Franklin Co. Property Owners Take Chance To Contest Re-Appraisals

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A Franklin County property owner meets with an appraiser to discuss his recent home valuation.(Photo: Mandie Trimble, WOSU News Reporter)
A Franklin County property owner meets with an appraiser to discuss his recent home valuation.(Photo: Mandie Trimble, WOSU News Reporter)

In yet another sign of the housing market’s decline, hundreds of property owners yesterday showed up at Franklin County offices to complain their home values are too high. It was the first of many public sessions the county auditor will hold to hear complaints of over-valuation.

Most people, when they opened the re-appraisal notice from the Franklin County Auditor’s Office, saw their property value had declined. But others, about 20 percent, had an increase in their home value – and for some this was not good news.

“I freaked,” Ryan Lauer laughed.

Lauer bought his first home two weeks ago in Grandview Heights. The county’s appraised value is $20,000 higher than what he just paid – roughly a 6 percent increase. Lauer waited in the auditorium of the Franklin County Court House to make his case to one of a couple dozen appraisers who will hear arguments and decide later if they’ll adjust the value.

“I brought an appraisal for the bank that shows the value is less than what the county says it is. I have some pictures of the inside of the house. It’s in bad shape right now. We’re fixing it up,” he said.

Lauer was among more than 320 property owners who showed up on the first day they could to challenge the county’s re-appraisals. They carried brief cases and filed folders stuffed with pictures, bank documents and other paperwork. This was an informal session – a chance for property owners to make the case to county officials before the final values are set this fall. Of course a lower property value means a lower property tax bill.

William Storts has some unused farm land on Hayden Run Road. During the real estate boom the property around Stort’s farm was turned into housing developments. The re-appraisal increased Storts’ property value by 427 percent. He thinks he has a pretty good chance at changing their minds.

“There’s no value. There’s no road frontage. There’s no sewer system. There’s no water system. But obviously people need money to pay for somebody else’s problem,” Storts said.

Storts is talking about the bad economy. He, like Dave Swetnam, thinks his property values were increased to help local coffers. Swetnam, who lives in Worthington, bought his home in 2007 – at the height of the housing bubble. Swetnam said he thought his home value would have declined to be more in line with current trends. Instead, he saw it increase by 14 percent.

“[They] Raised the value of my house for no other purpose than to collect more taxes from me. I’m a victim of Franklin County, of government. My only recourse is to come down here to try to discuss the valuation,” Swetnam said.

But unlike Storts, Swetnam is not convinced he’ll see a decline come from the unofficial challenge. And if he’s not satisfied, he said he will file a formal appeal after the first of the year.

Auditor Clarence Mingo stressed his office is not interested in how much the county collects on property taxes.

“Our statutory mandate is to simply ensure values are accurate. Whether they’re up or down our job is to simply reflect the condition of the real estate market,” Mingo said.

Mingo noted the number of people seeking reductions this year is extraordinary.

“This downward trend in values is unprecedented. We’ve never seen a time when Americans line up and say I want my value lowered. Property law in its current state in America really wasn’t designed to handle this type of situation,” he said.

Officials will hold 16 more informal sessions to listen to property owners. The auditor’s office will make final value determinations in November. Formal appeals can be made beginning in January.

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