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Before your income taxes are due to be filed with the IRS, another deadline looms that can impact your personal finances.

March 31 is the deadline for property owners to challenge the 2008 valuations used to calculate property tax bills issued this past December and the upcoming bills in June.

 

If you’ve scanned your neighborhood and witnessed homes being sold at prices well below where they were a couple of years ago, you may want to appeal to your county’s Board of Revision for a hearing.

In Ottawa County for example, the auditor’s office is basing current valuations on those established in 2006 – when the office last conducted its re-appraisal required by state law every six years.

And by mid- to late-2006, home prices in this area were peaking, says Terry Floro, a sales leader at the Oregon office of Welles Bowen.

“I don’t think people were aware of declining property values until a year or so ago when television started reporting on it,” she said. “But it was beginning before then.”

As of last Tuesday, 50 home owners had filed challenges with Ottawa County’s Board of Revision, according to the auditor’s office, and the appeals appear to be spread evenly throughout the county.

In 2007, 148 owners appealed their valuations and in 2006 there were 558 filed challenges.

“The 2008 values are still the values that were established in 2006 unless the owner has some new construction on their parcel,” said Kathy Estep, deputy auditor. “An example is a person who added a new garage or a family room addition to their property. Those new values would be added to their total. Otherwise the values we established during the 2006 re-appraisal would stay the same.”

Prices of homes sold in Northwest Ohio have drifted downward the past few years, according to data compiled by the Toledo Board of Realtors:
• The average price of three-bedroom homes (excluding condominiums) sold this past February through the Multiple Listing Service covering Wood, Lucas, Defiance, Paulding, Henry, Putnam, Fulton, Williams, and eastern Ottawa counties was $67,000.
• The average price for three-bedroom homes sold in February, 2008 was $94,000 and in February, 2007 the average price was $107,000.

But those prices include foreclosures and the Ohio Department of Taxation doesn’t recognize sales of foreclosure properties as true market value indicators, cautions Michael Sibbersen, Wood County Auditor.

“It has been their long-held opinion that these are often ‘fire sales’ not completely exposed to the open market in order to reach full potential price,” he said. “In other words, the bank is often overly motivated to unload a property.”

As of last week, 13 property owners in Wood County, including nine homeowners, had filed the required forms to challenge their valuations, Mr. Sibbersen said, adding other owners have discussed filing with his staff but not yet filed.

“Wood County has also allowed taxpayers to do informal reviews of a property…with their opinion of value and supporting documentation,” he said. “For 2008 tax year there are 75 changes recommended from our appraisers to the Board of Revision that do not have formal case numbers assigned and another 25 still in process with the appraisers. The majority of these properties are located in the northern half of Wood County.”

The Ohio Department of Taxation was set to schedule a triennial update in 2008 of values in Wood County. But after conducting a review of sales and comparing them to the current market values the department directed there be no change from the previous year.

Last year, the Lucas County Board of Revision heard challenges from about 3,470 property owners,  Lori Lamb, a spokesperson for the auditor’s office said. As of last Wednesday, roughly 2,350 challenges had been filed.

The county conducted its required revaluation in 2006 and is scheduled for its triennial update this year.

Ottawa County Auditor JoEllen Regal said her office is also scheduled this year to conduct the countys’ triennial update.

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