Property revaluations from the auditor's office are showing up in mailboxes across Lucas County. Many people are shocked at how much the value of their homes has dropped. But what does it really mean? And what should they do about it?
The county auditor is required by law to revalue real property every six years. In addition, a update is done at the midpoint between full revaluations. The last full revaluation in Lucas County was in 2006, before the housing bubble burst.
The average property of any type -- commercial or residential -- lost about 10 percent between 2006 and 2009. Now, the county proposes reducing the average residential property value by about 12 percent more.
For most people in Lucas County, as in the rest of the United States, their home represents a large portion of their personal wealth. So when the value of their property goes down, they feel poorer and more anxious.
If you plan to refinance or sell your home, a lower property value can be a concern. Unless you qualify for one of the federal programs to help underwater and struggling homeowners, it is nearly impossible to get a lender to refinance a home that is worth less than the borrower owes.
But Danberry Realtors' Judy Stone says the county revaluation may not reflect actual market value. The revaluation is not intended to be as detailed or accurate as a professional appraisal, she says. The decision to refinance, or what price to ask if you want to sell your home, shouldn't be based on property-tax values.
If you plan to stay in your home for the foreseeable future, relax -- a little. Most experts believe the housing market is at or near bottom. Low prices and historically low mortgage rates, coupled with a slowly improving economy, eventually will induce more people to buy homes, they say.
That -- eventually -- will begin to drive up values. But it could take many years for home values to recover to 2006 levels.
One advantage of a lower property valuation is that homeowners will have lower property-tax liability next year, when the new values take effect. That, however, is a two-edged sword.
Lower property-tax collections put more pressure on schools, local governments, and other entities that depend on property taxes for funding. The local Nov. 6 general election ballot already is crowded with requests for new levies and renewals, in part because of state government's decision to balance its budget by cutting aid to schools and local governments. Voters likely can expect to see more levies on ballots next year.
If you think your revaluation is high, relief is available. County Auditor Anita Lopez says the values are not yet fixed and can be challenged. Many people succeed in having their valuation reduced.
Or you could follow Ms. Stone's lead. She lives in Toledo's Old West End, a neighborhood that was hard hit when the housing bubble burst. She says the county reduced the valuation of her home in 2009, and again in 2012.
Ms. Stone says she may ask the county to increase her valuation. She says she supports most levy issues and wants to pay her fair share. Whatever you choose to do should be based on your own needs.