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Home sales up in January; new numbers on county's property tax base; median home values fall sharply in Baldwin, Eudora, rural areas; weekly land transfers


The signs of spring are starting to show up: morning sunlight and chirping birds, an article in the newspaper about crabgrass prevention, and me looking for my hidey-hole when my wife starts talking about the spring cleaning of the garage.

Of course, one other sign of spring soon will be the banners, balloons, pyrotechnic displays and whatever else real estate agents are using these days to attract attention to the large number of spring open houses. So, with that, how about some real estate news today? There are a few new reports of interest out.

• Lawrence home sales in January continued to show signs of improvement. A new report from the Lawrence Board of Realtors found home sales in January were up 44 percent compared to January 2012, rising to 36 from 25. It continues a multimonth streak of sales increases on a year-over-year basis, which has given real estate professionals cautious optimism that a recovery is starting to take hold in Lawrence.

One of the more interesting numbers in the report is that there has been a significant decline in the number of homes on the market, which real estate agents say is a sign the market is starting to get more balanced between buyers and sellers. In January, there were 380 homes on the market, down from 460 during the same period a year ago.

The number of days a home is sitting on the market, though, hasn’t yet started to show that trend. The median days on market: 81, up from 72 a year ago.

• The Douglas County Appraiser’s office has new information out about the county’s real estate tax base. It appears Douglas County and the city of Lawrence once will again will avoid a major hit to their property tax bases.

The numbers aren’t final yet because property owners can still file appeals related to their properties’ assessed values, but the appraiser’s office shows a decline of 0.29 percent for 2013. The total assessed valuation — remember, assessed value is the taxable value, not the market value — checks in at $1.024 billion in 2013, down from $1.027 billion in 2012.

The county is not used to declines but it has avoided the 5 percent or more declines in values that many other markets across the country have experienced.

Just for some historical perspective, I looked up some past numbers. Since 2008, the county’s tax base has grown just 1.3 percent during the tough economic times. Since 2003, the county’s tax base has grown 36.7 percent. To put an even finer point on how the last decade has been a tale of two halves, the numbers show that in the last half of the decade, the county’s tax base has grown by less than 2 percent total. For the first half of the decade, the numbers show that from 2003 to 2008, the tax base grew by 35.8 percent. In case you are wondering, the rate of inflation for that time period was about 17 percent, according to the Consumer Price Index.

The housing bubble was fun for governments who rely on property tax dollars. Now, the question they’re all still trying to figure out: What is the new normal?

• The appraiser’s office hasn’t provided a report that shows the assessed valuation by community yet, but normally Lawrence tracks closely with the overall county total — since Lawrence has most of the county’s tax base within its boundaries.

But there may be real questions about what happens to the tax base in some of the smaller communities and townships in Douglas County.

The appraiser’s office has put together a report estimating the median market values for residential property in each city in the county. The report shows significant drops everywhere but Lawrence. The median value in Lawrence in 2013 is $159,625, down 0.6 percent from the median of 2012.

That’s nothing compared with what the report shows for the other areas of Douglas County. Here’s a look:

• Eudora: the median market value has dropped 10.2 percent to $125,600, down from $140,000.

• Baldwin City: Down 7.4 percent to $132,700 from $143,400.

• Lecompton: Down 16.6 percent to $83,950 from $100,670

• Rural Douglas County: Down 22.8 percent to $153,400 from $198,805.

I haven’t had a chance to talk to the appraiser yet about these numbers, but it seems to indicate the real estate market outside of Lawrence hasn’t held up as well as the market inside of Lawrence.

• Finally, I have fallen behind on our weekly updates of land transfers and property sales as recorded by the Douglas County Register of Deeds. Click here to see listings for the last couple of weeks.


Laura Wilson 4 years, 9 months ago

My house dropped around 7 1/2%, a huge drop. If I was planning to sell any time soon I'd be really unhappy. Wanna bet this still manages to make my taxes go up as it does every year even though the value of the house has been dropping for the last five?

Richard07 4 years, 9 months ago

Yes, I found this out the hard way. I moved here from the East (although a former KC area resident) and purchased a house in the county for almost 35% less than list. Based on that sales price my taxes from the prior year should have fallen markedly. They didn't. My taxes went up. I also know the original builders loan amount on the house. After hiring an attorney I managed to get them reduced to the" last year paid" amount. Lesson? Unless you have a VERY COMPARABLE sale (Comp) that sold in the last 6 months for a comparison base...you're screwed. You must have a comp as a starting point.

George Lippencott 4 years, 9 months ago

Watch out for the climate change monkeys if your home is not up to current codes. You could find yourself with a big unexpected bill if they have their way.

chicago95 4 years, 9 months ago

Chad, how does the decline in total assessed valuation (from $1.027B to $1.024B) comport with your story of February 6, 2013 which said...

"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."

Did we just dodge a bullet? Or is there more news to come, affecting the total tax base, later this spring?

btw... Miles' 0.6% drop in the median residential property value is roughly consistent with FHFA's recent report a 0.4% year-over-year decline in its index of (mean) market values for Lawrence's pre-existing housing stock -- small consolation to the many homeowners who saw steeper declines.

steveguy 4 years, 9 months ago

Our house evaluation went up as it has every year. A couple years ago it went up 38%. What gives here?

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