Paul Friia, the Westport town Assessor announced that we are near the end of the required five year housing and commercial establishment value reassessment process.
The process used is one of mass appraisals in the community, which is the appropriate approach according to Mr. Friia. Critical to this process is the examination of arms-length sales transactions to provide a valuation reference. Westport has had the advantage of 450 housing sales in the last 12 months to assist with this process. The purpose of each reassessment is to establish fair market values and provide an equitable tax distribution. It also allows the town to take into account the market changes, which affect the town as a whole as well as each individual neighborhood.
There are two types of inspections that go into evaluations. One concerns itself with an examination of the outside of a building while the other includes an interior inspection as well. In the current revaluation effort about 42% of the inspections included an interior as well as an exterior examination.
The factors taken into consideration to establish market price include the location and size of the land involved as well as the size and quality of any building improvements. For commercial properties data that reveals the sales volume as well as the income level is also critical and is gathered at various times to assure that the entire relevant time span is covered.
Typically home sales in the last 12 months are the ones examined. If there has been a sales dearth for that period the examiners may look back 18-24 months for the information.
In the present revaluation some 8600 properties will be, or have been, looked at. Prior to a physical inspection, letters were sent out introducing ourselves and our process. After the examination, follow-up letters were sent out requesting interior exams. After that data mailers were sent out asking the home owners or occupiers to verify the information the examiners listed for their homes.
All this information is evaluated and continues to be monitored until the final notices with the values are sent to the owners. After notices are received, concerns may be taken up with the department staff during December. After that they may go before the Assessment Appeals Board in March of next year.
Q. Do you coordinate your process with the building permit department?
A. Yes. Their data goes right into our software and personal inspections are done on the high-end changes.
Q. Are you penalized for allowing an interior inspection?
A. There is no penalty. But better data allows for a better evaluation.
Q. If a McMansion is built next to your home does it affect the valuation of your home?
A. Not necessarily. Each home is evaluated on its own. But if McMansions are springing up in your neighborhood, it may reflect a market change for that neighborhood, which could affect every homes valuation.
Q. To what extent does the year of construction bear on evaluation?
A. There is a depreciation schedule for homes that could lower the value, but it ultimately depends on the market value for a particular house.
Q. How is vacant or under-utilized commercial property dealt with?
A. That is why we look to fresh data to take these conditions into consideration.
Q. Were all 8600 properties dealt with in the same manner?
A. We did not re-inspect new properties, or properties that had been recently inspected. About 1400 properties were not inspected.
Q. Is the number of commercial properties increasing on the Grand List?
A. Yes. It is increasing.
Q. How do you evaluate condos?
A. These are evaluated on an association by association basis. We look for trends in market value.
Q. Are different methods used to evaluate affordable housing units?
A. There are different factors involved in evaluating affordable housing.
Q. How do you deal with waterfront property?
A. It depends if you are talking about the Sound or ponds. Ponds probably won’t affect much, but it all comes down to market value.
Q. How do you deal with property that has mixed components?
A. We examine income levels and the history of pricing for those units. It can depend on data and sales.
Q. Are re-financing appraisals confidential, or can they be taken into account?
A. We will look at them. But technically those appraisals belong to the bank and shouldn’t be shown to us by the homeowner. Still, many will share them.
Q. How do you value antique homes?
A. That can be tricky. All we can do is look at comparable sales.
Q. Do ordinances affecting renovation impact your evaluation?
A. No. We just look at the property and try and establish market value.
Q. Did the FEMA expansion of the flood plain affect the re-evaluation?
A. Again we had to look to the new market value, if any for the evaluation.
Q. Are homes generally evaluated higher since the 2010 cycle.
A. Generally there is a modest increase in values especially for commercial properties.