Officials: 1 in 9 Richland Co. properties more valuable than in 2009

dhinshaw@thestate.comFebruary 2, 2014 

— The value of most property in Richland County has declined or held steady since the last reassessment for tax purposes five years ago, Assessor John Cloyd said last week.

Only about 11 percent – or 18,000 of the county’s 169,000 residential and commercial parcels – will reflect increases in market value, Cloyd said.

That’s a big departure from the 2009 reassessment, when values increased for two-thirds of the county’s property owners, angering taxpayers reeling from the recession. Appeals were lodged on 7,310 parcels, with many owners saying the county valued their homes and businesses at more than they could get if they sold them.

In contrast, Cloyd said he expects few complaints this go-round.

He acknowledged the owners of lower-valued property may have different anxieties, however, like facing difficulty being approved for refinancing or second mortgages.

His office plans to mail out reassessment notices Feb. 15.

State law requires counties to update property values every five years. Lexington County undergoes reassessment next year.

Tax activist Don Weaver, who owns a Columbia property-management firm and sells real estate, said it sounds like Cloyd’s office is right on the mark.

Weaver said homes in downtown Columbia and Forest Acres seem to have held their values because there’s not the glut of inventory seen in the suburbs. He would expect low- to moderately priced homes – those in the $130,000 to $250,000 range – to reflect slight increases in value because there’s always a demand for starter homes.

Cloyd declined to talk about values in specific neighborhoods, but did say high-end homes in the $800,000 to $1 million range generally have declined in value.

Local home sales are showing signs of improvement, the assessor added. “The market has gone down and what we see now is a gradual increase.”

Property values are linked to property-tax bills. The more expensive the property, the larger the tax bill.

But the assessor’s notices will not tell landowners how much they owe in taxes. Tax bills don’t go out until the fall, after County Council members settle on a new budget.

Cloyd, Richland County assessor since 1978, said this is the first time he’s reassessed in a declining market, when prices and sales activity are down.

“Probably the first time anybody has, in the assessor world,” he said.

Appraisers judge a home’s value in large part by analyzing sale prices on homes nearby.

If homes in a given neighborhood sell for less than they have in the past, that lowers the value of all the homes around them. In neighborhoods where few houses have gone on the market, Cloyd said, appraisers will look at similar homes elsewhere.

Reach Hinshaw at (803) 771-8641.

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