News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

January 9, 2013

Vigo property declines 7.4 percent after reassessment

Most of Valley also sees decreases

TERRE HAUTE — It’s been 10 years since Indiana had its last general reassessment, and during that decade the state was part of a national recession during which home building and sales plummeted.

Property owners statewide have or will soon receive county notices of their assessed property value, and the picture of those values varies in each of Indiana’s 92 counties.

Overall, Indiana has experienced a 1.1-percent decrease in the median assessed value, said Barry Wood, assessment division director for Indiana Department of Local Government Finance.

Vigo County’s overall assessed value dropped 7.4 percent, much of that in taxing districts of the city of Terre Haute. Most of the Wabash Valley also saw decreases in assessed values, except for Vermillion County, which saw a 7.1-percent increase.

That increase is attributed to land that formerly had been government property but is now part of the Vermillion Rise Megapark.

“We did a calculation to see what the change was from 2011 to 2012 in terms of the assessed value and it was all across the board in terms of the counties that saw an increase or decrease,” Wood said Tuesday.

“County by county, there are some areas where the land values did increase and the improvement (meaning homes or structures) value decreased,” Wood said. Part of that is a result of the general reassessment, with new state land order for values in each county, plus updated material costs schedules for buildings, updated depreciation scales along with sales and market information used to determine market values, Wood said.

“Part of the reason there has been an overall statewide decrease was certainly the recession, which has had an impact on housing prices, which are reflected in the assessed value,” Wood said.

Some Indiana counties with universities saw increases, such as Tippecanoe County, with Purdue University, up 2 percent; Monroe County, with Indiana University, up 1.4 percent; Delaware County with Ball State University, up 0.4 percent; and Montgomery County, with Wabash College, up 0.6 percent.

Madison County had the highest increase in assessed value at 10.3 percent, while LaGrange County in northeastern Indiana was among the biggest drops, decreasing 16.2 percent. Putnam County had a 7.3-percent decrease in assessed value.

David Thomas, a resident of Dobbs Glenn subdivision on Terre Haute’s eastside, said he was surprised at his assessed value. “In most cases in our neighborhood, the total assessment came out about the same [as last year] or a little higher. However, they changed the land value on my property. It doesn’t make any sense that for a third of an acre, which was assessed at about $18,000, now it is about $91,000,” he said. “It’s crazy.”

The value of his home also decreased in assessed value and his overall assessed value went up slightly.

“Comparing this year to last year is comparing apples to bananas, because it’s like we started over from scratch again with a general reassessment, which we have not had since 2002,” said Vigo County Assessor Debbie Lewis.

Even property trending, which compares property sales annually, has new cost tables and depreciation scales for assessment, Lewis said. Land values for the general reassessment are also different, based on property sales in 2009 and 2010. In Dobbs Glenn, there were 10 sales in that period, the assessor said.

“None were land-only sales, they were all improved land sales,” Lewis said of Dobbs Glenn subdivision. “The desired effect is to find sales of unimproved lots, but when you don’t have that, we take the sale price and the improvement price and we abstract a land value. We then give it a land percentage ratio. We then rank them and come up with median,” Lewis said.

In Dobbs Glenn, the median land value was determined to be about 18 percent of sale prices, Lewis said. Also, trending for the general reassessment for homes or structures was based on sales from Jan. 1, 2011, to March 1, 2012, which will effect previous improvement values, Lewis said.

Wood said as a general rule, land values generally constitute about 20 percent of a sale price. However, it differs by location, such as waterfront homes on Geist Reservoir, northeast of Indianapolis, where land values represent 40 to 45 percent of a sale price.

“It is location, location, location. People will pay a premium to be on a large body of water,” Wood said.

People in that area may see land values are up and values of homes down, but are satisfied with the overall assessment, Wood said. “Others may say, ‘I am not sure what the assessor was doing or thinking when they established my assessed value and I think my land value is incorrect.’ A taxpayer certainly has the right to appeal their assessment if they believe their assessed value is incorrect in terms of the land assessment, they certainly have the right to appeal that. If they think the overall assessment is incorrect, they can appeal that,” Wood said.

“It really is a taxpayer case by case situation,” Wood added.

Any taxpayer seeking to appeal an assessed value has until Feb. 19 to file an appeal. An appeal is made through the county assessor’s office. An appeal form can be found online at www.in.gov/dlgf/8516.htm#Appeals.

Lewis said the most important figure is the overall assessment total. If that total represents “a reasonable” price for the property, the assessed value can be considered correct.

Wood said the assessed value is “a big part” of a calculation that a taxpayer will later pay in a tax bill, but “there are other factors such as deductions, tax circuit breaker, tax caps, the taxing district where they are located and tax rate there,” Wood said.

“The best valuation of a property is whatever a buyer and seller agree upon on a particular given date, if all things are taken into consideration,” Wood said. “Has the property been exposed to the open market, is the house being sold because of a job transfer or divorce or is it an estate settlement. What is driving the seller to sell the property and what is driving the buyer to buy the property,” Wood said.

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