By Mary K. Tilghman
1:46 PM EST, January 8, 2013
Reassessment notices have been going out to homeowners in Group 1, those in western Baltimore County, since late December. In almost every case, the reassessment is lower than it was three years ago, according to Owen Charles, deputy director of the State Department of Assessments and Taxation.
Only Montgomery County showed the slightest hint of an increase at 1.7 percent.
"Quite a few around the state were reduced in value," Charles said, "but it was less than they have been in past years."
Property tax assessments for southwest Baltimore County declined for the second time in a row, although the decrease is smaller than it was in 2010. Reassessment notices three years ago reflected an 18 percent reduction in property values.
Overall, reassessments on houses from Reisterstown to Arbutus were 8.1 percent lower than three years ago.
Statewide, reassessments showed a 7 percent reduction in property values.
This is the second time in a row property values have decreased in this area, according to B. Jean Dickens, acting supervisor of state assessments for Baltimore County. "In general most property values did go down since the last time they were assessed three years ago," she said.
This year's assessments were based on the examination of 41,189 sales which have occurred in the area where reassessments were made.
Local real estate agents say the reassessments don't really reflect the current market, which may be showing a bit of a rebound.
"Property assessments always seem to be skewed for us," said Sally Griffin, vice-president of the Catonsville office of Coldwell-Banker. "They always lag behind a bit."
While state assessors look at three years of home sales, real estate agents and house buyers look at sales from the past 30 to 60 days.
"Right now we're at the bottom of the market, waiting to come back," said Griffin, who noted there are signs that it's on the rebound.
"We're definitely noticing a difference," she said. "For us, the market has definitely been improving."
December is usually a quiet month for real estate agents.
"It wasn't for us," said Griffin, who noted
slightly higher house prices and even multiple contracts. "We're seeing people get a little value back in their houses."
A second reduction in housing assessments is a good thing, says Deborah SeBour, owner of Re/Max New Beginnings in Arbutus. SeBour looked back to 2007 when assessments reflected a steep upswing in house prices and recalled the assessment on her own house. "I wouldn't have been able to sell my house for that much," she said.
The past two reassessments have served as a "correction" for homeowners, SeBour said.
"It's way overdue," she said. "People needed some kind of relief. They couldn't sell their houses for what it was assessed."
Property prices are still down for her office, but the decreases are only slight. In October, prices were 0.1 percent lower than the same month in 2011. "Prices have consecutively come down each year. This past year was the least we've seen," SeBour said. "In 2012, we've been very steady all year."
Like Griffin, she's noticing an uptick in business. Besides the typical two-week lull at Christmas, her agents have been busy with new listings and calls from people interested in buying.
According to Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation figures, 76,155 residential properties were assessed and 74,301, or 97.57 percent, saw a decrease in value.
Re-assessment notices were mailed Dec. 28 to more than 600,000 property owners statewide with 77 percent overall experiencing a decrease in property values, according to a press release from the Department of the Director Robert Young.
In Maryland, properties are reassessed once every three years and that assessment is used for each July's property tax bill.
Assessments only partially determine a homeowner's tax bill, according to the state Department of Assessments and Taxation.
If an assessment shows an increase in property value, the increase is phased in over the next three years. A decrease is fully implemented in the first tax year and remains the reduced assessments for the full three year cycle.