11/11/08 — Duplin pondering revaluation

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Duplin pondering revaluation

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on November 11, 2008 1:46 PM

KENANSVILLE -- Duplin County's appraiser told commissioners Monday that there are several things they can do to help ease the burden of new values on property owners.

Duplin is undergoing revaluation of property, as required at least every eight years by state law.

Bob Pearson described to the commissioners the current state of the housing market from the perspectives of banking and real estate sales.

The commissioners called the workshop to help them decide how to handle the adoption of the new schedule of property values. They had originally planned to vote on the new schedule in October, but a number of taxpayers expressed concerns at a public hearing, said they believed the new values were unfair in the light of the national economic downturn.

Wanda Canady of RCA Realty in Warsaw said the sluggish economy has caused the number of houses sold to drop from 139 in 2006 to 110 in 2007 and 101 this year.

"Every year they have been going down, and sales are the least they have been," she said. "... You used to be able to sell a house in six months. Some are in their third round of six months, then another six months."

And houses that do sell are going for as much as 15 percent below their original price, she said.

Banker Jim Jackson of BB&T in Warsaw said fewer loans are going out now. There's plenty of money for the loans, he said. But the restrictions are making it harder to get the loans.

"We're seeing more foreclosures and houses selling for 60 percent and 70 percent of what the purchase price was," Jackson said.

County Register of Deeds Davis Brinson told commissioners he is seeing fewer deeds of trust, which are loans given to property owners who use their deed as collateral. Deeds of trust in Duplin are down 29 percent from the first quarter of this year, Brinson said.

"I don't see many foreclosures coming from our local traditional bankers," he said. "Most (foreclosures) are coming from the major corporations, many of which are California based.

"We're on a major roller-coaster ride, but we're much better off than most places," Bob Pearson said. "You open the books in California, and they're all foreclosures and bank-owned properties. ... It's sluggish, slow, but it's not devastating. We have a cold, not pneumonia."

But he told commissioners they are going to have to decide what they want to do to deal with the situation.

And there are options.

For example, commissioners can have Pearson reevaluate the properties more often than every eight years. They can change the values before adopting the new schedule. The property values don't have to be limited to the houses alone. Pearson said he can consider mitigating factors like where a house is located and what the circumstances are surrounding the house. And although the values cannot be changed, he said, the tax rate can be changed.

But something has to be done soon, said Tax Administrator Gary Rose.

"You can adopt the new schedule the first or second meeting in December, but we want to adopt the schedule before Jan. 1."

It's a long process, and the clock is ticking, he said. Once the new schedule is adopted, the tax office has to advertise four weeks. If nobody appeals the schedule, Rose can send out the value notices the first or second week in January.

Then come the informal hearings that precede the May 2009 meetings of the Board of Equalization and Review.

And there is recourse after that. If a property owner is still not happy, he or she can appeal to the state Property Tax Commission.