Up and down: Tax valuations give pause to all

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Every two years, notices of valuation cause some to yell, others to rejoice. As some homeowners complain about an increase in value by as much as $50,000, others have the opposite worry. In Woodland Park, in general, values declined by 3 percent, said Betty Clark-Wine, Teller County’s assessor.

“That means that some values are going down, some going up,” she said.

In this cycle, residential property is valued on data collected from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2012. “We had only 1,466 sales of residential in four years, properties of all sizes and shapes,” Clark-Wine said.

On the other hand, using the market approach, the assessor incorporated five years of data to evaluate sales of vacant land from July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2012.

“We had so few sales, people weren’t building or buying, so we only had 561 sales of vacant land in five years,” she said. “They were parcels of all sizes in the entire county.”

On qualified commercial properties, the assessor’s office based valuations on 35 sales in those five years. Properties used as offices are valued differently from those used as retail shops, she said.

For commercial vacant land, only six qualified properties were sold in the same five-year period. “The market was such that there weren’t a lot of sales, as there had been in the past,” Clark-Wine said. “The state mandates that we have to have a minimum number of qualified sales in a class of property.”

For assessment purposes, the numbers around the county varied. For instance, in the southwest quadrant, 30 percent of residential sales were foreclosures while in the southeast quadrant, which includes Cripple Creek and Victor, there were few sales and a decline in the selling prices, Clark-Wine said.

In the northwest part, some homeowners had an increase in property values. “In that area, some properties sold as many as three times in the same time period,” she said. “We could see prices coming up as properties were being improved.”

On the other hand, subdivisions in Woodland Park, for instance, with older and smaller homes experienced a decline in value while other subdivisions moved up the valuation scale, she said.

Variables in valuations

With variables in valuations, Clark-Wine urges homeowners to either appeal or come in and discuss options. “About a year ago, we looked at statistics and found that there were in excess of 5,000 properties that had not been personally inspected in five years or more,” she said. “These are properties that may not have sold. We usually go and look at a property when it sells.”

With a new software program, some residential properties changed from being classified as “badly worn” on the outside to “fair condition,” which would have caused the home to go up in value. “Most likely, in years past, they were undervalued,” Clark-Wine said.

In the cleanup process, some properties in Woodland Park went down in value by as much as 36 percent while others increased by up to 40 percent. “If they’re over-valued we can fix that on appeal; if under-valued, we had to keep them that way for two years,” she said.

In a mish-mash of properties, the assessor’s job is complicated by differences, some severe. “Teller County is not a cookie-cutter community. If you had a subdivision of typical homes they would all be within a certain range of each other,” Clark-Wine said. “We have old next to new, very big next to very small and large acreage next to small acreage.”

A newer home among older properties may not be valued correctly, she said. “Sometime an older smaller home will pull the value down in appraisal terms. Or if you have a small home in an area with large homes, it won’t value correctly,” she said.

Appeals

“Appeals are not an adversarial process; it’s not your coming in to fight the assessor. We’re here to discover; are there things we don’t know, is there something about the condition, its attributes, its style, things we don’t know about, such as inside the house?” she said.

For information about comparable sales, Clark-Wine urges property owners to look at the assessor’s part of the county’s website at co.teller.co.us.com. Select properties of similar characteristics. “If you have a problem or a question, please come see us,” Clark-Wine said.

Property owners have through June 3 to appeal to the assessor’s office.

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