Washington County's real estate revaluation program is nearing completion. This program, which began in the summer of 2008, has been carried out under an order from the Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT). Letters informing property owners of their newly established valuations are being mailed. Careful reading of this article should answer many questions about the why's and how's of the revaluation. While all real estate was reviewed, this article focuses on residential and agricultural property.
Every six years, state law requires the county auditor to reappraise every parcel of real estate in the county at fair market value as of Jan. 1 of the subject tax year. Why? The revaluation helps assure that each person pays only their fair share of the tax burden. The values will be used to calculate the tax bills for tax year 2010, which will be paid in 2011. Please note that in most cases the bills paid in 2010 were based on values set in 2007, three years ago.
There are over 60,000 parcels of real estate in our county to be valued. The reappraisal is a substantial effort, requiring diligent effort and input from many individuals. An experienced, state registered, private appraisal firm was contracted in 2008 to perform many of the required functions. This company incorporated its state licensed appraisers with local residents hired and trained to visit the properties and record property characteristics such as building materials, age and condition.
The other data collected which is critical to properly determining market values is recent sales activity. Valid sales of property in our county for the last three years have been analyzed. (Valid sales, by state law, do not include sheriff foreclosure sales, auctions and sales to relatives.)
The new market values are then established as a result of those inspections and studies. As a result of this process, it is important to note that the values are a reflection of the market.
I was fortunate to have 20 local individuals accept invitations to serve as a Revaluation Panel to be a sounding board for the appraisal company determinations. The individuals reside in Barlow, Belpre, Beverly, Cutler, Little Hocking, Lowell, Marietta, New Matamoras, Reno and Vincent. Their occupations included both real estate appraisal and sales, bank lending, agriculture, accounting, construction, development and local government. I feel that we had excellent coverage both geographically and professionally. Their input is appreciated.
It is fair to say that the activity of the real estate market during the review period has led to generally stable residential real estate values from three years ago, with raw land actually increasing overall in value.
In fact, based on the studies and analysis, when the value of new construction and the demolition of improvements are removed, the totals for property classified as residential has increased from its 2007 value by 1.3 percent and property classified as agricultural by 10.1 percent. Some areas are higher and some are lower.
This may seem contrary to what many of us have seen and heard via the media over the last few years during the "housing crisis." But check the bylines of where those stories originate from - i.e. California, Florida, Nevada, etc. - many are places that saw both booms and then busts. Make no mistake, the number of sales has been reduced the last few years. However, local sales data compared to existing county auditor values tells a positive story that overall the values of the sales have maintained their strength.
One of the most important points is that if you believe the market value of your property as established by the appraisers is higher or lower than what could be obtained in the marketplace, you have the right to appeal the value.
The place to begin is by contacting the county auditor's office to discuss your property. We are scheduling appointments with the appraisers to discuss the values between Nov. 15 and Nov. 30.
If, after reviewing the value with the appraiser you are not satisfied, a formal complaint may be filed with the County Board of Revision at no cost. A complaint may be filed until March 31 and will be responded to with a hearing.
I've been asked what a property owner should bring to support their contention of a property's value. The best documents are a certified appraisal, evidence from an arms length sale of the property or information from comparable sales. Photographs of your property may also be helpful.
To obtain more information concerning the home valuation process, you can visit www.YourHomeYourValue.org, a generic website developed by the County Auditors Association of Ohio to aid individuals in understanding the home valuation process.
Please bear in mind that this entire process is about establishing values, not tax rates. We do not establish tax rates. Tax rates, which are expressed in mills, are largely set by the voting public. In any event, the ODT establishes the effective tax rates. We do not have rates for next year's tax bills so this office cannot estimate your bills at this time. We should have the new rates by the end of this year.
I want to take this opportunity to also point out that there are programs available to reduce a person's property taxes and I would encourage anyone who thinks that they may qualify to contact my office for more information.
Owner-occupied home sites are entitled to a 2 percent tax rollback.
Home owners 65 years old or permanently disabled living in their principal place of residence are eligible for the homestead exemption program.
Properties of 10 acres or more devoted to commercial agricultural use may be eligible for enrollment in the Current Agricultural Use Valuation (CAUV) Program.
A comment does need to be made about the changes in CAUV values. Many have increased substantially. These values are set by the State of Ohio and not appealable to the county. Owners of CAUV enrolled property are encouraged to attend a public meeting to be held on Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. at Washington State Community College.
In closing, I want to thank you for your time and interest in reading this article.
We realize that property valuation is a sensitive issue and you have every right to know how your property's value was established.
Again, the task given to this office is to reflect property values, not to artificially inflate or arbitrarily set them. Our goals continue to be that your property value is fair and equitable and to provide you with accurate information regarding your property.
Bill McFarland is auditor of Washington County.