Recently, I have been called by a number of people who have just received their assessment after buying a newly built house. The assessments that they are receiving will often lead to high tax bills.
When a new house or other building is completed, the local Board of Assessment will issue what is called an "interim assessment" for that property. Depending upon the county in which the property is located, the assessment should represent a percentage of the combined value of the real estate and the building; the percentage is determined by that county's common level ratio. (The common level ratios for Pennsylvania counties can be found by clicking here).
You typically have 40 days to appeal an interim assessment; if you miss that deadline, you are stuck with that assessment until you can next file an appeal of the annual assessment.
In many cases, the interim assessment is correct since it is based on the purchase price contained in the deed that was filed when you bought the house. However, there are times that the ratio has not been correctly applied and the assessment is too high.
Where it can become difficult for the Board of Assessment to correctly the value the property is when the real estate is purchased, and there is a separate contract for the construction of the house. The construction contract is not filed as a public record, and the Board of Assessment thus does not know how much it cost to build. It thus may put too high a value on the house, inflating your assessment and, thereby, your property taxes.
I thus recommend that any time you get an interim assessment, you carefully review the assessed value to confirm whether it is appropriate.