I got my new tax assessment in the mail last Friday. I had a warning first, when a neighbor called me to complain about his. Turns out he's justified in complaining a bit. Another neighbor called later in the day, and I had to tell him that he can't complain about it. I would happily list his house for $30,000 more than his new assessed value!
I went home, checked the mail, and sure enough "the letter" was there. Our assessment went up 35%. Took me a second. WHAT!!!!! 35%????? Are they nuts??? The town just had a major reassessment two years ago. Last year our house didn't go up at all, and the market grew about 3%. Now here's my thinking: if everyone averaged a 3% increase, how the #*!! did we go up 35%?!?!?! We didn't have any major improvements. Come to think of it, we didn't have any improvements. We live in a modest neighborhood, that is only moderately sought after by home buyers.
It didn't take long and my phone really started ringing. Most of the people I talked to have NOTHING to complain about. They went up about 3%. So far, the next closest jump to ours I've heard of is 9%.
Time to take action. I went to the assessor's office to sign up for an informal review. As I was standing there, the woman in line in front of me asked the assessor if her (the assessor's) son's value had gone up. She said yes it had, and he was complaining too. Then, one of the clerks made a comment about how everyone's value has to go up because the houses keep selling for more than the assessed value (more on this ridiculous statement in a minute). I just couldn't keep my mouth shut, and made a comment about how I was a Realtor, and I hadn't seen anyone in the town sell their house for 35% higher than the assessed value in the past year. That pretty quickly ended the conversation, and the clerk very quietly gave me a May 1st appointment, while the assessor left the room without making eye contact with me.
Now, back to the ridiculous statement about how assessments need to keep going up... this line of thinking ignores a very basic fact: seller concessions. Sometimes (often) buyers need seller concessions, and that "beefs up" the sales price. Is the property worth that extra money? One the one hand you could argue yes, because a bank was willing to finance that much. But you could also argue no, the buyer considered the value to be less, and isn't a property ultimately worth only what someone is willing to pay for it?
In the grand scheme of things, I'm sure there are people in other areas of the country that are dealing with higher assessments combined with decreasing values. I'm glad to say we're still gaining in value. The trade off for us locally is that when everywhere else was seeing huge numbers in appreciation, we saw moderate gains. I still feel better after ranting a bit. I don't want my taxes to go up another $600 per year. From now through May 1st, I will be pulling closed transactions from the MLS, and searching ongov.net for similar assessments. I aim to walk into that meeting fully prepared.