Fulton to begin door-to-door property tax assessments this summer

As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last week, residential real estate assessments are up 7 to 11 percent in four of the five largest metro Atlanta counties this year. Depending on tax rates to be set by elected officials, that could mean property tax hikes for thousands of homeowners.

But residential assessments in Fulton County are up only 2.6 percent this year. What gives?

Chief Appraiser David Fitzgibbon said the county made a deliberate decision to avoid widespread reassessments this year. That’s because Fulton is about to begin a door-to-door reassessment of property that could raise values significantly for some property owners over the next three years.

Assessors based their values on sales prices of comparable homes in a given neighborhood. But to compare homes, they need accurate information about the size and condition of each house.

But Fulton hasn’t conducted widespread inspections of individual houses in 26 years. In addition, for several years in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, it didn’t collect building permit information from some cities.

That means there may be a lot of additions, decks, remodeled kitchens and other improvements assessors don’t know about.

To correct that, the county will begin door-to-door inspections in August or September. Assessors won’t ask to enter houses; they’ll just inspect the exterior to see if the homes’ appearance and condition match the county’s records.

That means folks who have decks and other obvious improvements the county isn’t aware of may be looking at tax increases in the next few years. That’s because those kind of improvements generally make a house more valuable, and your tax bill is based on the value of your property.

That’s why Fitzgibbon decided to hold off on a widespread reassessment of property values this year.

“We didn’t want to go out and make a slight change (in values) since we’ll be doing some major changes over the next three years,” he said.

You can learn more about residential tax assessments in metro Atlanta counties here.