Assessor Job Description
Assessors use their expertise in real estate to determine the market value of properties. Since they usually work in local government units that are in charge of cities, municipalities, or counties, the main purpose of valuation is to derive the property tax rate, which is based on market value. Ultimately, it’s up to assessors to evaluate all of the properties within their unit’s jurisdiction, often through computer assisted mass appraisal (CAMA) for efficiency, and to log and maintain assessment rolls kept as public records. The most common work setup is full-time with regular business hours, though this job entails traveling, as assessors split their time between the office and site visits.
Assessor Duties and Responsibilities
Assessors perform several tasks in order to complete their job duties. These core responsibilities are common across the field:
Gather Assessment Data
Assessors start the valuation process by gathering extensive data about the property. The most basic step is a physical inspection, where they perform a walk-through of the property, taking photographs for documentation. Beyond this, they conduct interviews, consult building plans and other construction papers, and search for deficiencies through testing.
Determine Property Value
Evaluating the value of a property requires more than a thorough examination of its physical condition. Assessors must set their findings against the current economic context, factoring in sales trends, how properties in the vicinity compare, and depreciation over time. Upon deciding on a market value, they can then deduce the property tax rate.
Because the exact property tax rate depends on the assessor’s judgment, assessors must be prepared to explain their valuations to property owners, presenting evidence and going over each step clearly if requested. In general, it’s their job to answer questions from the public about property tax and to defend their reasoning during hearings with protesting taxpayers.
A major responsibility of assessors is preparing and maintaining the yearly assessment roll, which contains the valuations of all properties in a city or municipality. On a smaller scale, for every assessment that they conduct, they write reports describing the condition of the property, complete with technical details and estimated costs of maintenance.
Review Property Changes
Whenever a building or property undergoes drastic changes such as renovation, improvement, or deterioration, assessors evaluate it again, updating the relevant records. Property transfers are another opportunity for assessors to check previous assessments, as they must verify buyer and seller information.
Assessor Skills and Qualifications
Assessors are meticulous, organized professionals with expertise in real estate. They are familiar with property trends and dynamics in their area as well as relevant state laws. Employers hire assessors who display the following skills:
- Property valuation – assessors must be knowledgeable about various appraisal procedures, from analyzing costs based on building materials to using certain software packages
- Math proficiency – it’s vital for assessors to be skilled at making accurate mathematical calculations, especially for plotting and gauging irregularly shaped land areas
- Information management – each assessment produces an abundance of information that assessors must organize into clear reports, noting down systematically in assessment rolls
- Data analysis – an assessor’s job hinges on the ability to synthesize all of the gathered data about a property into a single valuation, neither oversimplifying nor overwhelming
- Customer service – tax rates can be a complex and sensitive topic, so assessors must be transparent about the process while patiently addressing customer concerns; they should also be polite and mindful of privacy when entering others’ properties
Tools of the Trade
Being an assessor frequently involves using the following:
- Tools for physical inspection (such as cameras and tape measures)
- Computer-assisted mass appraisal systems (such as the Govern CAMA Suite or Visual PAMSPro)
- Property documents (such as building plans and property deeds)
- Assessment rolls
Assessor Education and Training
The minimum educational requirements for assessors vary widely, as their employers are usually local government units and each state or jurisdiction enforces different standards. Ideally, assessors have a bachelor’s degree in engineering, math, finance, economics, or a related field that tackles the technical concepts involved in property valuation. Some states place greater emphasis on appraisal certification, while others only require basic courses supplemented with on-the-job-training.
Assessor Salary and Outlook
The median annual salary for assessors is $54,000, as reported by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS). Assessors in the 10th percentile earn less than $29,000, and the highest-paid make more than $101,000 annually. According to Payscale, more than half have medical and dental benefits.
Job openings for this role are projected to increase by 14 percent from 2016 to 2026. The BLS predicts that the real estate market will continue to expand over the long-term because of population growth and economic opportunities, resulting in a greater demand for assessors.
Sharpen your skills and grow your career as an assessor with the following resources:
International Association of Assessing Officers – IAAO is a thriving community of more than 7,000 members who share a professional interest in property tax. Benefits of joining include opportunities for accreditation, access to its research library and industry magazines, and discounts on educational programs, such as conferences and online courses.
Dictionary of Real Estate Terms – A handy reference text for assessors and anyone in the real estate industry, this dictionary goes beyond term definitions, incorporating charts, illustrations, and practical examples for maximum clarity.
Appraisal Institute – Assessors can learn more about options for appraisal courses and certifications from this organization, which presents an exhaustive list of resources on its website, from ethics and standards to guidance for continuing education.
Real Estate Principles: A Value Approach – This book offers a comprehensive introduction to real estate that stands out because it emphasizes the fundamental role of value in investment decisions. Assessors will find much of interest here, from the different ways that real estate values can shift to step-by-step systems for decision-making.
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