Property assessments

A for-sale sign on an Ellicott City home. (Tasha Treadwell / Baltimore Sun / July 24, 2009)

Home values in Baltimore rose more than 4 percent in the most recent round of property assessments, one of the largest increases in Maryland as the state saw some overall growth for the first time in five years.

In the Baltimore region, average home values also grew in Howard and Anne Arundel counties but fell in Carroll, Harford and Baltimore counties.

Statewide, residential values rose slightly — by 1.3 percent — while commercial assessments climbed 16.3 percent since 2010, when this group of properties was last considered.

"What all of this reflects is that the real estate market is now turning to the positive side, even though the increases are relatively small," said state Assessments Director Robert Young. "As a homeowner, you want your property to not be declining in value."

The State Department of Assessments and Taxation will send notices today to about 750,000 property owners whose properties were assessed in 2013 for tax purposes. The state conducts assessments on a three-year rotation, revaluing a third of all properties each year. It draws on sales data from comparable properties and some in-person inspections. About 51,300 sales were used for this year's assessments.

They will be used for 2014 property tax bills that go out in July.

Values increased for more than half of the residences evaluated, Young said. Last year, 77 percent of the properties posted declines, and the year before, 91 percent depreciated in value.

The numbers show signs of improvement even in Baltimore County, where home values declined by an average of 2.9 percent, said Charlotte Rogers, assessment supervisor for the county. Commercial values there rose by about 12 percent.

"The decreases are much less than they were in years past," Rogers said. "With this small of a decrease, I feel like it's an increase."

In tax bills, increases will be phased in over three years but decreases will hit in one fell swoop.

A family with a $300,000 house in Howard County would pay about $58 more next year at the current tax rate if its home's value increased by the county's average, 5.7 percent.

In Baltimore County, a family who recently bought a home assessed at $300,000 would pay $96 less if their values dropped in line with the average residential decline there.

In Baltimore City, where home values rose 4.4 percent and commercial by about 10 percent, the roughly 90,000 properties included in this year's assessment occupy the middle swath of the city, roughly bounded by Cold Spring Lane to the north and Lombard Street to the south, swinging east past Interstate 95.

Commercial and residential values in some neighborhoods, including Hampden, Charles Village and Remington, increased at rates sometimes double the city's average, said Marie Smith, supervisor for assessments in the city.

About 60 percent of the commercial and residential properties are not owner-occupied, according to Smith. A quarter of the commercial properties included in this year's sample are tax-exempt, reflecting places such as university-affiliated dorms, churches or government buildings, she said.

The diversity of the properties included in the sample, on both the commercial and residential side, means that the average smooths out a market that is still "spotty," said Jody Landers, a real estate agent who was a 2011 mayoral candidate and past executive vice president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors.

"It's a great sign to see that values are going up and starting to rebound," Landers said. But, he added, "You really have to dissect this neighborhood by neighborhood and market by market."

A spokeswoman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake declined to comment on how the increase in values might affect her plans to cut the city's property taxes, which are the highest in the state.

T. Scott Basik, an attorney for a firm specializing in tax assessments, said some of the commercial properties will be protected from some of the tax increases by credits, including those granted through the enterprise zone or brownfields programs.

He also cautioned against making generalizations about the market.