Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Assessments Fall But We Still Pay More

The Sun, via WaPo, reported that residential property values statewide dropped, on average, by 19.7 percent over the past three years, "reflecting what officials say is the largest decline in the state assessment office's history."

That should be no surprise given what's been happening the broader economy. But Larry Carson's piece reminds us that several years ago HoCo capped the rise in property tax bills annually so we all wouldn't get hit with big assessments increases. The limitation, however, means some bills still have a ways to rise before catching up with the declines. (We know, it's confusing).

In Howard County, for example, if a home doubled in value, the owner pays taxes on only 5 percent of that increase yearly. So even this year's decrease will not produce a tax break. 

"Unless they bought a home in the last two years, they will still see an increase in property tax," said Raymond S. Wacks, Howard's budget director, because the county's cap is suspended for one year on newly purchased homes. That revenue cushion may disappear in another year or two, however, if prices continue to fall, he said. 

The most recent pricing data nationally suggests that prices have leveled off for the time being. On CNBC this morning, we heard one of the hosts say that prices today are pretty close to what they were in 2003....or before than mini-peak,1997.

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