An assessor’s job is to assess the value of properties within a particular municipal area, and they are appointed or elected, depending on the municipality they work in. Typically, they’re employed by the city and/or county government.
The values of properties are determined by assessors, based on location and the current state of real estate markets. Their ultimate goal is to determine accurate information so they can administer the appropriate property taxes. This information is then updated annually.
An assessor is responsible for:
- Tracking real estate trends and values.
- Working with local tax officials to ensure accurate values and corresponding taxes.
- Inspecting residential and commercial properties in order to classify them accordingly.
- Keeping regularly updated maps and records of properties.
- Assessing the improvement or deterioration of already assessed properties.
- Defending the reasoning behind changes in assessments.
Appropriate skills for an assessor include:
- Knowledge of both general and local real estate market trends.
- In-depth knowledge of local, state, and federal tax codes.
- Good organizational and IT skills.
- Good interpersonal skills for interacting with property owners.
- Skills in analyzing financial data.
- Basic mathematics skills to calculate the size of properties.
- Time management skills to assure properties are assessed in person and on time.
Qualifications in real estate law, business, finance, or economics are typically required. Most states require a certification such as the Certified Assessment Evaluator certification, but it’s not always required.
Some states will also require a State Appraiser’s license. In certain areas, a person interested in this position will have to run for election, but in other locations, it is an appointed position. An interview is still required for appointed positions.
Salaries for Assessors range between $40K to $79K, with the median being $61K.
Factors impacting the salary you receive as an Assessor include:
- Degrees (Bachelors, Masters )
- Size and Type of the Government Organization
- Reporting Structure (Seniority of the Administrator or Supervisor you report to, the size and type of the organization, and number of staff you manage)
- Level of performance - Exceeding Expectations
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Assessor Interview Questions
Question: What benefits do you believe the assessor’s office provides to both the municipality and its property owners?
Explanation: This is a general or opening question which the interviewer will use to start the conversation, learn more about your background, and collect information they can use for subsequent questions.
Example: “The assessor’s office provides an extremely important service to both the city and its residents. The most important thing we do is make it possible for the city to collect revenues, which it then uses to provide services to the people who live there. Simultaneously, we make sure that the property owners are only paying their fair share of taxes and that the assessments of the properties are fair, current, and in line with similar properties in the area.”
Question: What is the condition of the information you have kept on parcels you have assessed?
Explanation: This is an operational question with which the interviewer is seeking to understand your ability to collect and maintain information and documentation. Operational questions are best answered directly and briefly.
Example: “One of the things I am most proud of is my ability to maintain accurate and well-organized records. This becomes finally important when determining the value of the properties within the city and the tax revenues they can generate based on their assessments. It is also important when property owners dispute their assessments because it allows our office to defend our assessments based on accurate data.”
Question: What is the process you use to approve or decline a request for a reduction in the assessed value of a property?
Explanation: This is another operational question which is asking you about a specific process you perform in this occupation. When providing answers to operational questions, you can anticipate that the interviewer will ask a follow-up question to explore the topic further.
Example: “When a property owner disputes their assessment and asks for a reduction in the value of their property, the first thing I do is acknowledge their requests and seek to understand why they are pursuing this. I then review their assessment, noting when it was performed, the value of comparable properties in the area, and any changes which may have occurred since the original assessment. If a reduction is warranted, I ask the property owner for the required information and correct the assessment. If there is no reason to provide a reduction, I communicate this to the property owner and explain the rationale behind my decision.”
Question: How do the specific demographics of a neighborhood affect the value of a property within the area?
Explanation: This is an example of a technical question. Technical questions ask about specific definitions of terms or processes used in your profession or other factors that affect the way you do your job. Like operational questions, technical questions are best answered directly and succinctly.
Example: “The demographics of a neighborhood have no effect on the value of a property within that same area. This is well defined within the Fair Housing Act and other legislation which prohibits discrimination, redlining, and other unfair property-related policies based on the makeup of the population within an area.”
Question: What is your strategy for maintaining a network of property professionals, such as mortgage lenders, Realtors, and construction industry professionals?
Explanation: By asking this question, the interviewer is seeking to understand what additional strategies and tactics you use to perform your job. While networking with other professionals within government and industries related to real estate is not a requirement for this position, doing so will help you perform the job better and will be beneficial to the organization.
