What is My Property Worth?
The Assessor’s office receives calls from property owners asking about the value of their property. The questions fall into several categories. What was this property worth at a point in the past when my spouse or parent bought or inherited the property or when they died? This value is usually needed to calculate the basis of property for estate planning or for capital gains calculation. What is this property worth today if I were going to sell it or for estate planning purposes? What are the improvements on the property worth in terms of fire or earthquake insurance coverage? How much should I ask if I were going to lease a portion of the property for vineyard development? How much value will be added if I make an addition to my property or develop a vineyard?
Each of these questions can be answered but, with one exception, not by this office. Under Proposition 13 the Assessor values property only when there is a change of ownership, new construction or if there has been a decline in value because of a calamity or a downward trend in the real estate market. The one question that we will try to answer is what the property tax consequences might be of adding on to the property or of developing a new vineyard. We first explain that only the value of the addition or new vineyard will be added to the factored base year value of the property. The entire property is not reappraised. One method we use to arrive at a value contributed by the new improvement is from market-derived data, i.e. a house with a pool will sell for more than a house without a pool and a developed vineyard will sell for more than bare land. We also use the estimated cost of the addition or vineyard improvements as another indicator of value. If the owner can tell us about the size and quality of the addition or the number of vines of the proposed vineyard, we can give an estimated range of values of what the cost figures would indicate as the new value. We often inspect the finished project and review market data before arriving at a final value for the new improvement. We notify the property owner of the final value and offer an opportunity to discuss any questions about that value.
For the other questions, we try to guide the owner to the correct answer. For historic values of property, our records from that time show a possible value, but that value, if it was pre-1975 and Proposition 13, might not be current for the exact date. Another source we suggest is newspaper real estate advertisements around that date found at the library. The owner should look for a comparable property to see the asking price. For income tax and estate planning purposes the owner should contact a certified, private appraiser, also known as a fee appraiser, to prepare a thorough appraisal of the property. A list of fee appraisers can be obtained from an attorney, accountant, real estate professional or found under the heading Real Estate Appraisers on the Internet. For an estimated current market value of property to arrive at an asking price for a possible sale, we suggest that the owner request a listing analysis by one or more real estate professionals. For insurance coverage, we direct property owners to their insurance agent because insurance companies use special tables to arrive at replacement values of improvements. For information on vineyard lease rates, we suggest that the owner contact a professional in the legal, financial or vineyard consulting sector for ideas about current lease arrangements.