Assessments won't surprise many
The Capital Region real estate was distorted by underassessed homes a decade ago. Every neighborhood had them, says appraiser Tom Cook, and they were often assessed at just 50% of real value.
“And that was the rule, not the exception,” Cook says.
Come Aug. 13, parish property owners will begin learning whether their property's assessment has changed, as East Baton Rouge Parish Assessor Brian Wilson mails out notices on his newest findings.
The assessor, in his tenth year on the job, says sticker shock is unlikely for most properties and homes.
“Some of them went up and some didn't,” Wilson says. “Some of them were already up there at market value.”
The total value of assessed property in the parish has increased by 11% since the last assessment in 2008, from $3.15 billion to $3.5 billion. Some of that appreciation is from existing property increasing in value, Wilson says, while much of it came from new growth in the residential, commercial, public utilities and industrial sectors.
“Over the last four years, it's been largely driven by growth, new construction,” Wilson says. “The biggest growth is on the residential side.”
For existing homes that increased in value, uptick is due to location and nearby sales that occurred during the 12 months between the fall of 2010 and spring of 2011, Wilson says. Bocage homeowners, for example, can expect an incremental increase in their home's assessment because of high demand with limited supply. Southdowns and the Garden District, by contrast, face a myriad of outcomes. “It just depends on where you're at—it varies from subdivision to subdivision,” Wilson says.
For Riverbend, Wilson says his office estimates the price per square foot is about $120; in Shenandoah, the price per square foot is about $90.
He says his office does not have data from 2008 for Riverbend and Shenandoah for comparison.
With the average price of homes in the parish falling to $188,441 from $201,771 since 2008, homeowners and real estate agents wonder how assessments could have risen.
EBR PROPERTY TAX SOURCES
Personal Property (including business assets)
“A true value of a house is what a person is willing to pay for it,” says Pat Wattam of The Pat Wattam Team at Re/Max First.
Yet Wilson maintains not every home's value is appreciating. On the residential side of each assessment, his office breaks subdivisions down with sales per block, per street.
“The volume of sales isn't what it once was but the prices are strong,” Wilson says. “The market is good here, compared to other places.”
Cook applauds Wilson for reassessing many of the older homes whose owners formerly paid too little in taxes.
“Brian has done a good job of cleaning the mess his predecessor left,” Cook says.
That predecessor was Frank Granger. Granger and other parish assessors came under the scrutiny of the Legislative Auditor's Office when it became widely known that many homes had been low-balled for decades, while new homeowners found themselves paying hundreds and thousands of dollars more in taxes than their neighbors.
Wilson served as deputy assessor under Granger and took over when his boss committed suicide in June 2002. Wilson was re-elected in 2003.
Wilson says that when he took over, the assessor's office had to measure properties all over the parish because records of square footage per home were scant.
The assessor's office reassesses a home whenever it is sold. But it can also reassess a home if the owner feels his or her home has depreciated in value and property taxes are out of whack, Wilson says.
Prices peaked in 2007; real estate agents say homes sold at prices that had inflated by 15 percentage points from the previous year because of Hurricane Katrina. Many of those homeowners—who worry they are paying too high taxes—have since contacted Wilson to revisit their property for a new assessment.
It's impossible, he adds, to reassess every home in the parish every four years.
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