I recently had a pleasant conversation with one of our town Listers and I thought it might be interesting to write about what a Lister does and what it means to you and your taxes.
So what is a Lister? Could Realtors be considered Listers because we list properties? I make lists all the time — am I a Lister?? My Lister friend defined this job as that of an elected official who is charged with determining the value of the real and personal property within the town in conjunction with the town Assessor. From this information, better known as the Grand List, the Select Board will set a tax rate necessary to raise enough money to pay for town services, the maintenance of town highways and the schools. That’s a big job. A huge responsibility. Listers also manage the files that are located at the town office.
Then there is the Assessor. This person is hired or appointed by the town and can work full or part time for a given town or municipality while others may actually work for several different towns. (I like town instead of municipality and I refer to them as one and the same.) The Assessor researches the market and creates a report that reflects his or her opinion of value based on current sales and other market conditions. This is the same definition of what we Realtors do for our Sellers before listing a house. We call it a Comparable Market Analysis, or CMA.
Your property taxes are tied to this value in that it is multiplied by the current tax rate to come up with your yearly tax amount. If the overall assessments for the properties in your town are at or close to their market value then it’s really the tax rate that determines what you pay, not the assessment. If they are out of whack — your house is assessed higher than a similar property — then the total tax may vary enough to make it seem a bit unfair. This can work in your favor, of course, if your assessed value is less than what you could sell your house for.
Don’t forget, though, that the total of the Grand List merely gives your Select Board the rest of the equation when figuring your tax rate. First is to come up with a budget, then divide that by the grand list total and that results in the tax rate. If you aren’t inclined to agree with your tax rate or the budget, voice your opinion in the voting booth. Better yet, get involved with the process and become part of the solution.
When working with Sellers and even Buyers, it is important that they understand that the assessed value of a property from town records is not necessarily a fair market value for the current market. I’ve run across many that were seriously over assessed but that is because since the assessment was completed, the market had fallen and a reassessment or adjustment is not done without good reason. Something such as an addition to a house would have to trigger that change.
It also works the other way too and at times Buyers will assume a property is overpriced if it is above that number. Not necessarily. It’s critical that your Realtor do their homework in researching the current sales as well as what is on the market now to help determine what a fair market value might be. I tell people that an appraiser, a Realtor and the town’s assessment could very well be three totally different numbers.
I asked my Lister friend what he would want me to convey to the public, besides “please don’t beat up the Lister”. He had three things to note.
- Make sure the information in the Lister’s file about your property is correct. Is the acreage right, the number of rooms, etc.? Stop by or call your town Lister and just ask. They are all very helpful.
- Educate yourself about similar properties to yours, their perceived value and what the current market is doing.
- He also suggested that you ask your favorite Realtor to verify the market value of your home as compared to your assessed value.
One thing I did discover from our conversation is that, yes, I could probably be a Lister or even an Assessor. The experience of a Realtor is much like the credentials required for the job. I think the only other requirement I might need is to have a thick skin (got it), a good sense of humor (I’m full of that), add in a bit of insanity (no question there) and I’m good to go!!