PORT ANGELES — Like real estate professionals and others interested in the market, Clallam County Assessor Pam Rushton is seeing unprecedented sales across the region.
“I don’t even know how to explain a market like this,” Rushton told attendees of “Coffee With Colleen,” a weekly virtual meeting hosted by Colleen McAleer, Clallam County Economic Development Council executive director, on Wednesday.
The stunning rise in residential and commercial properties across the county and region are the biggest she’s seen since the housing boom in the late 2000s.
Interest rates and supply-and-demand seem to be driving the exponential growth in sales, she said.
“We don’t have the supply we used to have. Things are just not staying on the market. I watched houses around me be on the market (for) just a few days, and then you see a ‘sale pending’ up. We see the same thing when we see the sales come through.”
Rushton said her department may have seen in the last year more $1 million sales — and those are residential, not commercial, she noted — than the county has ever seen.
“That has a huge impact on everybody,” she said. “(But) I can’t tell you at this point what this will do to people’s taxes” next year.
Rushton’s office oversees administration of the state property tax system, appraise all real and personal property in Clallam County.
Updated assessed valuation notices are expected to go out to property owners by the end of October. Once received, owners who wish to contest their assessment have 30 days to do so with the Board of Equalization, she said.
The department adjusts property value assessments to ensure they are paying a fair share of costs of operating schools and libraries, providing police and fire protection, road construction and maintenance, water, sanitation and other basic public services through local regular taxes and levies established by state and local governments.
The precipitous climb in housing sales doesn’t necessarily mean everyone’s tax bills will go up, Rushton noted in the “Coffee With Colleen” session that saw more than 50 attending virtually.
“Different neighborhoods will be different; you might see a decrease,” she said.
The Assessor’s Office tracks an estimated 48,000 appraisal reports maintained on properties in the county, and each time a parcel of property is sold or divided or a new plat is filed, the transaction is shown in Assessor records, the department notes on its website (clallam.net/assessor).
Rushton said her department creates valuations based on property sales along with a scrutinized, property-by-property look at one-sixth of the county.
Last year the department detailed properties on the county’s east end (Phase 1), and will take a closer look at the City of Sequim and more east end properties (Phase 2). Other phases include areas between Sequim and Port Angeles (Phase 3), east and west outskirts of Port Angeles proper (Phase 4), Port Angeles proper and south of the city line (Phase 5), and Forks and the West End (Phase 6).
“We’re always collecting data in one-sixth of the county,” she said. “And then we’re using the sales information to make the annual adjustment and we make market adjustments based on that,” she said.
This year saw a jump in total valuation in Clallam County this year of $1.3 billion, $10.6 billion in 2020 to $11.9 billion — about an 11-percent jump. That includes $150 million in new construction.
“The majority of that is just what the market is doing,” Rushton said. “We will see some pretty good-sized increases next year.
“Usually we’re a little less than the market because we’re using historical information.”
So where is the county seeing this growth and soaring house prices? Pretty much across the board, Rushton said.
“The entire county has been crazy,” she said.
“Normally Forks and the West End are a little more dormant (but) they have not been,” she said.
The $300,000 homes on the county’s west side used to be exclusively river-adjacent properties.
“Now it doesn’t seem to be on the river anymore,” she said.
The housing market in Sequim too has been very “aggressive,” she said, thanks to the relatively open spaces.
And while “Port Angeles doesn’t have the topography for” that huge growth, Rushton said there are neighborhoods in the PA region seeing skyrocketing numbers, too.
Sales are particularly up in residential, including land sales, which had been dormant for quite a while, Rushton said.
The Clallam County Assessor’s Office also administers a number of tax relief and exemption programs that adjust the tax responsibility of local residents who who have seen property destroyed or home improvements, as well as exemption and deferral programs for limited income senior citizens and individuals with disabilities.
“It’s really important if (property owners) remove something from property, they need to tell the assessor; if we don’t know about them, we can’t discover them,” Rushton said Wednesday.
Similarly, her office staff cannot pick up and assess new construction if they don’t know about them.
“New construction is one of the few ways your local taxing districts can increase their levy to supply more services, so it’s really important we put those on (the rolls),” she said.
Rushton said there have been issues getting building permit documentation to the county.
Individuals can seek three-year exemptions on assessment of new values if they apply prior to construction, Rusthon said.
Because of a technical glitch, Rushton was unable to share detailed graphs and statistics from the Assessor’s Office on Wednesday. She said she hopes to return to a “Coffee With Colleen” session in a couple of months with those charts and more information about 2021 statistics.
Senior citizens and others seeking exemption and deferral program information can contact the Assessor’s Office at 360-417-2400 or go online at, clallam.net/assessor, where the county posts levy rates and other details.
For more about the property valuation appeals process, call the Assessor’s Office at 360-417-2204 and request a Taxpayer’s Guide to Appealing Property Assessments.
Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].
Terry Ward, publisher of the Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum, is vice chair of the Economic Development Council board of directors.