Spotlight on Appraisal: Ad Valorem Appraisal
It’s no secret that the general public does not have a thorough understanding of the appraisal profession, even though the work of appraisers has a profound effect on people’s lives. At McKissock, we not only want to be a go-to resource for appraisers, but we want to help spread awareness about what appraisers actually do and foster a greater understanding of the incredibly hard-working individuals that comprise the appraisal industry.
To help educate the public on what appraisers do (and what they don’t do), we’ve decided to shine a light on the various aspects and fields of the appraisal industry. This month, we’re featuring Colorado Ad Valorem appraiser, Tayler Rayer. In this article, Tayler explains how she went from working in a small, privately-owned appraisal company to her current position as an Ad Valorem appraiser for her local government.
Here’s her story.
“My first experience with the world of appraisal started in a joint business space with two trainees and four trainers. My job consisted of printing the Assessor Office information on the subject property, scheduling the appraisal, and filing the paperwork after the appraiser turned in their reports. I watched appraiser and trainee trudge in and out with their ladders and flashlights, and I was bored out of my mind.
“So, when I was offered an appraiser position with the county I jumped at it—I’d always wanted to trudge in and out of my office with my step ladder and clipboard while my receptionist scheduled all of my appointments and filed my paperwork.
“And then I became an appraiser for the county, and I wish someone had warned me. Appraisal turned into mass appraisal, and subject property turned into “universe” of properties. Actual value lost a lot of its meaning. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still working to become a Certified Residential appraiser. I could go out tomorrow, create a fee sheet, and start taking orders from banks and mortgage companies with my ladder and clipboard. I am under the same USPAP regulations, but that might be where the similarities end.
“When I tell people that I’m an appraiser for the county assessor, I normally receive three different reactions. If people have heard of residential appraisers, they can normally follow along until I start talking about assessment rates, assessed vs. actual value, assessment time frames, and the kicker, taxes. Then those people smile politely and leave the conversation as quickly as possible, because I’ve overwhelmed them or made them mad, or I’ve scared them because, well, taxes.
“The next reaction comes from the people that have never paid attention when they buy or sell a home and don’t know what an appraiser or an appraisal is. They also smile politely and walk away. The next are the people who know exactly what an appraiser is, and exactly who the assessor is. And those people never smile politely.
“I am a residential appraiser for the county assessor—and I love it.
“My job directly affects taxes in two separate areas (“universes”) of my county, and my 25 coworkers take care of the rest of the county. I am tasked with discovering, listing, classifying, and valuing over 12,000 parcels every two years. According to the IAAO,
“Mass appraisal is the process of valuing a group of properties as of a given date and using common data, standardized methods, and statistical testing. To determine a parcel’s value, assessing officers must rely upon valuation equations, tables, and schedules developed through mathematical analysis of market data. Values for individual parcels should not be based solely on the sale price of a property; rather, valuation schedules and models should be consistently applied to property data that are correct, complete, and up-to-date.”
“Essentially, January 1st of every odd-numbered year through June 30th of every even-numbered year I collect all sales in my universe of properties. I then list the sales by economic area, or universe, then by ‘neighborhood’ which breaks the universe down into more manageable chunks (say the universe is Adams County, then the neighborhoods would be Highlands Ranch, Denver Metro, and Golden), and then further list by ‘subdivision’ and subdivision means the same thing in my world as it does in yours.
“I classify the parcels into multiple categories (Improved Residential, Commercial, Vacant commercial or residential, agriculture, etc.). There are others in my office that value oil and gas, minerals, and personal property. I am strictly an improved residential appraiser with some agricultural improved properties thrown in.
“Next, I value the properties. Most properties are valued for actual, or market, value. For ad valorem mass appraisal, actual value is not the same as current market value. In the case of “ad valorem mass appraisal in Colorado, actual value is the guiding principle for the taxation of real property” according to the Division of Property Taxation in the State of Colorado, which is vague government-speak for “actual value” in Colorado was “market value” two years ago.
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“Actual value is provided by the market, same as you, but then that data is munched and crunched which takes about two years, and the end product is a tax warrant. Throw in some reinventory (going through a neighborhood’s entire inventory to create equity in my universe), new construction, destroyed property and a hundred other things just to make it more interesting. The tax warrant lists the name and address of each property owner, the legal description of the property, the valuation for assessment (assessed value vs. actual value), the mill levies of the county, and the amount of taxes due. The treasurer in the county is the one that issues tax bills based on the information the county assessor provides them.
“Trying to boil my job duties down into 1,000 words or less is impossible—I sat in a classroom for 9 months in order to learn how to value a class of property for taxation purposes. I still have my step ladder, and two clipboards, but when I go out in the morning to do my appraisals, I visit an average of 25 properties a day.
“Most of the time when I talk about my job to my fee appraiser friends, there’s a lot of jealousy on my end. But then I realize that even though my friends and I share the same license and certifications, we take the same continuing education courses, we go to the same conferences and use many of the same MLS subscriptions, we aren’t the same. And that’s okay. We can still help each other in our careers so that we can both excel, and help the newer generations choose which side (private or government) works best for them.”
About the Author: Tayler Rayer is an Ad Valorem appraiser for a larger county in Western Colorado. She has a degree in literature and writing. While in college she worked for a fee appraisal office in her hometown and that’s where her interest started. She began her career for the county assessor and took McKissock classes for her certified residential license alongside classes through the Division of Property Taxation for her ad valorem license. Though Tayler doesn’t actively practice fee appraisal, she has insight into both sides of residential appraisal and hopes to help bridge the gap between the two careers.
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