Reval notices reflect drop in home values


Mayor Scott Avedisian expects to be getting some calls next week from some irate property owners.

But it’s not what you would expect after a citywide revaluation.

Usually, property owners are upset their property is valued at more than they think it should be, because they pay taxes on that higher value.

But with the recession and the tailspin of property values, the tax assessor, and the mayor, have gotten calls from people who feel their property has been undervalued. With that loss in value, they have found it difficult to get home equity loans.

“There have been those who vehemently argued that they [values] were too low,” Avedisian said.

It looks like that will happen again with the statistical revaluation as of Dec. 31, 2012.

City Tax Collector and Assessor Ken Mallette said yesterday that residential property values have slipped another 9 to 10 percent since the last revaluation three years ago.

Residential property owners will learn just how much the values have changed in the next several days. Mallette said notices to 28,000 property owners will be in the mail Friday. The one-page letter outlines how property owners can review their new assessment with a representative of Vision Government Solutions, the company that was retained to conduct the revaluation.

For a first time for Warwick property owners, hearings can be scheduled online in addition to calling Vision at 888-844-4300. Those hearings will commence April 25 and run through May 10. Mallette said most of the hearings, which will be held in the Buttonwoods Community Center, are scheduled between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., but he is also making some evening and Saturday appointments available.

Unlike a full revaluation, when appraisers visit each property, a statistical revaluation is based on property sales and building permits over the past two years. Values of those properties are then used to establish values within a neighborhood for similar properties.

Mallette said that while Warwick is seeing an increase in the number of residential properties sold, over the past two years, the housing values continued to be dragged down by foreclosures and short sales. In the last revaluation, residential properties lost about 20 percent compared to the last full revaluation of 2006.

Letters will contain the old and the new assessment, as well as a “PID” or property ID number. The PID is required to schedule a hearing.

Avedisian made the point that the old assessment is important as a comparison that property owners should pay attention to. If property owners question the value, he suggested they first go to the city’s website that connects to the assessor’s database or to review their listing. Mistakes have been found, he said, citing how one property owner was taxed on a deck that didn’t exist. As the appeal deadline for the old valuation closed as of Oct. 31, 2012, a property owner can’t seek a tax refund, however, revisions can be made going forward.

Mallette does not anticipate major fluctuations, up or down, in commercial property values. He said about 6,000 commercial property valuation notices should be in the mail within the week. Unlike residential property values based on comparative sales, commercial values are established by a combination of income generated, cost to build the property and comparative properties. Commercial property owners were sent income schedules in December and Mallette said he was still getting completed forms as of this week.

Residential properties make up the bulk of the city’s $10 billion in taxable property. The residential tax accounts for 74 percent of tax revenues.

The city, as host to the state airport, Community College of Rhode Island, Kent Hospital, numerous churches and other non-profits, carries a large inventory of tax-exempt property. A commission headed by Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson has been reviewing those exemptions with the intent, explained Mallette, of seeing where they might give back to the city. Avedisian cited Kent Hospital and how it provides uncompensated care for individuals lacking insurance or unable to pay. Mallette said there might be other forms of service these tax-exempt organizations can do to help the city’s economy, including simply a commitment to give Warwick residents the first opportunity when filling jobs.

When contesting property values, Mallette advised that people look at values in their neighborhood and try to make comparisons to their property. If they have a current appraisal, they should bring it with them to the hearing.

The mayor cautioned people not to apply the current tax rate to their new valuation, as that will be computed on the basis of the budget yet to be approved by the mayor and council and the newly established tax roll as determined by the revaluation.

Should property owners not be satisfied following a review of values, they can appeal to the board of assessment review. Three years ago, about 1,700 property owners requested hearings and 700 appealed to the board. Those numbers are dramatically down from prior revaluations.

“Values are more stabilized,” Mallette said referring to the schedule of revaluations every three years, “and people are learning the appeal process.”

Mallette could not think of any particular neighborhood that experienced a dramatic swing in values either way with this revaluation.

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