Thursday, February 19, 2009

Augusta: Battle of words heats up over real estate assessments

There are questions about the latest claim that Augusta County's real estate sales are doing just fine by selling above the appraised values.

David Hickey, who owns Blue Ridge Mass Appraisal, the company at the eye of the storm of appraisals in Bath, Gloucester, and Augusta counties, held a press conference Tuesday afternoon to announce he had figures showing January's real estate sales, saying the majority of them were higher than assessmentments.

Not so fast.

Others question those figures for a variety of reasons. As reported by the NV:
[Augusta County Supervisor Tracy] Pyles said he is still awaiting complete information from Blue Ridge regarding the methods it used in the reassessment. The supervisor said he did not put a lot of stock in the January sales.

“It’s 33 sales out of 38,000 pieces of property,’’ Pyles said.

Pyles said his effort relates to values all across Augusta County and the biggest issue is with land.
Even local realtor Kevin Lacey was not impressed.
Augusta County Realtor Kevin Lacey said the assessments on land are also a major problem for his business.

He said a 28-acre piece of property he owns is assessed at $216,000 but can’t be sold even for the list price of $169,900.

“The assessment should be based on market value. If I can’t sell a piece of property for $169,900, how can you say it’s worth $216,000?’’ Lacey said.
A comment was left by "newsreader1" on the News Virginian's website questioning the findings of Blue Ridge Mass Appraisal's January sales figures:
I researched Augusta County residential sales from 1/1/09 to 1/31/09 which Hickey states all sold for over the new assessments. In fact there were 19 residential sales - of which 3 were foreclosures, 5 sold under the assessments, 3 sold near assessments, 2 were not assessed at 100% complete as they were under construction at the time of the assessment, 1 included personal property, 1 was remodeled, 1 is questionable as I believe the seller worked at Blue Ridge and 3 did sell over the assessments. You have to research more than just sales prices and assessments to reach your conclusions such as the homes that were not complete or the selling of furniture, etc. (Hickey was using Jan. 2009 to say his companys values were good - in fact Jan. 2009 has nothing to do with the assessments but my research shows Mr. Hickey is wrong again and did not complete his homework)In school he would have gotten an “F” or incomplete on this assignment. Residents please do your homework or contact someone who has the means to do so before you take this.
WHSV TV-3 interviewed local attorney Francis Chester who is threatening to sue the county if they do not roll back assessments to the 2005 values. Responding to comments by David Hickey:
However, on the other side of the table, Attorney Francis Chester, who is behind the recent petition to the board of supervisors, says he doesn't buy the 26 home sales.

"You know anybody can come along out of the blue and say, 'Oh, I love this place! I'll even give you $10,000 more!' That's the way we judge properties? That's not the way we judge properties," exclaims Chester.
When told of Mr. Chester's remarks, Mr. Hickey resorted to name-calling:
"He's a fool and he doesn't know what he's talking about," adds Hickey.
Yesterday's news reported building starts were the lowest since 1959:
"The reports tell us that the recession is deepening and the risk of deflation is growing. We continue to see this adverse feedback between the housing market and the weakening economy," said Sal Guatieri, an economist at BMO Capital Markets in Toronto.
With hundreds of lost jobs in the SWAC area and property owners who are being pinched to the point where they cannot take anymore, a tax revolt may be on the horizon for Augusta County and the nation. To paraphrase a movie ... they are mad as hell and aren't going to take it anymore.

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