About 60 percent of homeowners in Douglas County have had the value of their homes drop in the last year, according to the latest estimates from the county appraiser’s office.
“It has been a chaotic year trying to keep up with the market,” Douglas County Appraiser Steve Miles said.
By the beginning of next month, homeowners ought to know whether their properties are among the group that has declined. Miles' office is set to send out change-of-value notices on Feb. 28 that show the new value the county will use to figure property taxes in the coming year.
Here’s a look at the latest estimate the county has on the type of declines — or in a few cases, increases — in values residential properties have seen over the past year:
• About 28 percent of homes are expected to see a decline in value between 2 percent and 4.99 percent.
• Approximately 24 percent of homes likely will experience declines of .01 percent to 1.99 percent.
• A little more than 8 percent of residential properties are expected to drop by 5 percent or more in value.
On the other side of the ledger, about 7 percent of residential properties are expected to see an increase in value.
The remaining 33 percent of properties are expected to have values steady from a year ago.
The market in 2012, real estate professionals said, sent some mixed signals. Overall, real estate leaders were more than pleased because homes sales increased by nearly 28 percent from 2011 numbers. Real estate agents sold 899 homes in Lawrence, according to numbers from the Lawrence Board of Realtors.
“I would describe it as a pretty robust year compared to what we have had recently, and it kind of was about time,” said John Esau, president of the Lawrence Board of Realtors and an agent with Lawrence’s Keller Williams agency.
But the Board of Realtors' numbers also showed that the median selling prices for homes declined about 5 percent compared with 2011 numbers. The median selling price checked in at $159,900 in 2012.
Esau said sellers were readjusting their expectations of what their homes were worth. But he said the higher number of sales — coupled with the fact that builders still aren’t going gangbusters with new housing starts — means the inventory of homes for sale in the Lawrence area is shrinking.
“When inventory is down, that usually means prices are going to come back up,” Esau said. “We’ve clearly been in a buyer's market for several years, but I think we’ll start seeing a correction that favors the seller here shortly.”
At the end of 2012, there were 369 active listings in Lawrence. That was down about 19 percent from the same time period a year ago.
At the county courthouse, Miles is expecting the total market value of all real estate in the county — once you include commercial property and other types of real estate — to drop by 1 percent to 2 percent when he completes the appraisal process later this spring.
Local cities and school districts and the County Commission will watch those numbers closely because they will use the property value numbers this summer to determine tax rates to fund their 2014 budgets.
When property owners receive their change-of-value notices in the mail, the notices will include information on how to file an appeal with county officials if owners believe the value is too high.
But Miles said he hopes property owners will take a closer look at their properties before deciding to file an appeal.
“One thing I would like for them to keep in mind is what do they think the true value of their home is?” Miles said. “What would they really be willing to sell it for? That’s what we’re trying to get at.”