Warren County home values mostly up

FRONT ROYAL – Most home and land values in Warren County increased with the latest real estate reassessment.

Wingate Appraisal & Mapping recently completed its reassessment work on properties in the county and notified owners last month about the updated values. Wingate and the county appointed Board of Assessors began to hold meetings with property owners this week. Harold Wingate, president of the Roanoke-based appraisal firm, said Tuesday that approximately 30 people came on the first day of the hearings.

Wingate and the Board of Assessors will continue to hold meetings with any property owners concerned about their reassessments through next Thursday. Hearings are being held in the county government center, 220 N. Commerce Ave., Front Royal. Appointments can be scheduled with the Board of Assessors by calling the reassessment office at 635-3184. Also visit the Virginia Mass Appraisal Network website at http://tiny.cc/je4cqx to view the assessment values.

County Administrator Doug Stanley said Thursday that property values increased about 6 percent on average. However, values might have increased by more than 6 percent for some properties. The values of other properties might have decreased, Stanley said. The administrator encouraged property owners who might have questions about their reassessments to schedule a time to talk with an assessor.

Wingate wouldn’t say exactly how much property values increased or decreased since the last assessment conducted four years ago, warning that the percentages can vary greatly. Likewise, the appeals process has not concluded and the outcomes could change the numbers.

Owners who have complaints or questions can meet with assessors to review data, photographs and sketches of the property and to discuss other details such as interior conditions that might affect market value.

“Most likely you’ll complain that [the value has] gone up,” Wingate said. “We try to direct people to concentrate more on market value than the percentage of increase.”

As Wingate explained, assessors made site visits to properties during the work conducted over the past year but did not see inside the houses unless invited. This sometimes put assessors at a disadvantage if the inside revealed more information that could affect values, Wingate said.

“What has happened countywide, some property has gone up pretty significantly, for whatever reason, maybe because of things that have been done to it – additions or renovations – or because it might have been too low last time,” Wingate added.

But values may also remain unchanged or drop as a result of the market in their area, Wingate said.

Dorothy Finnell and Charles Lake together own several lots south of Front Royal and the reassessment showed the properties increased significantly. The value of one property increased from approximately $239,000 to $444,000.

“I’m looking at that as not good because my husband passed away last year and I don’t want my taxes to go up,” Finnell said. “So if it goes up in value it’s nice, but it’s a bigger tax bill.”

Finnell said she had gone through the reassessment hearings in the past.

“It’s worth coming in and discussing it,” Finnell said.

Two property owners who would not give their names came away from their meetings with assessors still not satisfied with the outcome. One woman who recently bought a house in a “not well-to-do” neighborhood in Front Royal questioned why the assessment on the property increased when no homes have sold around hers. A county man said the value of three adjoining properties he owns increased by widely varying percentages.

The county has its general reassessments performed every four years. The values generated in the last reassessment, also performed by Wingate, took effect Jan. 1, 2011. The office will receive the latest assessments at the end of this month once the Board of Equalization holds assessment hearings in January or February, according to Commissioner of Revenue Sherry Sours. The 2015 reassessments take effect Jan. 1, 2015. The Board of Supervisors sets the tax rate in April. The first half of the 2015 real estate tax bills are due June 5.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com