Monday, February 15, 2010

Maricopa County property values drop for 3rd straight year

Maricopa County property values drop for 3rd straight year

by Catherine Reagor The Arizona Republic Feb. 12, 2010 12:00 AM

Maricopa County homeowners will begin to receive their latest property valuations in the mail today. Most will see a third straight annual drop in home values.

Residential property values fell an average of 15.2 percent in 2009, according to the latest report from the Maricopa County Assessor's Office.

Values fell 23 percent in 2008, following a 13 percent drop in 2007.

"It's still bad but not as bad," county Assessor Keith Russell said.

Last year, the overall median value of homes in the county fell to $131,700 from $155,300.

Some Valley cities fared better than others. For example, home values in Tempe declined 13.4 percent in 2009, while they dropped 27.3 percent in Tolleson.

County homeowners have yet to see declines in property taxes similar to the drops in property valuations, and they won't again this year.

Many Phoenix-area municipalities and school districts are facing budget gaps and will likely have to raise property taxes this fall.

Property-tax bills lag valuations by 18 months in Arizona and are based on a complex formula that includes funding for multiple municipalities and school districts. Most property-tax money goes to education.

The tax bill homeowners receive this September will be based on 2008's valuation. Assessments going out now will be reflected in 2011 tax bills.

To save money, the Assessor's Office is now printing property valuations on a single sheet of paper that is folded to postcard size for mailing.

County property valuations were previously sent in standard business envelopes that also contained several public-information inserts.

The Assessor's Office saved 40 percent in printing costs by switching to the single-sheet valuation report.

"We want people to know about the new format for their valuations so they don't mistake them for something else and throw them away," Russell said.

If property owners think their valuations are too high or low, they must lodge an appeal with the Assessor's Office by April 13.

Last year, 20,000 people appealed their real-estate valuations in Maricopa County, double the number of appeals from 2005. About 1.5 million properties were valued by the Maricopa County assessor during 2009.

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