Bad timing is resulting in a significant increase to assessed home valuations across the state.

The Howard County Assessor’s Office mailed out statements to all property owners of the new assessment this week. There has been a steady influx of telephone calls at the office.

Trending of property values was approved by the Indiana General Assembly as part of the state’s move to a market based assessment in 2002. Currently the trending factor is to be done on an annual basis.

Jay Morris, with Ad Valorem Solutions, said trending required the review of property sales in 2004 and 2005.

“We did a spot check for homes on the market,” he said. “We then compared sale prices to the current assessment and established a factor for each neighborhood.

“There were some areas that went up more than others,” Morris said. “There was an increase in land values and for improvements.”

Howard County paid the Kokomo based firm $169,700 to perform the trending work.

Some areas of Howard County experienced a decline, many in certain areas of Liberty Township, Morris said. Most property owners located in the incorporated areas of the county saw an increase.

Morris said what people are seeing is the increased value of property from 1999 to 2005.

“The timing of the trending was a big factor,” Morris said. “In 1999 there was a robust housing market. Following a decline in 2001, the trending went back to 2004-2005 when the market was recovering and prices were going up.”

He said if the trending factor is used again in 2007, property owners could see a decline because of the soft housing market in Howard County.

“Most property owners will see a 10 to 15 percent increase,” Morris said. “Several areas went up significantly higher than that.”

Because this is a new process for everyone it will take a period of adjustment, he said.

“In my opinion the trending should take place every two or three years,” Morris said. “The entire process, which took 3 to 4 months, has to be repeated on an annual basis. We don’t want to wait any more for a reassessment every six to 10 years.”

Morris said his property increased by 17.5 percent.

“Property owners should look at the assessed value and what they feel the value of the property is,” he said. “You don’t really know until a house is placed on the market what the value is.”

Ad Valorem Solutions has done work for several other counties, Morris said. Property values in Clinton County went up a little more than in Howard County.

Only 52 of Indiana’s 92 counties are sending out new assessment statements, he said.

“If property owners have a problem with the assessed valuation, they should contact us,” he said.

Morris said in theory when the assessed valuation increases, the property tax rate should decline.

Howard County Assessor Ann Harrigan said Wednesday the last general reassessment took place in 1995. She said the planned 1999 reassessment was delayed as the state debated going to the market based assessment.

The next general reassessment will take place in 2011, she said.

Harrigan said following the 1999 delay the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance used the 1999 figure for the 2002 reassessment.

In 2002 there were 300 appeals of the reassessment amount.

Harrigan expects the number to increase this year as trending to determine market based assessed value went back to 2004-2005.

“There is normally an informal conference,” Harrigan said of appeals filed by property owners. “There is an attempt to reach an agreement. If an agreement can’t be reached the property owner can file an appeal with the Property Tax Board of Appeals and a further appeal can be filed with the state.”

There was good news for property owners in Manor Woods where one property owner reportedly saw an increase of $100,000 and another saw an increase of $81,000.

A mistake was made in determining the new assessed value in Manor Woods and no appeals will be necessary, the Assessor’s office will make a correction.

Ken de la Bastide can be reached at (765) 454 -8580 or via e-mail at ken.delabastide@kokomotribune.com

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