Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez, her staff, and three appraisal firms have completed the physical inspection of 200,000 real estate properties.
“It’s been a very tedious job. It’s been a very stressful at times, and so now we have submitted that report to the state and that mailing will come this summer,” Lopez said.
That is only the beginning — the process continues through the rest of the year before new valuations are finalized.
|Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez (Press photo
by Ken Grosjean)
Unique to this year’s revaluation, county auditors are required by law to perform physical inspections.
Lopez, first elected in 2006, told the Oregon-Northwood Rotary Club at its weekly breakfast Wednesday morning that county auditors around the state are interpreting “physical inspection” differently.
She said some counties consider a physical inspection to include an inspector driving by the property, others are requiring an aerial flyover with a photographer on board, and others are looking at photos.
She says Lucas County inspectors are being asked to get out of the car, walk around the property, take photos, and document all four sides of the property. They are not only looking for improvements, she said, but for “significant physical changes” like garages torn down or porches and barns that caved in.
She said by having a “human being” on the property, “that’s the only way I can be accountable and make sure we’re doing a thorough job for you, is by requiring somebody within their job description, within their daily duty, to communicate those changes to me so I can capture the most recent information in this three-year process.
“Every community, every neighborhood, every street, and every home has a different story to their individual value and what value is created. You can’t compare yourself to a house in Holland, Ohio, if you don’t live in Ohio. You can’t compare yourself to Oregon if you don’t live in Oregon.”
You may invite the inspector to come into the house, if you believe there is information there that would affect the appraisal value. Without an invitation, they are not allowed to enter the home, and she said many property owners prefer that only an external review is done.
“In the past, I’m sure some farmer or some homeowner chased somebody out of their property or even shot at them, and that law quickly changed. So, we’re not allowed inside your home unless you invite us,” Lopez said.
Good and bad neighborhoods
This year marks Lucas County’s first revaluation since 2009. This program is required by Ohio law every three years to equalize values and to take into account the need to adjust values based on current trends in the market.
The auditor’s office divides Lucas County into 34 groups of similar neighborhoods and performs an extensive sales analysis, comparing findings with the state.
The revaluation is greatly impacted by real estate sales of a particular area, as well as the attributes of the property. Lopez said her office is reviewing sales records from 2009-11, and results among neighborhoods are varied.
“In fact, it’s a mixture. We have more sales now and a variety of sales. Some individuals are paying a little bit more. We talk to realtors where they said in some areas they are getting one or two offers on homes. We find people are finding more comfort in the market,” Lopez said.
“In some other areas, they have so many foreclosures and so many problems that the offers are few and far between and it’s a very struggling market.”
In 2009, the auditor’s offices were asked to determine a median value for neighborhoods. This year they are required to do an individual analysis and not just compare one home against its neighbors.
In considering sales records, the office can only consider “arms length” sales, Lopez said. Not considered, by law, are houses sold after foreclosures.
Homeowners should check their property data to make sure their current value is accurate, Lopez advises. AREIS (Auditor’s Real Estate Information System) Online, accessed through the county website (www.co.lucas.oh.us), offers property owners a resource to view the current market value and data of their properties. Lopez said AREIS is updated about every three months.
Once new values are mailed, Lopez said property owners will have an opportunity to provide feedback, including new information that could change the valuation. Homeowners who have concerns may file a property review online or at an upcoming optional property review meeting before values are finalized.
She said the revaluation may have to be approved in court, but in many cases, the auditor’s office will back up the property owner if new information is provided.
Lopez’ morning talk to the civic organization at American Table restaurant on Wheeling Street in Oregon was the first of five public presentations she gave that day. She said dates of a scheduled series of public property review meetings in East Toledo and Oregon will soon be released to allow homeowners to respond to her office about their revaluation. Lopez’ staff will bring a portable office complete with internet and digital printers available at those sessions.
For questions regarding a property’s estimated fair market value and its effect on taxes, call the Auditor’s Education and Outreach Department at 419-213-4406, visit the office at One Government Center, Suite 600 or visit www.co.lucas.oh.us/auditor.