Wampler is back

Published 2:06 pm Saturday, August 8, 2009

So stunned were many Franklin property owners by their 2008 home, business and land reassessments that local folks coined a new verb: getting “Wamped.”

Assessor Steven Wampler, of Daleville-based Wampler-Eanes Appraisal Group Ltd., is back again for 2010, and here’s hoping that the rude surprises will be fewer this time around.

In a real estate econ omy as soft as many observers can remember, Wampler’s firm deemed that citywide property values increased nearly 17 percent between 2006 and 2008. Citizens who were left scratching their heads over the appraiser’s logic packed City Hall one night to get some answers. But after listening to Wampler answer questions from the City Council for an hour, property owners left just as confused — and disappointed — as when they arrived.

It turns out that Wampler has a contract to reassess property in Franklin again in 2010 — and yet again in 2012. We’re encouraged that the City Council plans to keep a closer eye on the process this time.

“We’ll pay particular attention and ask some of the harder questions,” Mayor Jim Councill told a reporter Thursday.

In 2008, council members seemed just as taken aback as the citizenry when reassessment notices began arriving in mailboxes bearing news of large increases in property values. They summoned Wampler to City Hall and grilled him hard, but it was too late in the process to do much about it. Fortunately, the council did lower the property tax rate to offset the increase in assessed values.

The City Council would be wise to meet with Wampler this year before he ever gets started and quiz him about his planned methodology. He should also be required to attend a town-hall meeting and answer property owners’ questions.

We’re no experts on property values, but common sense dictates that any serious attempt to determine fair market value must consider the length of time that homes are staying on the market before they sell. Wampler’s approach in 2008 seemed to rely too much on “comparable sales,” with no regard for other market factors.

In an economy in which few homes are selling, comparable sales can give a distorted and inflated picture of surrounding properties’ worth.