Some WA property tax assessments up 50% while home values plunge

Oct 13, 2022, 4:08 PM

Postcards detailing soaring property tax assessments for home and land values are arriving in mailboxes this month – and the dramatic difference between these figures and up-to-date market values are shocking many taxpayers across Washington state.

In some cases, the Dori Monson Show told listeners Thursday, current home sale values estimated by Zillow and Redfin are down about 20% from earlier highs – while tax values have skyrocketed at least 20%.

It’s clear, Dori said, that the “artificial bubble” that pumped up home sale values across the Puget Sound region and many other parts of the state “has burst.”

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But why, Dori asked King County assessor John Arthur Wilson, don’t property tax assessments reflect that?

There are several things to blame for the hit that taxpayers are feeling, explained Wilson.

Part of the problem is that Washington state law requires counties to set Jan. 1 of each year as the common point in time for tax values to be set.

On top of that, “antiquated” computer systems used by all small and large counties statewide can create a lag time of anywhere from 12 to 18 months.

As a result, Wilson continued, the re-valuation postcards recently sent out in King County reflect a tax valuation increase of “a little over 5% for some parts of Seattle to over 50% for parts of the Sammamish Plateau.”

Listen to King County assessor John Wilson explain what’s behind property tax valuation increases

County assessors across the state are in the “process of trying to build a modern system that would allow us to be more timely,” Wilson said, “but for small counties, they literally don’t have the staff to keep up in real time.”

That’s why a cohort of county assessors are in talks with the state Department of Revenue to find a common platform that would serve counties of all sizes, he said.

At the same time, Wilson added, he has his eye on another priority.

“How do we make the property tax more fair to everyday homeowners? Because I hear, just like you have, Dori, from people every day nowadays who say ‘Wow! That’s big!’ Even though the assessed value increase is not lockstep with your tax increase, it’s still shocking especially when you have people on fixed incomes . . . or you’re pulling up to the pump and you’re over $5 (a gallon).”

Listen to Dori Monson weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Some WA property tax assessments up 50% while home values plunge