Our office and brokers have received many calls with questions regarding the newly received property value assessments.
According to the San Juan County Assessor’s website “State law requires that assessors appraise all taxable property within the county at 100% of its true and fair market value, according to the highest and best use of the property. Fair market value, or true value, is the amount of money that a willing and unobligated buyer is willing to pay a willing and unobligated seller.
“Each year, the County is responsible for reviewing the values of approximately 20,000 parcels. Whether you have purchased your property recently or not, the Assessor will still evaluate your property on an annual basis. These annual evaluations are based on research of sales of properties within the past year. For example, if 2016 sales are available, they are used to calculate the 2017 assessed values.
By State law, members of the Assessor’s office are re- quired to conduct a physical inspection of the property every 6 years. If new construction occurs, then this new construction will be physically inspected annually until construction is completed. These physical inspections are taken into consideration when updating the current assessed value.
Once the valuation is established, your taxes are calculated based on a tax rate. Many factors determine property tax rates, the amount of property tax due on com- parable properties will vary throughout a county. The three main factors that determine the tax rate include: various combinations of taxing districts in different areas of the county, budget amounts for each taxing district, and voter-approved special levies and bonds.
Key point: these tax rates vary year to year, depending upon the County annual budget. If assessed values go up (or down) it does not necessarily mean that your taxes will go up (or down).
If you disagree with your new property assessed value, there is an appeal process via the Board of Equalization that you may undergo. Keep in mind that you must reg- ister the appeal within 30 days of the original filing of the new valuation of your property.
The San Juan County Assessor’s website is an excellent resource for additional information:
John Dunning, Designated Broker/Owner
AFFORDABLE HOUSING — WHAT COULD BE DONE
This column is the second on the affordable housing issue. We all know what is needed, but it seems we don’t have a clear vision of how to accomplish it.
Last time I mentioned an affordable housing solution on San Juan Island that appears to have served that island well since its development in 1982. It’s called The Oaks. Located in a rural area and buffered from surrounding properties, most Islanders don’t even think about it and some don’t even know it exists.
In a time of less restrictive zoning regulations, the developer acquired 7 contiguous parcels of rural land totaling approx. 40 acres. They installed streets, sidewalks and utilities serving 76 home sites for double wide manufactured homes. The land is leased to the homeowners who own the units, which can be resold by owners moving off-island, or to other properties. Sales prices have ranged from around $100—$200K depending on location and size of the homes. The property lease includes water, sewer and road maintenance such that the area appears well maintained. There are relatively few sales of these homes because turnover of residents is low.
Today, due to County zoning regulations, it would be almost impossible to do an Oaks. Yet we can see it works and addresses affordable housing needs, at least on San Juan Island by being a product that naturally falls into the right price point. Our County needs to encourage affordable housing development by creating new zoning regulations to allow projects like this to occur today. Of course, the devil is in the details, and zoning modification would have to include safeguards such that neighbors would not be adversely affected.
Orcas Island has areas of forested and/or buffered land where thoughtfully-designed high-density development could occur on otherwise low-density land. This would be an excellent topic for each of us to address with our Commissioners. The time may now be right for such a discussion.
Since I started this column, I have received a fair amount of thoughtful feedback and I encourage you to give me a call or drop by to say hello and discuss any Island issue you feel is important. My intention is to make this column thought provoking and helpful in some small way.
John Dunning, Designated Broker/Owner
I’m happy to report that Washington State continues to add jobs at a steady rate. While the rate of growth is tapering, this is because many markets are getting close to “full employment”, during which time growth naturally slows. That said, I believe that the state will add around 70,000 jobs in 2017. Washington State, as well as the markets that make up Western Washington, continues to see unemployment fall and I anticipate that we will see this rate drop further as we move through the year. In all, the economy continues to perform at or above average levels and 2017 will be another growth year.
- There were 15,652 home sales during the first quarter of 2017. This is an increase of 9.5% from the same period in 2016, but 20.7% below the total number of sales in the final quarter of 2016.
- With an increase of 45.5%, sales in Clallam County grew at the fastest rate over the past 12 months. There were double-digit gains seen in an additional 10 counties, suggesting that demand remains very robust. The only modest decline in sales was seen in Grays Harbor County.
- The number of homes for sale showed no improvement at all, with an average of just 6,893 homes for sale in the quarter, a decline of 33% from the previous quarter and 25% from the first quarter of 2016. Pending sales rose by 2% relative to the same quarter a year ago.
- The key takeaway from this data is that 2017 will offer little relief to would-be home buyers as the housing supply remains severely constrained.
- With demand continuing to exceed supply, home prices continued to rise at above-average rates. Year-over-year, average prices rose by 9.5% but were 1.1% lower than in the final quarter of 2016. The region’s average sales price is now $409,351.
- Price growth in Western Washington is unlikely to taper dramatically in 2017 and many counties will continue to see prices appreciate well above their long-term averages.
- When compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was most pronounced in Kittitas County, which rose by 19.6%. Double-digit price growth was seen in an additional 10 counties. The only market where the average price fell was in the ever-volatile San Juan County.
- It is clear that rising interest rates have not taken much of a sheen off the market.
DAYS ON MARKET
- The average number of days it took to sell a home in the first quarter dropped by 16 days when compared to the first quarter of 2016.
- King County remained the tightest market, with the average time to sell a home at just 31 days. Island County was the only area where it took longer to sell a home than seen a year ago; however, the increase was just one day.
- In the first quarter of the year, it took an average of 70 days to sell a home. This is down from the 86 days it took in the first quarter of 2016, but up from the 64 days it took in the final quarter of last year.
- Given woefully low levels of inventory in all Western Washington markets, I do not expect to see the length of time that it takes to sell a home rising in 2017. In fact, it is likely that it will continue to drop.
This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors. For the first quarter of 2017, I moved the needle a little more in favor of sellers. The rapid increase in mortgage rates during the fourth quarter of 2016 has slowed and buyers are clearly out in force.
Posted May 1 2017, 11:00 AM PDT by Matthew Gardner, Chief Economist, Windermere Real Estate
Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has over 25 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.