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County continues property revaluation process

August 20, 2010

 

The county tax office, which is amidst a more than two-year revaluation process, aims to mail property owners new valuation notices in mid-November.

Revaluation, which takes place every four years in Catawba County, aims to reflect accurate land values in the county.

State law requires North Carolina counties to conduct property revaluations every eight years, but counties are allowed to revalue property more frequently.

Property values could soon change in Catawba County.

Catawba County was previously on an eight-year revaluation cycle from 1975-1999, and the county switched to a four-year cycle in 2003. Revaluating property more often ensures property values remain as close to 100 percent of the property’s market value as possible.

“Market value is not set by the Catawba County tax department,” said Mark Logan, Catawba County tax administrator. “It is set by individuals who are buying and selling in the open market.”

Market value is the most likely price a property will be bought or sold when neither the buyer or seller is forced to act.

“One sale does not establish market value,” Logan said.

Logan presented the county’s revaluation progress at Monday’s Catawba County Board of Commissioners meeting.

The N.C. Department of Revenue values three types of property during revaluations: personal property, such as vehicles; public utility companies; and real estate.

Personal property and public utility companies are valued at market value every year, but real estate is valued in Catawba County every four years.

“Four-year revaluations equalize and distribute the tax burden fairly across all three types of property more frequently,” Logan said.

Conducting revaluations every four years also minimizes potential revenue loss from public utility companies that appeal their values in the fourth and seventh year following a revaluation.

Catawba County lost more than $2 million in revenue from 1995-1998, when the county was on an eight-year revaluation cycle, from public utility company appeals.

Catawba County Manager Tom Lundy said it’s difficult to know how property values will be affected until all data is collected.

“It’s hard to tell now (how values might change),” he said.

The county has an in-house staff of seven certified real estate appraisers to value property in Catawba County.

Appraisers study a variety of information sources, such as the number of county building permits, new home construction sites, construction cost and expense surveys and online real estate information, to determine property values.

“You can imagine, in a revaluation process, that’s our No. 1 concern – that we are fair in our appraisals,” Logan said.

Appraisers also collected more than 30,000 residential data verification requests, which are sent to property owners for verification of property information. The requests ask owners to verify data about a property’s amenities, including square footage and number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

Logan advises property owners to look up their property records online or at the Catawba County Register of Deeds to ensure information on file is accurate.

“There could be errors in our data,” Logan said. “We may have them down for a different square footage or a different number of bathrooms.”

Keeping property record information up-to-date helps appraisers value property accurately.

County appraisers sent out about 53,000 data verification requests, and from those, about 30,000 were returned.

Officials use a Schedule of Values to outline standards for property revaluations. The tax office will present its Schedule of Values for the 2011 revaluation to the Board of Commissioners at 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 7 at the board’s regularly scheduled meeting.

A public hearing regarding the proposed Schedule of Values will be held Sept. 20 at the 1924 Courthouse in Newton, and final adoption of the schedule will be Oct. 4.

Revaluation staff members also collect information about Catawba County real estate sales.

Residential sales in Catawba County usually total about 10 percent of residential land parcels in the county. With 53,000 residential land parcels in Catawba County, sales are expected to be about 5,300.

The county exceeded this figure, with 6,400 residential sales in the county since the last revaluation in 2007.

New property values go into effect Jan. 1, and tax bills will be mailed in July.

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