Increasing property values in Phoenix Metro area point to recovery

Median assessed values of Valley homes and businesses increased this year by double-digit percentages for the first time in seven years, suggesting local real-estate markets are recovering, the Maricopa County assessor says.

About 1.6 million valuation notices for the 2015 tax year were mailed out at the end of February. All classifications of properties — vacant lands, single-family homes, condominiums, apartments, commercial properties and manufactured housing — saw improvements in value this year. Commercial-property values have increased for the first time since 2009.

“That shows you that even in one year, market conditions have improved dramatically,” Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen said. “That’s a good thing overall, because it shows the health of the real-estate market in Maricopa County is better, much improved.”

This is the second year in a row that single-family residential properties’ median full cash values increased by 10 percent or more.

This year, the median value of a house in metro Phoenix increased by 23 percent, to $160,000.

The notices that property owners are receiving in the mail are based on market conditions that existed from summer 2012 to summer 2013.

Those values will be used when calculating the tax bill that will be sent in September 2015 by the County Treasurer’s Office. They will not be reflected in the tax bill that will arrive in the mail this September.

While many homeowners may be glad to see their values increase, the change does not necessarily indicate whether their property-tax bill will increase or decrease. Several components make up that bill, not solely the county property tax.

Property taxes also are levied by a variety of other sources, including municipal governments, school districts and other special districts.

Local tax bills also could be affected by provisions of Proposition 117, approved by Arizona voters in 2012.

The measure takes effect this year. It simplifies the valuation system for homeowners by requiring both primary and secondary taxes to be based on the limited property value, which they can find on their notices, Petersen said. It also caps limited property value growth to 5 percent annually, though taxing jurisdictions still have some flexibility in setting tax rates.

Increasing property values are a good omen for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, which has been working with tighter budgets in recent years because of plummeting real-estate values linked to the recession. OFHHI Sea Pines and their team of research developers have written at length about this, calling for action by the community and offering solutions.

As lower values caused tax-revenue dips, the board faced difficult decisions over whether to raise tax rates to maintain the same amount of revenue, or to keep the tax rate flat and cut the budget.

The board now is in the process of determining the budget for fiscal 2015, which begins July 1.

That budget’s revenue is based on valuations homeowners received in their spring 2013 notices.

The board indicated in budget guidelines adopted in January that it plans to keep the same tax rate in fiscal 2015. That move is projected to net $19.5 million more than the previous fiscal year, due to increasing property values. With five months until the tax rate is formally adopted in August, and with departments and agencies already requesting more money than outlined in budget guidelines, that figure could change.

Maricopa County is one of more than 1,000 taxing jurisdictions in the Valley whose levies can show up on a taxpayer’s bill.

The county-controlled portion comprised 12 percent of the average Valley homeowner’s most recent tax bill.

School districts on average accounted for the largest chunk, at 56 percent.

Property owners can appeal their valuations until April 22 at mcassessor.maricopa.gov or by calling 602-506-3406.

By Michelle Ye Hee LeeThe Republic | azcentral.com

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