Frequently Asked Questions
The property appraiser is responsible for identifying, locating, and fairly valuing all property, both real and personal, within the county for tax purposes. The “market” value of real property is based on the current real estate market. Estimating the “market” value of your property means discovering the price most people would pay for your property in its current condition. What is important to remember is that the property appraiser does not create the value. People establish the value by buying and selling real estate in the market place. The property appraiser has the legal responsibility to study those transactions and appraise your property accordingly. The property appraiser also
- tracks ownership changes;
- maintains maps of parcel boundaries;
- keeps descriptions of buildings and property characteristics up to date;
- accepts and approves applications from individuals eligible for exemptions and other forms of property tax relief;
- and most importantly, analyzes trends in sales prices, construction costs, and rents to best estimate the value of all assessable property.
No. The property appraiser assesses all property in the county and is neither a taxing authority nor a tax collector. The property appraiser has nothing to do with the amount of taxes levied or collected. Three separate government entities each having unique and distinct roles in producing your November tax bill. First, the property appraiser annually appraises all property in your county at the market value as of January 1. Next, each taxing authority within the county sets their own millage rate based on the amount of tax dollars necessary to fund their annual budget. Finally, the tax collector takes the amount of taxes due in order to bill and collect all taxes levied within the county.
At least once every three years, the property appraiser or a staff appraiser will visit and inspect each property. However, individual property values may be adjusted between visits in light of sales activity or other factors affecting real estate values in your neighborhood. Sales of similar properties are strong indicators of value in the real estate market.
To estimate the value of a property, the property appraiser must identify the properties that have sold, their sale prices and the terms and conditions of the each sale. Each transaction must be studied to make sure that it is an arms-length transaction.
An arm’s length transaction is a sale involving a willing seller and a willing buyer without any undue pressure or special incentives (such as family relationships). An arm’s length transaction also means that the property was on the market for neither an excessive nor short period of time.
Once this is determined, the property appraiser can base the value of a property on sales of comparable properties. That is why property appraisers maintain an accurate data base of real estate information, and this is the sale comparison approach to value.
The Florida Constitution has been amended effective January 1, 1995 to limit any annual increase in the assessed value of residential property with a homestead exemption to 3 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. This limitation does not include any change, addition or improvement to a homestead (excluding normal maintenance or substantially equivalent replacement). During subsequent years, any improvements will fall under the Constitutional limitation.
Two other methods are used to appraise property – the cost approach and the income approach. The cost approach is based on how much it would cost today to build an almost identical structure on the parcel. If your property is not new, the appraiser must also determine how much the building has lost value over time. The appraiser must also determine the value of the land itself – without buildings or any improvements. The income approach (usually performed on commercial property) requires a study of how much revenue your property would produce if it were rented as an apartment house, a store, an office building and so on. The appraiser must consider operating expenses, taxes, insurance, maintenance costs, and the return or profit most people would expect on the type of property you own.
Florida Law requires that the just value of all property be determined each year. The Supreme Court of Florida has declared “just value” to be legally synonymous to “full cash value” and “fair market value.” The fair market value of your property is the amount for which it could sell on the open market. The property appraiser analyzes these market transactions annually to determine fair market value as of January 1.
Each August, the property appraiser sends a Truth in Millage (TRIM) notice to all property owners as required by law. This notice is very important — look for it in the mail! You’ll recognize it by prominent lettering, “DO NOT PAY – This is not a bill.” The TRIM notice tells you the taxable value of your property. Taxable value is the just value less any exemptions. The TRIM notice also gives you information on proposed millage rates and taxes as estimated by your community taxing authorities. It also tells you when and where these authorities will hold public meetings to discuss tentative budgets to set your millage tax rates. The Sumter County Tax Collector will send each taxpayer a bill on November 1 of each year.
If you think the taxable value shown on your TRIM Notice is not correct, you are encouraged to contact your property appraiser’s office to speak with an appraiser. The appraiser can show you the information used to determine your property’s value.
No. you must own the property on which you make an application. If you own a mobile home, but not the land on which it sits, you would not qualify for the homestead exemption. The mobile home would not be assessed on the tax roll. You would be required to purchase an annual mobile home tag through the Tax Collector’s office.
You could then qualify for homestead exemption. Even if you did not qualify for homestead exemption, you are required by Florida Statutes to purchase real property (RP) stickers for the mobile home. The mobile home would then be assessed as part of the real estate on the tax rolls.