Example: “I have found that maintaining an active network of both government and industry contacts helps me to do my job better and makes many of the processes I perform easier. I actively seek to expand and maintain my network by attending industry events, meeting as many people as I can, developing genuine relationships, and frequently communicating with other people in both my organization and the industry in general. Naturally, I am always aware of any conflicts of interest and take no actions, which may compromise my integrity in this position.”
Question: Can you describe a situation in which you had to work with a challenging property owner?.
Explanation: This is an example of a behavioral question. Behavioral questions seek to understand how you will react in a certain situation. The best way to respond to behavioral questions is by using the STAR framework. You state the Situation, describe the Task you needed to accomplish, talk about the Actions you took, and then provide details about the Results you attained.
Example: “I recently had to work with the owner of a large commercial building who felt that the assessment of their property was too high. I first had to confirm the assessment and then develop a rationale for why it was accurate. I reviewed the records and confirmed that the property had been assessed properly. I then collected information that supported the assessment. I met with a property owner and reviewed all this information clearly and respectfully. In the end, they agreed with my findings and dropped their appeal for reduction and the value of the property.”
Question: Share an experience in which your inspection of a structure and the materials it was constructed of helped you identify a problem with the assessed value of a property.
Explanation: This is another behavioral question. You can answer behavioral questions by describing what you did when this situation occurred in the past, or by projecting what you would do if the same situation were to occur in the future.
Example: “Early in my career, I reviewed an assessment that didn’t seem quite right. It was for an older property, and the assessment was higher than similar properties in the same area. I went onsite and inspected the building. I quickly learned that it was built from adobe. I then reviewed the records and realized that the building had been built during the last century and had historical value. This was the reason for the unusual assessment, which I was able to confirm due to my personal inspection, knowledge of materials, and historical perspective.”
Question: Have you ever applied new technology or information in your job. How did it help your organization?
Explanation: This is a hybrid technical and operational question. The interviewer is asking you about the technology you use in this job, and how it helped to make a process more effective or efficient. In today’s job market, you should be up to date on any technology used in your profession or the industry within which you work.
Example: “Early in my career Google Maps and similar applications were introduced. The impact of these technologies was phenomenal. It allowed me and my colleagues to quickly collect information about and view specific properties without having to leave the office. After the introduction of these mapping applications, other developers created tools for assessors, which integrated with Google Maps to streamline the process even more.”
Question: Can you provide me with an example when your ethics were tested?
Explanation: Like most government officials, assessors need to have high levels of integrity and strong ethics. And like other officials, assessors' ethics are often tested by unscrupulous professionals. You should be able to talk about a situation in which your integrity or ethics were challenged and what you did to maintain them.
Example: “It is not uncommon for developers of large projects or owners of significant properties to approach the assessor’s office and request a devaluation in their assessment. They will sometimes offer inducements, including money, access to exclusive events, or other perks to have a value altered. When this occurs, I gently but firmly decline the offer and explain why it would be unethical for me to accommodate them. If the same person persists or makes multiple offers, I report them to the appropriate authorities within my organization.”
Question: In your opinion, what are some of the critical factors for communicating with the public?
Explanation: Working with the public is an important part of the assessor’s job. Your ability to communicate with them effectively is critical to your success in this position. You should be able to discuss both your strategy and tactics for communicating with the public and other stakeholders you deal with.
Example: “As an accessor, I represent the organization I belong to. Therefore my ability to communicate with the public, property owners, and other individuals I encounter daily is critical. My strategy to accomplish this is to communicate clearly and concisely, taking the time to explain the points I am making or my decisions related to property values. I do this both verbally and in writing. I also make sure our department maintains a web site with FAQs and other information the public and access directly.”
Additional Assessor Interview Questions
What is your prior experience in assessing real estate?
What certifications do you hold that qualify you for this position?
How would you back up your assessment if a property owner questioned it?
How do you keep accurate records of property values over a large area?
What methods do you use to determine property value?
What methods do you use to gauge improvement or deterioration of a property and its subsequent effect on value?
Are you experienced in assessing commercial and residential property?
What is the first aspect of a property you look at when beginning an assessment?
In your opinion, what is the most challenging part of assessing a property?
How do you keep yourself updated on changes in real estate trends and tax regulations?
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