Letters went out recently to property owners with their new proposed value—the good, the bad, and the ugly. But the news for many was ugly. Of the 200,000 land parcels countywide, the total property value dropped 12 percent. Those proposed 2012 revaluations, in some cases, dropped their property value by $20,000, $25,000, or even a higher amount.
Such is the real estate market in the Toledo metro area right now, where home sales are riding a roller coaster, the foreclosure crisis reared its record-setting head again, people sought to reduce or increase their property values in huge numbers, and homeowners are facing a flurry of property tax requests like never before.
“It is a very shocking tale of what has happened in Lucas County over the past three years, of how hard our economy was hit,” said Ms. López.
“These values are based on 2009, 2010, and 2011 sales values, so it is a bit shocking to those who have not been in the auditor’s office,” said Ms. López. “I was a little shocked myself, even though I’ve seen the foreclosures hit Lucas County over the last four years.”
The county auditor stated that most home and business owners that have approached her office over the past three years have sought to lower their property values in light of the economy, and thus, reduce their tax burden. Ms. López explained that foreclosures, estate sales, and other “distressed properties” were not counted in the revaluation process.
“When we look at the sale prices, we have to look at solely sale prices that are between an arms-length sale, so we have to have a willing buyer and a willing seller,” she said.
But following such a distressed property sale, any transaction involving a realtor, 90 days of advertisement, and other factors on that same property make it a valid sale for consideration and calculation under the 2012 revaluations required by state law.
“That is where most of the turmoil occurred in ’09 and ’10 sales,” said Ms. López. “You saw a more stable environment in the ’11 sales, but is it enough to lock those values in for the next three years.”
The county auditor emphasized the revaluations are proposed property values, so home and business owners can challenge those values until the end of September by showing 2012 sale prices in their neighborhood, if the property description is inaccurate, or if an auditor’s office employee makes an interior inspection of the home to view updates or improvements that have been made but are not listed on a building permit or in the county real estate records. By law, inspections are only made from the outside of a home.
“We had one gentleman call in who wanted his property value close to $100,000,” said Ms. López. He wanted to invite us into his home and show us his finished basement, his additional bathroom, his additional deck . So there were a number of things so we had to require physical inspection, because we were not showing a permit pulled for the work.
We welcome the feedback.”
The property values finalized this year will determine the property tax rates that home and business owners will pay over the next three years for any of the seven levies on the November ballot that do pass. The Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce has calculated that the owner of a $100,000 home in Toledo will see a $345 property tax increase if all of the levies are approved by voters.
“We want every citizen and business to feel they have a fair and equitable value by the time we submit the final report to the state October first,” she said.
Ms. López even cited as an example her own home in South Toledo, for which she paid $157,000 in 2009. A home a few doors down recently sold for $163,000, which would slightly raise the value of her home under normal circumstances. But the difference in sale price may not be enough to pursue an adjustment in her property value.
“It’s important that it’s accurate. Three years from now, we will build on that number from 2012,” she explained. “So the more information we have, the more accurate your property description is, and hopefully six years from now, the auditor will go out and double-check and verify all this information. If not, that is built on an inaccurate value.”
Any changes in property values will take effect in the 2013 tax year. Spanish-speaking staff from the auditor’s office will be available for anyone who needs bilingual services.
“If there are errors, I’m going to take responsibility for it,” said Ms. López. “I’m going to fix it and I’m going to make it right.”
The county auditor is encouraging citizens to call and ask questions, schedule an appointment for an interior inspection if warranted, or challenge the property value assessment if there may be an inaccuracy. Anyone interested either can visit the auditor’s office at One Government Center in downtown Toledo or call 419.213.4406. There also will be a series of community meetings where homeowners can stop by for information.