Warning: Home assessments likely to jump with real estate boom

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 February 2022 at 1:27 pm

CARLTON – The real estate boom in Orleans, with median sale prices up 16.7 percent in 2021 from the previous year and 25.8 percent in two years, will likely lead to much higher property assessments for homeowners as part of a re-valuation this year.

That was the message from Dawn Allen, the Orleans County director of the Real Property Tax Services Department.

Allen has worked in the field for 30 years and has never seen real estate go so quickly, and often well above the asking price, as in the past two years. That includes properties in the village, where values had largely stagnated the past 20 years. But lately they have been selling fast and well above their assessed values.

“It is nothing to see a house assessed for $60,000 and go for $120,000, $130,000, even $140,000,” she said. “We’re getting above the asking price. People are outbidding each other.”

The median sale price in Orleans County is up 68.5 percent over four years – jumping from $81,000 in 2017 to $136,500 in 2021. Allen shared data from the Greater Rochester Association of Realtors.

Allen spoke on Tuesday to village, town and county officials during a meeting of the Orleans County Association of Municipalities at the Black North Inn. She told the officials they may get some pushback from property owners when the assessments go out from March through May, and show sizable increases.

If assessments jump significantly that doesn’t mean the total tax bills will see a big hike. The tax rates should then go down because there is larger tax base.

The municipalities still need to push to stay under a 2 percent tax cap and that is determined by the size of the tax levy, what the town, village, county or school district collects in taxes. A much larger tax base should result in lower tax rates. Ultimately most property owners should only see slight increases in their tax bills if their municipalities stay under the tax cap.

But Allen still warned the local officials that property owners may be shocked when they see their assessments with much higher values.

Seven of the 10 towns in the county will be doing property re-vals for the first time in three years. Barre does a re-val every year. Murray and Yates won’t be doing one this year but equalization rates will help adjust for the higher real estate values in those towns, Allen said.

Allen attributed the higher values in the county to a lack of housing inventory. When houses become available, they are in demand, especially with more people working from home due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

While housing values are way up, Allen said commercial real estate is holding steady with a small increase in value.

The Greater Rochester Association of Realtors shows big increases in real estate sales through its 12-county region. The median sale price in 2021 was up by the following in each county: Monroe, 11.8%; Ontario, 10.8%; Livingston, 9.6%; Wayne, 15.8%; Genesee, 15.4%; Orleans, 16.7%; Wyoming, 14.2%; Yates, 22.3%; Allegany, 11.9%; Steuben, 18.8%; Seneca, 6.2%; and Cayuga, 17.1%.

The association said a strong seller’s market in 2020 continued and even was stronger in 2021.

“Fervent buyer demand, driven by pandemic-induced changes to housing needs and preferences, reached extraordinary levels in 2021, the association stated in an annual report.

The organization said inventory of available homes was down 23.3 percent last year, which helped push up prices.