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Posted: Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012

Owners still making property appeals

By Elisabeth Arriero
Published in: Lake Norman / Mooresville News

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Nearly a year after new home values on Mecklenburg County's 355,000-plus properties were sent out, plenty of residents are still unhappy with high increases.

And recently, Cornelius Commissioner Chuck Travis asked that the county review all 1,800 waterfront lots in the town to verify the validity of the revaluation.

"It does seem that, particularly in my district, the vast majority of appeals have come from Cornelius, and many are lakefront properties," said Mecklenburg County Commissioner Karen Bentley. "So we're looking into what methods were used for the valuation of these properties and what was considered."

Bentley added that she is planning a meeting between county staff, county commissioners and Cornelius commissioners to discuss the revaluation process and address any concerns.

A date for that meeting has not been set.

"Cornelius citizens are enraged," said Cornelius Commissioner David Gilroy. "It is very clear from the limited data that has been shared by the county that methodologies are broken or inconsistently applied."

One such resident is Gene Medlin, who saw his property value jump 78 percent on his Cornelius home in Patricks Purchase. "There are so many blatant cases of overstating values," he said.

He noted that, of all the homes on his street, his is the only landlocked property. Yet his home's value jumped more than nearly every home on the street, he said.

Medlin said that he didn't receive an explanation for why his revaluation was so high after he sent an informal appeal seven months ago. Medlin plans to take his case to the Board of Equalization and Review, the next step in the appeals process.

The county hasn't sent him an appointment date and time yet, he said.

The county is required by state law to revalue properties every eight years to bring them to fair market values.

Several residents said they expected their property values to decrease in light of the sluggish economy and poor housing market. They cited the high inventory of homes for sale on the market as well as the number of foreclosures in the area.

Instead, many property owners saw their home values increase - especially in the Lake Norman area.

"It would appear that the assessor's office is blatantly ignoring the past three years' economic circumstances," said Medlin.

Bentley suggested that one possible explanation in the increase in home values is the fact that the Lake Norman area has become "an extremely attractive place to live in the last eight years."

She added that there were significantly fewer home sales to compare values to than in previous years.

Whatever the reason for the discrepancy, it has led many residents to appeal to the Board of Equalization and Review.

According to county spokesman Roger Kortekaas, about 12 percent of property owners - or 41,958 of 355,000 - appealed their revaluations in 2011. In 2003, by comparison, only 7 percent - or 21,064 of 295,548 total revaluations - appealed.

That figure includes single-family homes, condominiums, apartments and other types of properties.

Still, the number of appeals is less than county staff expected. Last February, Chuck Hicks, real estate property appraiser manager for Mecklenburg County, estimated 15 percent of property owners would appeal revaluation.

Hicks could not be reached for comment last week, but he noted at the time that listings with inaccurate square footage and incomplete information on home sales in neighborhoods are often the culprits of an inaccurate home revaluation.

Homes that stayed on the market for long periods of time and then were taken off can also skew home revaluations because the county doesn't see those records, he said.

The Board of Equalization and Review is expected to decide on all appeals by the end of March.

Once residents hear the board's decision, they will have 15 days to appeal to the North Carolina Property Tax Commission in Raleigh, although a lawyer is usually needed at the formal level.

During the 2003 revaluation, only about 200 residents of single family homes continued to that level of appeal, said Hicks.

Arriero: 704-777-7070

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