EAGLE COUNTY " Warren Graboyes was shocked to learn his Vail townhouse is worth almost double what it was two years ago, and the first thing that went through his mind was his tax bill.
"I was outraged and couldn't understand how my property's value had gone up so much and kept thinking my taxes would skyrocket also," Graboyes said. "But my outrage was really just a need to be informed."
Trying to understand why his townhouse was valued so high, and what that would mean for his tax bill, Graboyes said he went to the County Assessor's Office in Eagle, and what he discovered was eye-opening.
"It was pretty illuminating," Graboyes said. "The assessor " a very nice and bright man " explained to me that my taxes would not increase nearly as much as the value of my home did. I was certainly relieved."
It was very easy to find out how they determined a property's value and what that would translate into come tax time, Graboyes said.
What was explained to Graboyes is what County Assessor Mark Chapin would like all property owners to know.
The Taxpayers Bill of Rights and the Gallagher Amendment to the state's tax laws limit the amount of revenue the government can collect from property taxes, Chapin said. The law also requires an independent audit of the valuations, he said.
"We are not doing this to collect tons of money, we are doing it because the law requires us to," Chapin said. "We are audited by the state and have to be accurate within 5 percent up or down of a property's value to pass. That is my goal in life " to pass the audit and not fail."
The values of the homes are based on what it could sell for and what the trend for the market in the area is, Chapin said.
"I bought my house years ago before all the rich people moved here and thought it would be nice to inflate the market but not actually live here," said an anonymous Eagle home owner who did not want to reveal his name because he plans to appeal his valuation. "I know, 'Poor guy who paid a quarter for his house than he'd have to now,' but I wish the property values weren't going up so high so fast."
The 14-year Eagle homeowner said he feels like the valuing of homes in the valley is just an excuse for the county to collect more taxes. The county is "falsely buying into the Vail housing market hype" and not giving homes a proper value, the anonymous homeowner said.
The man will be one of the nearly 3,000 people who file appeals with the Assessor's Office every time a valuation is done, Chapin said.
Graboyes understands the process of valuation better now, but still disagrees with the valuation done on his home, he said.
"I'm not thrilled with my personal assessment," Graboyes said. "It was very easy to file an appeal, and I encourage anyone who wants one to do so."
Chapin did acknowledge that the county does not inspect every home during valuation, and mistakes can be made.
"I'm in awe of how much people are surprised by the value of their home," Chapin said. "I invite everyone to look at the local MLS listings and online at homes and see where the market has gone over the past two years."
Graboyes property appreciated 71 percent in two years, he said.
"I don't understand how my townhouse increased the way it did, they are probably the least valuable of the properties to own," Graboyes said.
The approximately 11,000 condos and townhouses in Eagle County were among the highest in appreciation, Chapin said.
Single-family homes saw an average increase of 32 percent while condos and townhouses saw a 66 percent average increase, Chapin said.
"We think condos have gone up so much because it was the affordable niche and are starter homes for many people," Chapin said. "There are also many more of them than single-family homes so they are bought and sold more often."
Staff writer Alison Miller can be reached at 748-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.