Shenandoah County sees lower property values

Shenandoah County property owners can expect to receive property appraisal notices in mid to late November.

Since the last reassessment in 2009, land values have fallen, according to the Wampler Eanes Appraisal Group. Some home values also dropped, said co-owner Gary Eanes, while some might increase or stay the same, he was quick to note.

County supervisors chose in 2013 to put off the reassessment process until 2015 because the housing market had not likely improved from the last valuation and the cost might outweigh any financial benefit the locality could see.

The county’s contract with Wampler Eanes, approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2014, limits the cost of the reassessment process to $535,000. State code requires localities to perform reassessments no more than six years apart.

Critics claimed in 2013 that the county chose to put off the reassessment because lower property values would reduce tax bills. However, in most cases when property values fall, counties increase the real estate tax rate to raise revenue at least up to level funding.

Wampler Eanes, of Daleville, performed assessments in 2009 and sent notices to owners in October. This year’s notices will be sent after the local November elections, and Eanes said the timing has more to do with the firm’s desire to see what the market does in October and nothing to do with the election.

“To be honest with you, it would probably benefit the election for the incumbents because, you know, the values have dropped somewhat,” Eanes said. “You could play the devil’s advocate and say that, but that’s not to say that every property will go down either.”

If the decrease in land values pulls down average property assessments over all, the county would likely need to increase the real estate tax rate to make up for the lost revenue. However, places that see property values increase often lower their tax rates to keep bills from increasing. Warren County lowered its real estate levy earlier this year but maintained a rate that would increase revenue and bills for some taxpayers. Some property owners in Warren County complained last year that they didn’t receive assessment notices until late November or early December.

Eanes said he met with County Administrator Mary T. Price and Commissioner of Revenue Kathy Black on Thursday. They asked him when he expected the firm to start mailing notices. Eanes recalled telling them he wanted to use all of October to watch sales and the market.

“Part of our contract says that we will pick up any new construction that’s been completed in the last 14 months that we’ve been there, so we’ve got an appraiser, a couple of appraisers doing that right now, too,” Eanes said. “Long story short, we’re hoping to mail them out sometime the first of November.”

The firm proofreads notices before its third party mailing company sends them out. Notices might not go out until the second week of November, Eanes said.

“We can actually stretch it out to December if we wanted to,” Eanes noted. “Our contract says that we have to be finished by Dec. 31, so we want to get it done.”

The firm also is reassessing properties in Clarke and Powhatan counties and Radford, Eanes said. The company wants to stagger the hearings it must hold for property owners in those localities following the reassessment process.

“I think people try to read something into it but, you know, we have until the end of December to complete the process,” Eanes said. “That, you know, would conform with the state regulations and our contract.”

Shenandoah County leaders learned in April that land values appeared lower than they did in 2009. That trend appears to not have changed since the summer.

“Land values have come down in the majority of the county,” Eanes said. “Residential houses in some instances have dropped. Some have stayed the same. Some will increase. It just depends on the quality, how well they’re kept, styles of homes. Everything has to be taken into consideration.”

For instance, old metal cabinets might bring down a home’s value.

“What we’re seeing statewide, if you have water, if you have a mountain view, if that house is pristine, they may still demand a higher price,” Eanes added. “If that house is dated at all, then heavy depreciation has to be applied to it and … those are the ones that will definitely see a decrease.”

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