PORT ANGELES — Most Clallam County property owners saw an increase in property value when they opened their valuation notices this week, a change that officials said is largely because of an accelerated and aggressive housing market.
Under state law, property valuations are supposed to be equal to 100 percent of fair market value, which is among the reasons some people are seeing large increases in their home’s assessed value, said Assessor Pam Rushton.
“The majority of the county saw some increase,” Rushton said.
The total assessed value in Clallam County increased from $9.04 billion to $9.86 billion, or about a 9 percent increase. Rushton cautioned against using percentages because valuations range across the county with some experiencing decreases in value while other experience a range of increases.
“I can’t give you a percentage across the board because we take individual neighborhoods, qualities and we look at the market,” Rushton said.
In neighboring Jefferson County, property values are up about 8 percent across the board.
Rushton said that property taxes — which are not yet calculated for next year — do not change at the same rate as assessed value since they are based on a percentage.
If taxing districts approved only 1 percent increases in their levies — less than the rate of inflation — the levy rates property owners pay would actually go down, she said. Some districts are asking voters to approve levy increases on the Nov. 5 ballot.
“If everything is left the way it was last year, your levy rates would go down and your taxes would be fairly similar,” Rushton said.
Rushton emphasized that her office was conservative in applying the increases.
“I’m supposed to be at 100 percent of market, but I work for the taxpayers too and I’ve got 70,000 bosses out there,” Rushton said. “I want to do my job right and I believe being conservative is the better way to go.”
She said the numbers her staff came up with were in many cases 5 percent to 10 percent higher than the valuation that was actually applied.
Assessor’s Statistician Dan Childress said the offices seeks uniformity as valuations are assessed, so that there are not large fluctuations in the tax burden for individual property owners.
He urged people to look at their tax history and compare it to their assessed value over the years.
“It’s not a proportional increase,” he said. “It’s not a one-to-one relationship.”
Rushton said this year physical inspections — which are done every six years — were conducted in Port Angeles and surrounding areas.
Physical inspections next year will be conducted in the Forks area.
The value of some homes went up more than $30,000 while some saw decreases this year.
Rushton and her staff said that the valuation they gave homes should be similar to prices buyers would see on Zillow. They urged people who think their valuations are off to look at similar homes that are on the market now.
Homeowners who believe there was an error in their valuations can appeal the valuation to the Clallam County Board of Equalization within 30 days of the mailing of their notice. Notices were mailed last Friday.
Childress said the most competitive part of the market seems to be starter homes.
“This market has been mostly fueled through demand, and affordable housing is a big issue,” Childress said. “There’s a lot of competition for starter homes. People are bidding them up.”
Because of the current market and demand, single-wide mobile homes are seeing significant increases in value, he said. With other homes becoming out of reach, many are turning to mobile homes, he said.
“We’re getting from sales from single-wides where we’re just shaking our heads,” he said.
He said there is also significant pressure on land now that many subdivisions have been built out.
“Not a lot of people have put in a lot of subdivisions in the last five to six years, so you’re seeing a lot of pressure for existing lots,” he said.
Rushton said that property owners who have not yet received their notices should contact her office by calling 360-417-2400.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].