Property values in Lewis County are surging and the taxpayers may soon feel it in their pocketbooks.
Amid a tight housing market that has seen median home prices jump 25% in the Twin Cities over the last year, the value of that land is experiencing unprecedented growth leading to homeowners in the area seeing an 18% to 19% average increase in their home valuations.
“In 46 years of working this office, I have never seen property values increase year to year as I have in the past three years,” said Lewis County Assessor Dianne Dorey in a statement.
The assessor’s office this month began mailing value change notices to Lewis County property owners to begin calculating 2022 property taxes.
Part of the valuation process includes matching comparable home sales prices with similar houses for assessing, and when a local market is hot it affects the valuation of nearly every property in the vicinity.
Dorey said the 2021 market has boomed — especially compared to the year’s previous — and could influence valuations in 2023.
But the assessor’s office doesn’t cut off physical and market assessing until May, so there’s still plenty of time for the market to shift.
Sales from the 2020 market — the year the COVID-19 pandemic began, spurring rapid influx in home sales nationwide — will affect next year’s valuation for property taxes.
“I'm in shock for what I'm seeing. I didn't think I'd be here long enough to see million-dollar home sales, and we're seeing lots ... More than 100 in a year,” Dorey told The Chronicle.
Homes are also staying on the market for much shorter amounts of time than in the past as buyers from all over express interest in Lewis County properties.
“Now that they can work from home and can make it work on the internet, they're moving here,” Dorey said.
Greg Lund, with Century 21 Lund Realtors in Chehalis, said area home prices in the last month have flattened, though it’s more likely than not due to the seasonal slowdown in sales.
Still, prices are up for the average worker — more in the hot middle market, and less so for the more expensive, extravagant homes.
“We continue to have an all-time low in available properties across the price ranges. Almost every price range has very limited supply and listings. Sometimes that’s historical for this time of the year … There’s a little bit of seasonality, but this is the lowest I’ve seen in years, which puts that supply and demand curve out of whack,” he said.
Most of the sales Dorey has seen come in — for double-wide manufactured homes, early-century moderns and other small- to medium-sized homes — are often double what they’d see prior to the pandemic.
Nationwide, those looking to put 20% down on a home are being outbid and are having trouble clawing through the competition.
People today are also more likely than ever to subdivide their properties for sale, too.
After stagnation brought on by the pandemic and supply chain shortages, construction on single-family houses is back and booming again.
“There was a record number of valuations for new construction — $350 million. That's higher than it's ever been by $50 million,” Dorey said.
Next year could be a repeat.
While the assessor’s office has a role to fairly determine property value, it is not responsible for determining the amount of taxes property owners pay and it does not collect taxes.
“However, when the amount of taxes are set by the different taxing authorities, residents can be reassured that the process of having accurate home valuation will mean that property taxes are distributed in a fair and equitable way,” a news release from the assessor’s office says.
Dorey said her office has been experiencing a number of questions and inquiries about homeowners wanting to appeal their home valuations. She recommends speaking with the assessor’s office prior to filing a formal appeal with the court of equalization in order to clarify the conditions that led to the listed valuation.