County assessor, local realtor talk valuation increases, options for … – Marshalltown Times Republican

Apr 7, 2023
SUBMITTED PHOTOS — Melissa Grove of Marshalltown said her home’s valuation has increased by about $10,000.
In the week since assessment letters were sent out to property owners around the state last Friday, concerns and complaints about the new valuations — with increases as high as 40, 50 and 60 percent reported — have become so widespread that they’ve even spawned a now-ubiquitous social media meme: “Find someone who values you as much as Iowa assessors value your home.”
Frustrations about the valuations are apparent — a solicitation on the T-R Facebook page drew reactions from homeowners who said that even without making any improvements, their assessments jumped by as much as $30,000 to $40,000 in a single year, including one commenter noting “an arsonist literally set fire to the back of my house, still have not repaired it and yet value still went up by $12,000.”
Amy Boedigheimer of Green Mountain, an Army widow, told the T-R the 20 percent increase in valuation on her home has her ready to leave the state.
“I am literally buying a new house and moving back to Arkansas right now because I can’t afford to live here anymore with Mediacom and Alliant climbing like crazy, and now especially with this tax hike, plus them also threatening to make us pay for the new sewer we have been promised since I bought this house in 2017 by adding that into our water bills,” she said. “My house looks awful right now because I can’t afford gardeners for the past year, and I also have been trying to move for the past six months.”
Assessor Blaze Wurr said the average jump for the 27,000 parcels within Marshall County was between 23 and 30 percent, and as of Thursday afternoon, 70 informal and six formal appeals had already been filed with his office. As Wurr explained, the assessment calculations are primarily based on sale prices.
Amy Boedigheimer of Green Mountain reported that the valuation of her home, pictured, increased by nearly 20 percent in the last year.
“We have to react to the market. We’re always reacting to what taxpayers do to their homes (and) what people are buying for their homes, and a lot of what we saw in this market since 2021… We didn’t really see those housing prices go up until the end of 2020,” he said. “So we saw that all of calendar year ’21, all of calendar year ’22 and still even calendar year ’23. People are paying way more for the houses than we have them assessed at.”
Per state requirements, assessors must complete sales studies for the Iowa Department of Revenue comparing the assessed values against the prices at which homes are sold. The goal is to stay within the 95 to 105 percent range, but if they follow above or below those numbers, they have to correct it before the Department of Revenue does it themselves.
According to Wurr, assessors also received their first new pricing manual in 15 years, which on its own caused a 30 percent cost increase.
“Because of that new manual with new prices and new ways to price things, we had to do, with this new market, land studies, depreciation studies (and) sales studies based off of each specific market that we have,” he said. “A lot of these big increases we’re seeing just depend on what people are paying for.”
Rural residential and residential on agricultural land properties probably saw the biggest increases because, as Wurr noted, they are considered extremely desirable and tend to sell quickly when they hit the market. Other factors like proximity to Marshalltown or larger communities in other counties and major highways are also considered as the valuations are calculated.
Because of the way Iowa law is structured, however, a valuation increase of $10,000, $20,000, $50,000 or even $100,000 does not mean a taxpayer will pay that much more on their next bill. For one, residential properties are only taxed at 54 percent of their assessed valuation, and the rollback rule means that the state of Iowa’s growth in taxable value must be curbed at three percent annually. Wurr said that with the rollback, his estimation is that the actual taxable valuation percentage will be somewhere in the 40s.
Ultimately, the decision to set levy rates falls to local taxing entities like the cities, school districts, community college, agricultural extensions, the state and Marshall County.
“We always try and tell people it’s the budgets that we set for our tax asking that creates our levy rate, and what we really need to do is start getting involved in those budget meetings either by trying to attend in person or, as most people have heard, if they’ve listened to a Board of Supervisors or City Council meeting, they ask if there have been any written comments or letters about it,” Wurr said. “If you can attend a meeting, please write those letters and comments to all of us, even my office, if you feel the need on budgets when we’re doing our budgets.”
Property owners who disagree with their assessments do have a recourse to address their concerns. The informal review period runs from April 2 through April 25, and the assessor’s office staff will visit homes to take a look for themselves. The owner can agree with the change, but if he or she doesn’t, there is a formal hearing process through the three member Marshall County Board of Review. From there, they can take it further to the Iowa Property Assessment Appeal Board (PAAB) or even district court.
Wurr also encouraged residents to reach out to his office about the tax credits they may qualify for in Marshall County.
Local Realtor Kelli Thurston with Legacy Real Estate offered a bit of her perspective on the matter, noting the gap between assessed value and market value of homes, especially as real estate prices have skyrocketed over the last few years.
“We have seen a rapid rise in prices in the last two years, so it’s no surprise to me. I was kind of anticipating this happening. I think now we’re going to see that assessed value and market value are going to be in alignment with each other more now,” Thurston said. “I realize the implication of that with a lot of property owners can be some confusion and some frustration, and that’s what real estate does… It appreciates over time.”
But, Thurston added, any tax increase can be “scary” for homeowners on fixed incomes, and like Wurr, she encouraged those with questions to request an informal review through the assessor’s office and/or reach out to a real estate professional for a market analysis of their property.
“The whole point of a realtor is we’re supposed to help the public, so we want to protect the public in making sure that valuations are accurate,” she said. “If you have that right at your disposal, don’t be intimidated by it. Don’t be scared by it. This is your right as a property owner, and I would encourage anyone that has any concerns to reach out to their favorite real estate professional for a valuation, and then, if you have supporting (comparables) that they can have as part of their request, I think that will help them.”
Contact Robert Maharry at 641-753-6611 ext. 255 or
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