Southampton assessment increases 4.9 percent

Published 9:49 am Wednesday, January 18, 2012

COURTLAND—The overall assessed property value in Southampton County increased 4.9 percent since 2010, something that surprises two Franklin real estate appraisers.

“It’s a little bit surprising to me,” said Debra Ward, owner of Ward and Co. “I’ve seen the market stabilize somewhat after the decline, but it definitely has not risen (that much) in my opinion.”

Ash Cutchin, owner of Ash Cutchin Real Estate Appraisals, noted that when Wingate and Associates assessed the county’s 12,000 properties last year as required by law, the Roanoke firm did not include foreclosed properties.

“They kind of seemed to ignore foreclosures,” said Cutchin, noting that in 2011, one-third of home sales in Hampton Roads, which includes Southampton County, were foreclosures.

“If they are a third of the market, I don’t see how they can’t be included,” he said.

Harold Wingate, president of Wingate and Associates, said foreclosures are not included because assessments by law are based on market values.

“They have a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither under duress,” Wingate said. “In other words, if you put your house on the market and I offer you $50,000 less than you’re asking, you don’t have to sell it. But, if you get foreclosed on, the bank owns your house, and they don’t want to hang onto it. They want to unload it, so somebody might buy it for $100,000 less than it’s worth.”

Law requires that a reassessment be done at least every six years to reflect current market values. The reassessment process began in January 2011 with a study of property sales for 2010. Market sales for 2010 and the first half of 2011 also were considered.

Wingate said comparing the 2011 reassessment with 2005 wouldn’t be fair because of additions to structures or the demolition of buildings during that period, which results in immediate changes to assessments.

Cutchin learned about the Hampton Roads rate of foreclosures while attending a recent presentation of the local chapter of the Appraisal Institute.

“Single-family residential sales were down 8.3 percent over a year earlier,” he said.

Smaller homes are selling better than large or new homes; 84 percent of homes sold in 2011 were existing homes.

“It’s a continued trend that began in 2007,” Cutchin said. “It appears there is a seven-months supply of homes on the market. Until they are sold, builders don’t stand a chance.”

About 500 Southampton County property owners had hearings in November on their new assessments. As of last week, 20 are appealing the decisions from those hearings to the Board of Equalization, said County Commissioner of Revenue Amy Carr. The deadline to be heard is Feb. 15.

Carr said the total value of assessed property in 2011 was $1.63 billion. The new assessment is $1.71 billion.