More than 100 learn more about Southampton reassessment

Published 10:02 am Tuesday, February 7, 2012

COURTLAND—Teresa Preston believes the 11 percent assessment increase on the her 25-year-old log home and 344 acres in Ivor was fair despite the lull in the housing market.

“I feel like it’s in line with the properties, but I wouldn’t sell it for that,” Preston said Monday evening after a forum to learn more about last year’s reassessment process for Southampton County’s 12,000 properties.

During the forum at Southampton High School attended by about 100, Harold Wingate, president of Wingate and Associates, noted that despite a reported 4.9 percent increase in overall assessments, assessments on 5,154 properties went down. Hired by the county to do the reassessment, Wingate said most of the decreased assessments were on single-family homes.

Assessors also found structures missing from the tax rolls, including a home valued at $200,000 to $300,000.

The forum was prompted at the request of Newsoms District Supervisor Glenn Updike, who heard concerns from several people after assessed property values increased. Wingate said Monday the overall increase was closer to 4.5 percent.

Supervisors during their Jan. 23 meeting voted 7-0 to ask Wingate and Associates to attend the forum, which was moderated by The Tidewater News General Manager Tony Clark.

Clark asked Wingate how could overall assessments be up in a down housing market.

In some cases, Wingate said they found assessments from the last reassessment in 2005 that were too low.

“Many, many times we found improvements that were not on the record,” said Wingate, who did not do the last reassessment, but did reassessments for the county in 1996 and 2000.

He explained that foreclosures were not included. There has to be a willing buyer and willing seller, and neither can be under duress. In the case of a foreclosure, there is normally not a willing seller.

Wingate said county officials had no influence on new assessments.

“Our company wouldn’t participate in an assessment where we had an agenda from a governing body,” he said.

Assessors used comparable properties within county lines to determine values, Wingate said.

“We think we found enough sales in the county to do the best job we could,” he said.

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.