Early revaluation studied

Published 12:33 am Thursday, January 12, 2012

Declining real-estate values throughout much of Beaufort County have prompted the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners to consider speeding up the next revaluation of real estate and other properties in response to the poor economic climate.

Board Chairman Jerry Langley appointed a three-member committee comprised of Commissioners Robert Cayton, Stan Deatherage and Hood Richardson to consider revaluing property in four or five years instead of the usual eight years and develop a schedule under which such a revaluation could occur.

The committee was appointed at the request of Deatherage, who said there is a growing disparity between the recorded value of real estate in the county and the actual value of those properties when they are sold.

A revaluation in four or five years could address that “disparity between all our citizens,” he said.

“I am satisfied that we (Beaufort County) are now getting more comparables of like-kind properties that will be invaluable in this revaluation — the prime directive of which is to bring property values into a more real perspective,” he said.

The move to a four- or five-year revaluation schedule would lead to a more accurate picture of the value of the county’s real estate, according to the Washington-Beaufort County Board of Realtors.

Such a change would provide “a more accurate reading” of current property values in an “evolving market,” said Jay Martin, the group’s president in an interview Tuesday with the Washington Daily News.

Some eastern North Carolina counties revalue property every four or five years, including Carteret, Dare and Onslow counties. In December, the Craven County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a plan to revalue that county’s property in 2016, two years earlier than required in an effort to move toward a four-year revaluation cycle.

Beaufort County’s most recent revaluation was completed in 2010 after nearly two years of work by the county’s tax office.

That revaluation came during the economic downturn that resulted in slower-than-normal real-estate sales.

But despite slowing real-estate sales, many Beaufort County property owners — particularly those with property along the county’s waterways — saw the value of their homes and land increase over those values recorded in 2002, the year of the previous revaluation.

Monday night, county leaders said that was because property values had not yet bottomed out as they have now, leading them to believe that homes and land would be worth less now than they were worth in 2010.

State law requires that property be appraised for taxation at 100 percent of its fair-market value at least once every eight years.

Because of the recent downturn in the economy and the falling real-estate prices, property appraisals have begun to exceed the fair-market value of those properties, Beaufort County Tax Administrator Bobby Parker told the board.

State law also requires that property values be based on recent comparable sales between willing sellers and willing buyers — so called “arms-length” sales.

But with the growing number of foreclosures in Beaufort County and declining real-estate prices, fewer real-estate transactions are considered “arms-length” and the number of so-called “distressed” sales in Beaufort County is growing, the board was told.

Since the economic downturn in 2008, the foreclosure rate in Beaufort County has climbed. In 2008, there were 123 foreclosures in the county for a per-capita rate of 0.27 percent. In 2010, the number of foreclosures had risen to 173 for a per-capita rate of 0.36 percent. During the first three months of 2011, there were 51 foreclosures for a per-capita rate of 0.43 percent, according to the North Carolina Justice Center.

The commissioners agreed that, if they agreed to a five-year revaluation schedule, they would need to appropriate money for that revaluation over three years because of its cost.

The 2010 revaluation cost the county some $1.03 million, Parker told the commissioners.

The commissioners also agreed that revaluation should not begin until an upgrade of the computers and software used by the county’s tax assessor’s and tax collector’s offices is completed — a process that could take about two years.