Wake County, North Carolina has a wonderful amount of on-line information available to the public.
Property Buyers and Sellers can access photos, notes on building permits, tax bills, deed history, subdivision or area sales, structure information, and a map of the property, including zoning, environmental features, and aerial photography.
One item that confuses many Buyers from out of state is the lack of correlation between "Tax Value," and the Listing Price of a property for sale. Basically, it is safe to say there is no correlation between the two in Wake County, and much of North Carolina.
In many regions "Tax Value" is adjusted to reflect recent sales activity, and correlates closely to property value. Wake County Tax Values are re-assessed at eight year intervals. There is an optional "adjustment" at the 4 year mark of that cycle. It is not aggressively used to bring Tax Values "into line" with market conditions.
The next Wake County re-assessment is scheduled for 2008, and Tax Values will likely change dramatically to the upside.
Separate from the Tax Value is the "Property Tax Rate." This is the percentage taken against the Tax Value to determine the property tax due.
In Wake County municipalities, the rate is in the <1% vicinity, i.e., on a home with a $275,000 Tax Value, the owner may pay <1%, or $2750+/-, property tax, including municipality and county taxes.
The Market Value of that home may be $275,000 or $600,000, or whatever, depending on whether it existed prior to the last re-assessment.
The Wake County Property Tax Rate for a home is .534%, which includes School taxes and a recycling fee, and the Town of Cary is .33% on my home, yielding a total property tax rate of .864%.
So, don't be surprised when Tax Value and Listing Price don't correlate.
And when you see a Wake County real estate advertisement trumpeting, "BELOW TAX VALUE!," be wary about interpreting that as an indication of value. It may just be marketing to garner interest from folks who don't understand the local system.