Frequently Asked Questions
Why does the assessor need to visit my property?
The assessor will occasionally visit properties to validate the description of the parcel and any improvements to ensure the accuracy of the data used to determine the assessed value. The assessing office works closely with the Planning and Code Enforcement department and typically reviews properties that have a building permit and/or those getting a Certificate of Occupancy inspection. You are not required to allow an assessor into your home, although in instances where the assessor is denied entry, estimates will be made about the condition, quality, and finish of the interior of the property.
How does the assessor determine the value of my property?
The assessor determines the value of a property by looking at many important factors including style, size, kitchen and bath quality, interior and exterior condition, location, etc. The assessor looks at many qualities and conditions and then searches for comparable properties that have sold in the neighborhood. Since no two properties are the same, adjustments are made for differing characteristics to determine the assessed value. There are three general approaches the assessor takes in order to determine the fair market value of a property:
- The sales comparison (market) approach, values a property using recent local sales of similar, comparable properties.
- The cost approach calculates the cost to replace a particular property, then adjusts the cost for age, wear, and condition to determine the value of that property.
- The income approach determines the valuation based on the potential future income of the particular property and is limited to only income-producing properties.
What is market value?
The International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO) adopted the following definition of market value:
The most probable price which a property should bring in a competitive and open market under all conditions requisite to a fair sale, the buyer and seller each acting prudently and knowledgeably and assuming the price is not affected by undue stimulus. Implicit in this definition is the consummation of a sale as of a specified date and the passing of title from seller to buyer under conditions whereby:
- Buyer and seller are typically motivated;
- Both parties are well informed or well advised and acting in what they consider their best interests;
- A reasonable time is allowed for exposure to the open market;
- Payment is made in terms of cash in U.S. dollars;
- And the price represents the normal consideration for the property sold unaffected by special or creative financing or sales concessions granted by anyone associated with the sale.
What is the difference between assessment year, fiscal year, and commitment date?
The assessment year is April 1st of each year. The ownership and condition of all property is fixed as of that date each year. Any ownership changes or improvements to the property after April 1st will not change on the tax bill. Those changes will be in effect the following April 1st.
The fiscal year is July 1 to June 30 each year. The tax bills due by September 30th and March 31st cover the period of July 1st to June 30th.
The commitment date is the date set each year when the assessor commits the Town’s assessment roll to the tax collector to allow for receipt of the payment.
Why does the prior owner's name appear on my tax bill?
The statutory assessment date in Maine is April 1st. The ownership on the tax bill is accurate to who the owner was as of that date. If you purchased your property after April 1st, the previous owner’s name will be on the tax bill. That being said, it is up to you and the previous owner to determine who is responsible for paying the bill. Failure to pay the tax bill will result in a tax lien on the property. Please note that the mailing of your tax bill by the town is a courtesy, not a requirement. If you have questions about your tax bill, please contact the Finance office at (207) 288-5096.
Who do I contact to pay my property taxes?
Property tax payments are accepted by cash, check, credit, or debit card (2.5% service fee applies for debit/credit card payments) during regular business hours in the Town of Bar Harbor Municipal Building in the Finance Department or by mail to:
Town of Bar Harbor
93 Cottage Street
Bar Harbor, ME 04609
Debit/Credit online payments are also accepted and can be paid here.
Questions regarding your tax bill, payments, address changes, etc. may be directed to the Tax Collector’s office at 93 Cottage Street or by calling (207) 288-5096.
Why did my taxes go up?
The amount of one’s tax bill is determined by the size of the budget, established by the Town Council. A property owner’s proportionate responsibility for the budget is determined by the value of their property. If you believe that your property value is inaccurate, unfair, or overvalued relative to the market, you may file an appeal within 185 days of commitment. However, having a high tax bill is not a valid reason for an appeal. We recommend you utilize the Assessor’s Online Database tool to review your property assessment information, as well as the properties around you before making an appeal. The land around you should be assessed as your land is assessed, and if not, there should be a rational explanation as to why it isn’t.
If my assessment goes up, does that mean my taxes go up too?
Not necessarily. Assuming there is no change to the budget or your property, if assessed values increase (likely due to a market value adjustment), the mill rate will decrease and tax amounts will remain the same. If you make improvements to your property or the budget increases, you will most likely see an increase in your taxes.
My neighbor lives on a two-acre lot and my property is a one-acre lot, so why is their land value not twice as much as mine?
Property assessments follow the Principal of Diminishing Returns which says that the profits or benefits gained from something will represent a proportionally smaller gain as more money or energy is invested in it. Essentially, additional investment in a property will increase the return up to a certain point and then, beyond this point, the return on additional capital decreases. Looking at the graph below, if the green line represents the one-acre lot and the red line represents the two-acre lot, we can see that the land value of a two-acre lot is not double that of a one-acre lot.