COUNTY LAUNCHES COMPREHENSIVE PROPERTY REAPPRAISAL
The Clatsop County Assessment and Taxation Department has begun inspecting residential, farm and business properties as part of the first comprehensive reappraisal in the county in many years.
The appraisers physically inspect every property in a selected area to determine the condition of the land and all improvements on each property and to verify the accuracy of county records regarding those properties. The county uses on-site appraisals, coupled with real property sales data and other information, are used by the county to determine a property’s real market value.
The A&T Department performs on-site appraisals of new construction and improvements as they are completed. But it has not conducted a comprehensive lot-by-lot appraisal in most of Clatsop County since the 1990s. State law and Oregon Department of Revenue rules require all property to be valued at 100 percent of real market value.
During their inspections, the appraisals will take note of changes to buildings as well as depreciation or physical defects that could impact the value of the property.
Prior to 1997, counties conducted on-site appraisals on a six-year cycle. But ballot measures 47 and 50, the property tax-limiting initiatives passed by Oregon voters in 1996 and 1997, removed the requirement for regular reappraisal cycles by the county assessor. In place of physical inspections, the A&T Department has relied on sales data and other information to keep valuations current.
But Clatsop County has a very heterogeneous market area – with homes of widely varying quality and value existing side-by-side – that makes it difficult to establish market values without on-site inspections, according to Appraisal Supervisor Michael Grant.
To keep appraisal records more up-to-date, the department is returning to the six- to eight-year appraisal rotation. The first area targeted is the northeast portion of the county – appraisers are currently inspecting properties in Westport and will work their way west to Astoria.
Appraisers will visit neighborhoods in vehicles bearing the Clatsop County logo and will carry official county identification. They will go door-to-door to each property in the area – if the owner is home, the appraisers will identify themselves, explain the purpose of the visit and ask if they may view the inside the home or other structure. If an owner declines, the appraiser will conduct the appraisal from the exterior of the building and/or the nearest right-of-way.
If the owner is not home, the appraiser will leave a yellow door tag containing contact information if the owner wishes to schedule a visit at a future time, and will conduct the appraisal from the building exterior and/or off the property.
During their visits appraisers will look for improvements and additions not noted in current county records and note the quality and age of those changes, as well as look for signs of depreciation or problems such as leaky roofs. They may measure buildings and will take photos.
“We try to be as detailed as possible,” said Senior Appraiser Catherine Harper.
A key goal of the appraisal program is updating county records. An on-site appraisal may find that a home listed in the county’s property data base as being heated only by wood stove now has a new heating system. On the other hand, appraisals can also reveal that structures still included in the assessment inventory have been removed.
Property owners are not required to allow appraisers on their property. But the A&T Department notes that the more access an appraiser has to the property, the more accurate the valuation for that property will be.
The department also emphasizes that appraisers do not check properties for compliance with building codes or other regulations – they are solely evaluating properties for their real market value.
Even if an appraisal results in a change in a property’s valuation, this will likely not result in a change to the owner’s property tax bill. Taxes are calculated on the property’s assessed value, not real market value. Measure 50 limited the annual rise in assessed value to 3 percent, and as a result today most properties’ real market values are substantially higher than the assessed value.
But maintaining accurate real market values is still important, Grant said. Oregonians have voted to change their property tax system four times in the last 20 years, and market values may be again be the basis for assessing taxes in the future. In addition, insurance companies, banks and mortgage companies rely on accurate indicated real market values from the A&T Department.
For more information on the appraisal process and property taxes, go to “Property Records/Taxes” on the Clatsop County website, http://www.co.clatsop.or.us/
PHOTO CAPTION: Clatsop County Appraiser Chris Leader measures the wall of a home. The county’s Assessment and Taxation Department is launching a county-wide appraisal program.
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