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Harford County assessments go up for fifth year in a row

Property values in Harford County have increased for the fifth year in a row, with a 4.5 percent average increase for properties in most of the Route 40 corridor and surrounding areas, according to figures from the State Department of Assessments and Taxation.

The SDAT reassesses commercial and residential properties in Maryland’s 24 counties each year. Each jurisdiction is divided into thirds, and the state reassesses a different third every year.

Property values increased statewide by 7.7 percent for the Area 3 sections evaluated last year, according to a news release from the agency.

Any increase in property value will be phased in over three years, starting in 2018, while any decrease will be “fully implemented” in the 2018 tax year, according to the release.

In Harford County, the state assessed properties in Area 3 during 2017. Area 3 covers land along Interstate 95 and Route 40, as well as communities north of Havre de Grace.

“This is our most commercial and industrial area,” Nancy Schmidbauer, the SDAT’s supervisor of assessments for Harford County, said Thursday.

She said Area 3 also has the largest number of property accounts, 38,655, out of the more than 98,000 properties in Harford.

Property owners who have applied for a Maryland Homestead Tax Credit would qualify for the property tax credit if their assessments went up by more than 5 percent — Harford’s homestead credit cap, according to Schmidbauer. The properties must be owner-occupied as well, she said.

The area has its second year of increased average values in 2018, as the 2015 reassessment showed an average increase of 3.1 percent, according to historical SDAT data.

The value of residential properties in Area 3 went up by 3.6 percent from the 2015 assessment, and commercial property values increased by 6.5 percent for the same period, according to the data.

State assessors tracked property sales in the area. More than 1,000 sales were made in Area 3 during 2017, Schmidbauer said.

“It’s nice when we have a lot of sales,” she said.

Agency data indicates 65.83 percent of properties in Area 3 increased in value.

Property values have gone up in each part of Harford County since 2014, when property values in Area 2 — greater Bel Air and Fallston — went up 1.6 percent. Area 2 values increased again by an average of 6 percent for the 2017 reassessment, according to state data.

Area 1, which covers northern Harford County, the City of Havre de Grace and small sections of southwestern Harford, saw its first average increase of 3.2 percent in the 2016 reassessment, according to the data.

“The real estate market is pretty good,” Schmidbauer said.

That area’s last increase took place in 2007, when property values went up by a whopping 55.5 percent, according to SDAT data. The values then decreased every three years until the 2016 reassessment, a consequence of the recession that was triggered in part by the national housing bubble.

Property values in Harford went up in 2008 and 2009, albeit at a smaller rate, during the worst of the Great Recession, and they declined every year between 2010 and 2013, according to the SDAT data.

Property values statewide plunged starting with the 2008 reassessment, bottomed out in 2011 and started climbing — gradually — the next year. They hit a plateau in 2015 and 2016 and dipped slightly for 2017 and 2018, according to the data.

“Back in 2008 and [2009] it plummeted,” Schmidbauer said. “We had to follow the sales, and the sales were bottoming out.”

As assessments increase, so does revenue collected by the county and by the state. Property taxes are the single biggest revenue source for Harford County.

Counties have the option of cutting their local tax rates which, unlike the state managed assessment process, they control. In Harford, a new 20 percent property tax credit for senior citizens who have lived in their homes at least 40 years, and for retired military veterans, is due to take effect with the tax bills the county sends this July.

Property owners can appeal their assessments through Feb. 12. Visit the SDAT website, http://dat.maryland.gov, for more information.

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