Appraiser: Values steady

Published 8:06 am Saturday, January 30, 2010

FRANKLIN—While some areas of the country and state have experienced rapid real estate devaluation, that isn’t the case in Franklin or Isle of Wight County, according to Steve Wampler of Wampler-Eanes Appraisal Group Ltd.

Wampler-Eanes is in the process of conducting the 2010 general reassessments in both Franklin and Isle of Wight County.

“There are going to be stable to negative (assessment) numbers sent out here,” he told the Franklin City Council last week. The last assessment in 2008 yielded a nearly 17 percent increase in property values citywide.

“We’re not going to have the increases that we had last time this go-round,” Wampler said.

Jim Hart, owner of RE/MAX Now and Hart Construction in Franklin, said his experience does not support Wampler’s findings.

“If (Wampler’s) opinion is that the values have not fallen and that they’re pretty stable, I think he’ll find himself very busy meeting with the homeowners after the assessment,” Hart said.

Wampler said the company has analyzed about 80 real estate sales in the city between April 2008 and December 2009.

“The sales are our bread and butter; that’s what we look at as appraisers. We’re sort of like historians. We have to follow the market,” Wampler said.

Hart said that analyzing sales from 2008 are not going to adequately represent the current market.

“He needs to be thinking more along the lines of current market conditions,” Hart said.

Wampler said the mean price of residential sales was $200,500, while the average price was $209,632.

“These are our figures that we’ve compiled here in the city of Franklin,” he said.

Based on the 2008 assessment figures, the city’s assessment/sales ratio is 103.9 percent. The ratio is calculated by dividing the assessment figure by the sales price.

“If your house is worth $100,000 here in the city of Franklin, you’re being assessed at $103,900, and this is because the market has somewhat come down from what it was two years ago,” he said. “We could see it sliding a little bit more in these next coming four months.”

Wampler said that some areas are facing real estate value decreases of up to 20 percent.

“We’re not seeing any decreases like that … it almost mirrors what we’re seeing in Isle of Wight.”

While they remain a concern, foreclosures are not considered in the study, Wampler said.

“Yes, there are some foreclosures, by all means, but there are not strong patterns of foreclosures,” he said.

However, Hart said foreclosures shouldn’t be ignored because they are “a big part of the market.”

Councilman Benny Burgess agreed that a large portion of current housing sales involve foreclosures.

“If 80 percent of (sales) are foreclosures and you’re excluding those, then you’re kind of skewing what’s transferring hands,” he said. “I agree with you that they’re below market price, but that’s a huge part of the market.”

Wampler said the “average citywide lot has been pretty stable” and he expects the commercial market to be “stable or a little off.”

Because of the timing of the reassessment, the impending closure of International Paper Co.’s Franklin mill hasn’t affected property values, Wampler said.

“We might not even be able to recognize any (effect) during this cycle. Isle of Wight is the same, we don’t see any effects,” he said. “In either place … that just hasn’t made an impact yet. I’m not saying it won’t, but we can’t see it at this point.”

Hart said the impact of the IP closure should definitely be considered.

“The last thing people in Franklin need right now is a tax increase,” he said.

Wampler-Eanes will continue to analyze sales until notices are mailed out in early May. A team of appraisers is inspecting every taxable and non-taxable parcel in the city to determine the current fair market value, as required by state law.

The information from the sales study is available to the public at the Commissioner of the Revenue’s office and on the city’s Web site.