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Understanding the value of your home

Tamara Miller

EAGLE COUNTY ” The county’s ever-blooming real estate market may never be more loathed than in early May.

There are the days when the county assessor’s office notifies property owners of how much their piece of the American dream is worth. It also will give homeowners an idea of how much in property taxes they will owe for the next two years.

Because it is an odd-numbered year this year, the assessor’s office has been re-appraising properties. The result? Increases in property values across the board.

According to County Assessor Joyce Mack, property values in Eagle County grew by 17 percent from 2003 to 2005. That trend shows no signs of slowing down because the demand for housing still exceeds the supply, said Mark Chapin, deputy county assessor.

“The increases Eagle and Gypsum have had are breathtaking,” Chapin said.

For some property owners, it’s breathtaking in a bad way. In 2003, the assessor’s office received 2,906 appeals on property appraisals; about half ” 1,130 ” were adjusted after review. In 2001, the assessor’s office received 4,985 appeals.

The reason for appeals can be an error made by a county appraiser, a lack of current data on similar properties or just a difference of opinion, said Roger Pack of Pack Appraisal Group. Pack is a private appraiser and represents property owners in appeals.

If property owners believe their property has been overvalued ” as is the case in nearly all appeals ” they have until June 1 to file an appeal.

How properties are valued

Eagle County has more than 40,000 properties and only 10 county appraisers to determine how much each one is worth. To do the job, the appraisers gather information about each home’s square footage, location, construction quality, when it was built and the sales price of similar homes in the neighborhood, said Andria Collins, a county appraiser.

Making it even more of a challenge is that Eagle County has such a wide mix of homes, from relatively affordable condominiums to large custom homes. Homes within a subdivision are generally compared with those that have sold recently.

Eagle County has about 800 subdivisions, or neighborhoods. Each county appraiser is assigned a set of neighborhoods so that they become familiar with the types of homes there, Mack said.

Still, in places like Bachelor Gulch or Beaver Creek, where each custom home is fairly unique, it can be a little more difficult, Chapin said.

Appraisers take into consideration some upgrades to a home: an addition of a fireplace or if a homeowner installed a hydrotub. But the biggest consideration that can influence home values is “location, location, location,” Chapin said.

Mack said she hopes to have fewer appeals this year because her employees are collecting information from a larger time period than in years past, from Jan. 1, 2001, to June 30, 2004. In theory, there should be more home sales for comparison, thus making property appraisals more accurate.

Then, appraisers consider how much the property would have sold for on June 30, 2004.

Think something’s wrong?

Having a home overvalued when you are selling it can make you a lot money. Having it overvalued come re-appraisal time can cost you a lot of money.

In 2003, more than 200 people hired Pack because they felt the county assessor had appraised their property too high. In 83 percent of those cases, the property owners won their case, Pack said.

Overall, the county assessor does a good job of appraising properties, he said. Mistakes can be made because there haven’t been enough home sales in a particular neighborhood to make a good comparison. Or the assessor hasn’t taken into consideration that the homes being used for comparison have stellar mountain views, while the others in the neighborhood don’t, Pack said.

The age of the home can be a factor, too, since home values also are based on the quality of the home’s construction

“A home built in 1982 may have been excellent quality at the time, but excellent quality in ’82 is more like good quality today,” Pack said.

And again, homes along the same street can be very different from each other. For example, a city like Denver, where there are neighborhoods of very similar homes, property valuations are within about $15,000 of each other, Pack said.

Property owners who want to protest their home valuation must file an appeal by June 1. There are three levels of appeal (see sidebar), and it can be frustrating for some, Pack said.

The tax savings can make it worth it, however. Pack, whose clientele mainly consists of owners of luxury homes, said, on average, his clients shaved $366,395 off their home appraisal. On average, that saved his clients about $4,664 in property taxes over two years.

Appealing a county appraisal may be harder and result in less of a pay off for the average local, though Pack charges different rates based on the home value. A 13 percent reduction ” Pack’s average ” amounts to a lot less on a $300,000 home. But some homeowners are able to appeal successfully by themselves, saving themselves from a consulting fee.

It makes no difference to the county assessor’s office if a property owner appeals on his or her own or hires a representative, Chapin said.

Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or tmiller@vaildaily.com.

Web sites: http://www.eaglecounty.us/assessor

http://www.packappraisal.com

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