HANCOCK COUNTY — Homeowners in the county are bracing for higher tax bills after seeing a sharp rise in their property assessments this year.
The rise in home selling prices is behind this trend.
Commercial property valuations, however, have not risen as much as their residential counterparts.
Hancock County appraiser Katie Molinder said home appraisals have risen 15% to 20%, with some as high as 30%.
Under a process required by the state, to determine 2022 assessments for taxes owing in 2023, Molinder researched all property sales in the county in 2021. Then, she compared those sales to the assessed values of their homes. respective to determine a ratio. From there, she calculated median ratios for neighborhoods of similar home types to determine an adjustment factor, which was applied to all properties in their respective neighborhoods to arrive at their new assessments.
Essentially, the higher the selling prices in a neighborhood, the higher the appraisals will be for all the homes in that neighborhood.
Last year’s valuations, based on 2020 sales, only rose about 7% to 15%, Molinder recalled.
“We had a pretty stable market going into 2020,” she said of local real estate.
According to the Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors, the median sale price for a single-family residence in Hancock County was just over $200,000 in January 2020.
By March, that figure had risen to $210,000. Then the COVID-19 pandemic shut down much of the world.
Home sales in the county began to rise again towards the end of the year, hitting a median high of $240,000 in September. But 2020 as a whole has remained relatively stable due to lower sales at the start of the year, Molinder noted. For December, the median was above $225,000.
However, selling prices weren’t as stable in 2021, reaching a median high of nearly $290,000 in August and ending the year at $283,000.
Molinder said she and her colleagues have watched the trend with surprise.
“We are very sensitive to these large increases,” she said. “I did absolutely everything I could to keep what we could do to a minimum. I know it still seems so important.
She said her office had been inundated with calls as landlords received their assessment notices this spring.
“The easiest way to think about it is to put a for sale sign in your yard,” homeowners often encourage.
If you list your home for the amount it is assessed at, the assessment is fair, she continued. If you list it for less, however, she encourages you to call the appraiser’s office, which can be reached at 317-477-1101. This will give you the opportunity to review comparable home sales in your neighborhood. It’s important to keep in mind the price per square foot as opposed to the overall selling price, Molinder said.
A call to the appraiser’s office could also result in a legitimate reason for a home’s assessed value to decrease.
“We don’t claim to be perfect,” Molinder said. “I am not married to these values.”
Owners can also make their own comparisons on the online mapping service used by the county at beacon.schneidercorp.com/?site=HancockCountyINwhere they can view property sales information, past appraisals and property report cards.
“Taxpayers can see everything I see when appraising their property,” Molinder said.
While the Indiana Local Government Department of Finance has reviewed and approved Molinder’s work on assessments in Hancock County for 2022, homeowners can still appeal their assessments, which are also available through the service of online mapping.
Hancock County has about 39,000 parcels of property, Molinder said, adding that it’s typical to have between 0.5% and 1% of the total parcel appeal assessments.
“We should have a significant number of calls each year,” she said.
Last year, the county had 87. But a small amount is not the badge of honor it may seem.
“All of this means valuations are low,” Molinder said.
Her office is currently getting a lot of calls about the 2022 assessments, but it’s nothing he can’t handle, she said. She added that they all seem valid and that more than half have already been settled.
Assessments of non-residential properties did not come to the same result.
“It just wasn’t there for commercial properties,” Molinder said. “Not in Hancock County.”
They were up less than 5%, she said.
Unlike the housing market, there weren’t many comparable sales in the commercial sector to rely on, Molinder continued. The way the pandemic has dramatically changed and in many ways continues to impact how people interact with offices, sit-down restaurants and other properties open to the public has likely diminished their attractiveness for investment, she said.
Molinder added that it may seem clear that a commercial property would be worth more every year.
“But I can’t do it without data,” she said. “I must have information. Ethically, I have to have something to base myself on.
So she partnered with assessors from Marion County and other surrounding counties to commission market trend analyzes for each of their respective counties.
Conducted by Indianapolis-based Integra Realty Resources, the Hancock County study reports that the market selling price per square foot for office space increased approximately 2.5% between the fourth quarters of 2020 and 2021 Trading volume was minimal during this period, according to the report.
Market selling prices per square foot for retail space in the county rose just over 5% while industrial space rose 1.8%, according to the study. Trading in both sectors has been intermittent throughout 2021, the analysis found, leaving no clear trend in prices.