An increasing demand for lower-priced homes and the revitalization of older residences have caused property valuations to skyrocket this year in east and north Lawrence.
Some property owners in neighborhoods with older or historically lower priced housing saw as much as a 15 percent increase when they received their change of value notices in February.
Douglas County Appraiser Marion Johnson told the Douglas County Commission in mid-February that about 3,500 of the county's 33,000 parcels saw valuation increases of more than 10 percent.
In the most affected neighborhoods, Johnson said the demand for moderately-priced homes has affected the average selling price.
"Residential prices just continue to increase, but those are the homes first-time homebuyers can afford," he said.
As prices continue to rise, said Glen Sohl, a Realtor with Realty Executives, fewer lower-priced homes will be available.
"There's a real shortage of entry-level homes," he said. "An $118,000 home brings up the price of an entry-level home."
Sohl said the downtown realty business has sold several houses in East Lawrence.
"The increases are happening everywhere, but there's a lot of rehabilitation going on in East Lawrence," he said.
The housing market plays a major role in the way valuations are set.
Johnson said his staff used the market value of the five most comparable houses in a neighborhood to determine a specific property valuation. In north and east Lawrence, he said, much of the county's values were at 85 percent or lower than average selling prices and so had to be adjusted upward. He said the county tries to fall within 95 to 100 percent of the actual market value in its valuations.
"In some instances, values could have went and should have went higher, but we tried to keep the impact to a minimum," Johnson said.
Residential property countywide went up an average of 8 percent compared to 7 to 9 percent last year and 6 percent in 1999.
Commercial property values increased by 5 percent, which has been the average rate the last three years.
Commissioner Charles Jones said he was concerned about the county's residential base growing faster than the commercial rate.
"We need to attract more industry and make sure we're not abating away our taxes," he said.