To find the value of a piece of property, the Property Appraiser must first know what properties similar to it are selling for, what it would cost today to replace it, how much it takes to operate and keep it in repair, what rent it may earn, and many other dollar facts affecting its value, such as the current rate of interest charged for borrowing the money to buy or build property like yours.
Utilizing these facts he can then go about finding the property's value in three
The first way is to find properties like yours which have been sold recently. Their selling prices, however, must be analyzed very carefully to get at the true picture. One property may have sold for more than it was really worth because the buyer was in a hurry to occupy the property and was willing pay an inflated price.
Another may have sold for less money than it was actually worth because the owner needed cash right away. He was willing to sell to the first buyer who made him an offer.
Using this approach - comparing the selling prices of properties similar to yours - the Property Appraiser must always consider such over or under-pricing to arrive at a fair evaluation of your property's value.
The second way the Property Appraiser can go about this is based on how much money it would take, at current material and labor costs, to replace your property with one just like it. If your property is not new, he must also determine how much it has depreciated.
A third way is used in addition to the other two if you happen to own property that provides you with a rental income, like an apartment house, a shopping center, or a mobile home or r.v. rental park. Here the Property Appraiser must consider such dollar facts as your operating expenses, taxes, insurance, maintenance costs, the degree of financial risk the knowledgeable investor is expecting from this type of investment, the income potential of the property, and the anticipated return on this kind of property.
The Notice of Proposed Property Taxes (TRIM notice) is mailed each August. It enables the taxpayer to compare the prior year assessed value and taxes with the present year assessed value and proposed taxes. It also lets taxpayers compare the amount of taxes if there is no budget change for the upcoming year. The notice lists the date, time, and location of all budget hearings at which the taxing authorities will hear from the public. At these hearings, the taxing authorities establish the millage to be levied against the parcel of land shown on the TRIM notice. The notice also shows the deadline for filing a petition to protest the assessment and any denial of exemption with the Highlands County Value Adjustment Board (V.A.B.).
The account number (STRAP number) appears at the upper left hand of the notice above your name and address. If this number begins with the letter "B" or a numeral, it is a tangible personal property account and not a real property account.
The Highlands County Property Appraiser is interested in answering your questions pertaining to the assessed value of your property and exemptions. Please contact this office regarding these issues either by telephone, at (863) 402-6659, or in person, during our stated business hours. We welcome the opportunity to discuss your concerns. Our office is prepared to explain the reasons for any change in the assessment of your property in a courteous and professional manner. We are here to serve you. Please bring your TRIM notice(s) with you if you wish to discuss your concerns in person. After discussing your concerns, any unresolved issues may then be addressed through an appeal process by filing a petition prior to the deadline printed on the bottom of the TRIM notice and presenting your concerns formally to the Highlands County V.A.B. at a public hearing. There is a filing fee required of $15 per parcel. We will discuss your concerns during the rest of the calendar year, but your opportunity to formally protest with the V.A.B. is restricted to the filing period identified on your TRIM notice.
The TRIM notice includes a general explanation on the reverse side. Please be advised that all taxes appearing on this notice are confined to ad valorem tax, which are based on the assessed value of your property. All non-ad valorem assessments, such as assessments for garbage collection, will appear on your tax bill in addition to the ad valorem taxes.
At the bottom of the TRIM notice you will note the current and prior year values. The ad valorem taxes are based on the taxable value figure, after deducting all exemptions. Changes in assessed value are typically the result of physical changes to your property, such as additions, alterations, or new construction, and also result from our on-going analysis of the dynamics of the real estate market.
Your TRIM notice has separate columns for Market Value and Assessed Value. If your property has a Homestead Exemption, it is possible that Market Value and Assessed Value can be different due to the Save Our Homes assessment limitation.
Both values must be calculated and maintained because the Market Value of your property may increase at a greater rate than the Assessed Value. For example, if your house is assessed at $100,000 and sales in your neighborhood indicate property values are increasing by 10%, the Market Value of your home for the following year will be $110,000. However, if your property is covered by Save Our Homes and can only increase 3%, the Assessed Value will be $103,000. The $7,000 difference is held as a Save Our Homes differential and will be recaptured in 3% increments, at most.
State law mandates that at least once every three years a physical inspection is made of each property in Highlands County. In addition to the required three year inspections, there are several other reasons why an appraiser might make a physical inspection of your property. They include, but are not limited to:
Please keep in mind however, that during late August and early September the requests for reviews are numerous due to the mailing of the Truth in Millage (TRIM) Notice.
For whatever reason we have made a physical inspection of your property, the actual inspection process is much the same.
When an appraiser arrives at the property, they will introduce themselves. Please be aware that for your safety, the Property Appraiser's staff wears photo identification badges and use plainly marked vehicles. We try, to the best of our ability, to avoid disrupting your business operation (e.g. not inspecting a restaurant at lunch time) and will keep the visit as brief as possible. Our goal is to uphold the highest professional standards and greet each property owner with courtesy and respect.
Mainly, inspections are completed on the exterior of the property. After consulting with the property owner, the appraiser will walk around the property verifying our records concerning the physical characteristics of the property (e.g. roof finish, exterior wall type, type of heating and air conditioning etc.) and the building dimensions. If the property is new, every wall will be measured to determine the size of the structure. If the property is not new, every wall may not be measured, but rather just a couple to again confirm our records.
It is important for you to know, that as an office policy, the Highlands County Property Appraiser's staff does not inspect the interior of residential properties. However, with respect to commercial properties, which are generally open for business during site visits, it is sometimes necessary to inspect the interior in order to identify different building components (e.g. showroom, office, utility area etc.). Before granting access to your structure, please make sure the appraiser identifies themselves and has photo identification.
Your cooperation is important for an accurate assessment particularly if you have a locked gate or fence, or an overly sensitive alarm system. We may ask you to take the necessary steps to allow our staff safe access for a thorough inspection of your property. Please be aware that if you do not allow access to your property and insist our appraisers leave, we will. Keep in mind, however this action may force the appraiser to make certain assumptions about your property which could yield an inaccurate assessment.