate. For example, in New York City, the assessor recognizes four property classes: residential properties of up to three units; all other residential property, including condos and cooperatives; property with equipment owned by a public utility; commercial and industrial property. The corresponding assessment document would list the correct category by numbers 1-4.