Routt County homes, land continue to increase in value — but fewer owners are appealing assessments
County’s total assessed real property value increased about 10% over 2018
Editor’s note: This story was corrected at 1:15 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21. Routt County’s total commercial assessed value increased by 7.5%, from $263 million in 2018 to $283 million in 2019.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Homes, businesses and land in Routt County are continuing to see an increase in value.
The county’s total assessed real property value increased to about $1.25 billion, an increase of about 10% over 2018’s value.
Real property, including structures and land, is assessed every two years in Colorado. Personal property, such as construction equipment, is assessed every year and typically does not create as significant a change as the biennial real property reassessment.
Routt County’s 2019 total assessed value rose to $1,252,542,270 from $1,135,110,450 in 2018.
“It’s just appreciation. It’s just market sales,” Peterson said of the increase. “All we do — or any appraiser does — is report what the market is doing. You’re just taking market sales and appraising a property, be it one property or 2,000 properties, based on what’s selling in the market place.”
Home values in the county have been rising since 2012, when prices bottomed out after the recession, he added.
“Residential was up 17%,” Peterson said, referring to the increase in residential actual value. “That sounds like a big amount, but that’s over two years, so that’s 8.5% per year. We’re in a very strong economy and we’ve been moving off of some very low values since 2012.”
Peterson said Hayden and Oak Creek are seeing a greater increase in assessed valuation, likely due to lower home prices.
“The dynamic there, I think, is the lower-priced homes,” he explained. “If they move $60,000 in value, it’s a big percentage increase, versus a Steamboat home that might move $100,000 or $120,000 in value — the percentage change is not that big.”
Though values increased, appeals to change a valuation didn’t
Once they receive notice of their property’s latest assessed value in May, property owners are granted one month by Colorado law to appeal that valuation or classification of a property if they believe it’s incorrect.
Peterson said his office had received about 780 appeals earlier this year. He’d expected to see more.
In 2017, with a smaller increase in property values, the assessor’s office received 798 appeals, he said.
“They were virtually the same, within a dozen-and-a-half, which was surprising,” he said. “I thought with the higher increase, we were going to see more appeals.”
About half of these appeals, 49%, were adjusted after review, Peterson said.
The remaining 51% have the option to appeal again to the county board of equalization, which in Routt County is composed of the county commissioners. The commissioners heard 35 appeals in July and August, some of which included multiple properties. Those that were denied by the county commissioners can appeal a third time to the Colorado Board of Assessment, arbitration or district court.
While the deadline to appeal an assessment has passed, Peterson said residents can still work to correct their assessed values through the tax abatement process starting Jan. 1, though Peterson said the process is slower and will require more paperwork.
“If we got the value wrong, and we had an extra floor on their property that should not have been there, there is a means for a property owner to get that corrected and get some of their money back with interest from when they filed their appeal,” he said.
While property values have increased, it won’t be clear how that impacts property owner’s taxes until later this year, Peterson said, when special districts release their mill levies, which can be adjusted to meet revenue needs and comply with Colorado’s Tax Payer Bill of Rights.
“It’s not a direct correlation,” Peterson said.
How is assessed value determined?
Homes and commercial property’s actual value is determined by a model that compares a structure’s style, age, condition and features to similar buildings that recently sold in the same area. Agricultural land is valued based on its production capacity— a number set by the state that determines how much hay can grow or how many cows can graze on a certain parcel.
That actual value is converted by its respective rate to determine the assessed value. The assessed value is multiplied by the appropriate tax rate to determine what a property owner owes in property taxes to the county and local special districts such as fire, hospital, school and library districts.
Residential assessed property value increased by 16% countywide, from $588 million in 2018 to $680 million in 2019. Commercial values increased by 7.5%, from $263 million in 2018 to $283 million in 2019.
That assessed value is impacted by the Gallagher provision, an amendment to the Colorado Constitution passed by voters in 1982, which set a ratio for property taxes paid statewide. It mandates that commercial property owners pay 55% of property taxes in the state and residential property owners pay 45%.
The amendment set a fixed assessment rate of 29% for nonresidential property, including businesses, industrial buildings and vacant lots, while the residential property tax rate is regularly adjusted to maintain the 45-55 ratio. The residential rate is currently 7.15%. This means nonresidential properties have an assessment rate nearly four times higher than the residential rate.
Under current assessment rates, if a commercial property and a residential property both have an actual value of $100,000, the commercial property’s assessed value will be $29,000, while the residential property’s assessed value will be $7,150.
Though residential property in Routt County increased in actual value by 17.2% since last year, a change in the residential assessment rate means the assessed value changed by a smaller amount of 16.4%.
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