After over a year of work by his staff, Guilford County Tax Director Ben Chavis unveiled the results of a new countywide property revaluation to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners at a work session on Thursday, Jan. 19. That revaluation, which was conducted for the first time since 2012, showed an increase in the value of the county’s property of 5.25 percent.
That number includes the rise the value due to the fresh assessment of the worth of previously existing property, as well as the increase provided by new houses and buildings added to the tax rolls in 2016. The new valuation of every piece of property in Guilford County, along with new construction in the county in 2016, puts the total price tag of land, houses, buildings and other structures in the county at over $40 billion for the first time.
Now, Guilford County property owners can look for their new values on notices the Tax Department will send out in mid February after tax staff conducts one last check on the numbers.
At the Jan. 19 work session, the commissioners listened with great interest because the value of the tax base is the source of most of the revenue the county gets every year. Chavis’ presentation also offered information on which parts of the county were prospering the most in terms of added homes and buildings, as well as increases in valuation.
Guilford County conducts a countywide revaluation of all property in its borders every five years. By law, all counties in the state must do so at least once every eight years. Before 2012, Guilford County conducted revaluations once every eight years; however, tax officials and the county commissioners decided that conducting the reviews more frequently would help keep recorded tax values better aligned with actual property values.
The new grand total of tax value for billable property in Guilford County is $40,824,230,026. That’s up from roughly $38.4 billion at the start of 2016, which means it’s an increase in billable property of about $2.4 billion. The rise in value found by the Tax Department was actually 6.36 percent; however, the tax officials adjusted that number downward to an increase of 5.25 percent due to, among other things, expectations that there will be some successful appeals by property owners who contest their new values.
Part of that 5.25 percent increase since last year is due to the revaluation of all property, while some of that increase is the addition of new homes and buildings in 2016. About $700 million of that $2.4 billion increase in property value is due to new construction in the county last year.
According to Assistant Guilford County Tax Assessor Alan Myrick, the latest reports show a difference between 2017 and 2016 of $602 million in new construction.
“We have been averaging in the range of $700-$800 million in new construction growth in the last two years,” Myrick wrote in an email. “I would estimate that we’ll be close to that range for this year as well.”
Myrick added that, at this point, that number must be taken “with a grain of salt” since not all of the 2016 construction in Guilford County has been accounted for yet – which is why in the end that number is likely to come in around the $700 million mark.
At the Jan. 19 work session, Chavis told the commissioners that the Tax Department broke the county down into 2,500 “appraisal neighborhoods” to calculate property values. In 2012, the department only broke the county into 400 neighborhoods, and the greater number used this year is meant to assure that the tax values arrived at are as fair as possible. When the department’s appraisers look at “comparable sales” to help calculate housing values, they should get a more accurate value by using a greater number of neighborhoods.
“Hopefully, it insures we do our business better,” Chavis said of the finer distinctions in the property assessments this year.
Chavis said that the revaluation will help make tax values match the actual sales values reflected in real estate trades. Those values tend to get out of line as years pass after revaluations, and one purpose of periodic countywide revaluation is to bring those tax values back in line with the actual price that a house or building would bring if it were sold.
“Coming out of a reappraisal, you try and get as close to 100 percent as possible without going over,” Chavis said, adding that valuing property at more than its anticipated market price wouldn’t be fair to taxpayers.
He said that, after the latest revaluation, the tax value on newly assessed property is now coming in at just under 100 percent of sales value, which is “right where you want to be.”
That way, he said, the taxpayer isn’t overtaxed and the county isn’t “leaving too much money on the table.”
Chavis said that, according to the numbers tracked by his department, Guilford County’s housing market bottomed out in 2011 but has been showing slow but steady growth since then.
“We’ve slowly recovered – not back were we were pre-recession – but we are getting there,” Chavis told the commissioners.
He said foreclosures in Guilford County peaked in 2010 at roughly 4,000, while in 2016 there were less than 1,500.
The tax director also reported that downtown Greensboro has seen good growth in value since the 2012 revaluation.
“The downtown area has done particularly well,” Chavis said.
He said there were three new hotels planned or underway for downtown Greensboro and that 11 new apartment complexes had been added in Guilford County since the previous revaluation, with three of those located in downtown Greensboro.
“It’s no surprise apartment properties have done tremendously well,” Chavis said. “They did well last time around and that trend is continuing with this appraisal.”
He also said the Aycock historic district near the University of North Carolina at Greensboro has done particularly well when it comes to property value increases.
In the revaluation, the City of Greensboro beat the county’s overall value increase: Greensboro had a 6.71 percent increase in total taxable real property value since the 2016 tax bills went out, while the City of High Point’s tax base increased 5.40 percent.
The biggest municipality gain was in Archdale’s property values, which showed a 19.05 percent increase in property values under the revaluation. Kernersville, which has only a small presence in Guilford County, saw the value of its property in this county go up 10.70 percent in value. Stokesdale came in third with a 9.35 percent increase. Gibsonville’s values grew 5 percent, and the lowest growth in property values was in Sedalia, which only saw 2.62 percent growth.
Chavis said the results are still being refined.
“We’re still tweaking these a little bit,” he told the commissioners. “We still have a review phase over the next two weeks.”
According to Chavis, the new value notices to property owners will go out on Friday, Feb. 17.
“We pray for snow that weekend,” he joked, apparently hoping a good snowfall will take taxpayers’ minds off of what in most cases will be higher property values which will mean a higher tax bill if the tax rate remains the same.
On Feb. 17, the day the new notices are sent out, the Tax Department is also launching a new website that allows property owners to plug in their addresses and see some of the department’s rationale for the valuation. The site will let allow them to search comparable sales in their area, and property owners not convinced of the valuation determined by the Tax Department will be able to file an appeal using an online form offered at the new site. Cases of property value disputes that can’t be solved by discussions with Tax Department staff can be appealed to the Guilford County Board of Equalization and Review – also known as the “E & R board.” If taxpayers aren’t happy with that outcome they can appeal to the state – though few people pursue that option.
Property owners have 30 days from the date the notices of new values are mailed to appeal their property values.
In the last countywide revaluation, about 2,500 people went before the Board of E&R, and an additional 7,500 went through an informal appeals process where their dispute was worked out before those cases got to the review board.