The Brazil Times was recently invited on a ride along with Tyler Technologies Inc./CLT Division, Dayton, Ohio, Appraisal Residential Group Leader John Meister to see what goes into the reassessment of property.
"The first thing we do is a visual review of a property in comparison to the drawing on the record card to see how it matches up from the previous assessment," Meister said. "We also take a new photograph of the property, even if it appears to be the same."
Meister added if something is obviously different from the visual review, he indicates the change on the property card to be updated.
"If there is a new addition to the home or new structure on the property, we have to measure it from the outside if we can get access," he said. "We always ring the door bell and knock on the door at least three times to notify the owner that we are reassessing the property, but if there is no answer, we can still measure the dimensions of the new section."
However, access to the property is not always available.
"Sometimes there is a gated driveway or a storage barn is in the middle of a field that we cannot get to," Meister said. "We make a note of the ones with gated drives and call the owner to set up a good time to check out the property, if necessary. Although, in the case of a building in the middle of a field, we have to estimate the dimensions, which isn't too hard to do because many of them are similar."
Meister said their focus is to assess the visual structure itself and do not request to assess the inside of structures.
"We check the condition of the exterior of the building because that is what drives the value the most because it is subject to the weather and other outside factors," he said. "However, there are times we will go inside if the owner asks us to come in and look at vital things like cracks in the foundation, but we usually just ask for them to provide the information like the number of bathrooms and the type of basement they have."
The age of a building and the type of materials used are two major factors in determining the assessed value of a property.
"Buildings are graded on a scale from AA to E, which is in part due to what materials are used and the details included in the construction," Meister said. "Most of the homes in Clay County fall into the 'C' range, which indicates an average home."
Meister added Victorian-style homes tend to have a higher grade, while homes that are basically "four walls and a roof" tend to have a D or E grade.
One of the toughest things Meister said he encounters is attempting to determine the classification of a new addition on a home.
"We can measure the length and width of a new section, but with things like an enclosed porch, it can be hard to tell if it has open access or its own separate section without being inside the home," he said.
"However, we try to be as consistent as possible across the board to keep things as accurate and fair as we can."
While a home may have been build in the late 1800s or early 1900s, various upgrades bump up the effective age of the property when it comes to assessment.
"If a home was built before 1930, we start out the effective age of it at 1930 because that is when the first major electrical upgrades occurred," Meister said. "Other upgrades like a new roof or new siding ups the effective age of the home in 5-10 year increments."
Meister said while he and his company update the improvements of homes and buildings, they do not set the monetary assessment values.
"We just provide the information about the parcels," he said. "We then submit the information to the Assessor's Office and they set the values."
Clay County Assessor Mark Barnhart said the values his office uses in finalizing assessments come from state guidelines.
"The assessment guidelines are based on square footage of the building," Barnhart said. "We can plug the information in the computer which comes up with the total assessment automatically, or we can do it by hand if necessary."
Barnhart added there are also additional values added based on the number and type of amenities included in the building.
"Things like the type of flooring, roofing, siding and fixtures affect the assessment values," he said. "Some of the fixtures include kitchen sinks, water heaters, air conditioning and type of bathrooms. A full bath consists of three fixtures; a toilet, sink and some type of shower/bathtub combination, while a half-bath has no more than two."
While Meister told The Brazil Times building grades don't change much unless it is on a new construction or major additions are involved, Barnhart said the grades have a big affect on the value of an assessment.
"Depending on the grade, adjustments are made to the assessment subtotal," Barnhart said.
"Grades higher than a 'C' have a multiplier percentage that increases the value, while lower grades have a multiplier decreasing the value."
After making the determining the grade adjusted value of a property, then the effective age and other adjustments are factored in to come up with the final value.
"Along with the overall grade, we build in the depreciation factor based on the effective age of the home," Barnhart said.
"Also, the state sets various adjustment rates based on the condition of a building, which is a six-level range from excellent to very poor. After all those adjustments are entered in, we come up with the final assessment value."
Current assessment guidelines are based on the 2002 assessment rules and are effective until the 2011-pay-2012 property tax year.
To view the manuals used to determine current assessment values, log on to www.in.gov/dlgf/4711.htm.