Wamped again?

Published 8:27 am Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Franklin homeowners and business owners, still reeling from an average 17 percent increase in property valuations by the city in 2008, probably felt their blood pressure rise again last week when assessor Steven Wampler reported that real estate reassessments for the 2010 go-around seemed to be holding “steady.”

If indeed the goal of the biannual reassessment process is to assess real estate at market value, Wampler is badly missing the mark.

Wampler, of Daleville-based Wampler-Eanes Appraisal Group Ltd., would have us believe that a home in Franklin is worth 10 percent to 17 percent more today than it was four years ago.

There are very few places in America where property values have risen during that period. Franklin certainly has not been exempt from the national housing slump.

Few houses are selling, and those that do sell are fetching considerably less than their assessed values.

Wampler’s assessment method, as we pointed out two years ago, ignores the length of time that homes are staying on the market. Some homeowners have given up trying to sell and have turned their homes into rentals.

Using only actual sales and ignoring the fact that many homes aren’t selling at all allows assessed values to be skewed by outliers – the rare home that sells at a high price while others around it sit vacant.

Wampler’s company analyzed about 80 real estate sales in the city between April 2008 and December 2009. Foreclosures were not considered, despite an unusually high number of those the past couple of years. Current market factors, including the upcoming closure of International Paper Co.’s Franklin mill, also were not considered. The latter is understandable, since that event did not occur during the two-year assessment window.

Still, there’s no statistical logic to support Wampler’s view of “steady” property values.

After the 2008 reassessment debacle, the City Council vowed to keep a closer eye on the reassessment process next time around. That time is now. The council should assert itself and insist that Wampler go back to the drawing board before sending out his final assessments in May.