West Hartford’s 2011 revaluation is progressing smoothly, and reached the public phase when Market Value letters began arriving during the second half of November.
Before going any further, it is very important to emphasize three key points:
1. Property taxes don’t change until July 2012.
2. Taxes would be calculated based on the “New Property Assessment” in the bottom right of the letter, not the market value.
3. The mill rate will change, so multiplying the current mill rate by the “New Property Assessment” is not a reliable estimate of future taxes.
Although the overall timeline extends through spring and into July, there is immediate action required for West Hartford homeowners who are concerned about the Market Values assigned to their properties.
The Town will be holding informal hearings on proposed market values through most of the month of December. Owners who wish to challenge their value need to call 860-561-7598 by Friday 12/9/2011 between 9:00 and 4:00 in order to schedule a one-on-one appointment.
Once you’re on the schedule, you should gather some market data to support your contention that the market value assigned to your property is too high. There are a couple of primary sources of information. The Assessor’s office has a number of large binders on their public tables in which you can look up sales information. They have also loaded the new market values of all the properties in town into the Vision Database. Finally, real estate agents can also help by gathering data through the MLS.
We have been in contact with the Assessor’s office in an effort to understand the big picture results of the revaluation. Most importantly, we have asked for their rough projections of what the mill rate would be if the current proposed market values held, and if the Town budget remained flat. We have also asked for data that will (hopefully) allow us to run different projections and scenarios of our own.
Until the Assessor’s office comes though with some information, our observations are limited to what we discover by looking at the market values of individual homes through the Vision system.
Most properties that we have reviewed showed a decreasing market value compared to the previous year, which is actually the value of the property according to the 2006 revaluation. Decreasing market values make sense since the market has definitely weakened over the past five years.
Comparing the new market value to the old market value is interesting, but not terribly useful. After the 2006 revaluation the Town decided to phase in the new values, but later froze the phase-in after the second year. The result of this decision is that for many homeowners the new market value is actually higher than the one on which their taxes are currently calculated.
For example, one home in Town was assigned a value of about $280k in the 2006 revaluation. Two years into the phase-in the taxable market value had increased to about $210k – still considerably below fair market. That value got locked in once the phase-in was frozen. Revaluation 2011 has set the value of this home at about $270k, so even though the market value has fallen since 2006, it’s still going to experience a step up in taxable market value. (We know this is confusing, it took us quite a while to understand, and model, the 2006 phase-in. Please feel free to email questions or post them in the comments.)
The revaluation has not treated all homes that sold in 2011 equally. Some properties that sold were assigned their sales price as the market value, which seems quite reasonable. Others were not … we saw one that was assigned a value meaningfully lower than the sales price.
That’s all we have for the moment. Check back in over the coming weeks – we’ll post additional information and analysis as it is available. And West Hartford homeowners, don’t forget to review the proposed market values in the letters you received and decide if you want to challenge your values.