If you want a good indication of how hot the Seattle area’s economy is these days, just look at the property value statements the King County Department of Assessments continues to send out.
From Duval to Green Lake, property owners are seeing double digit increases in just the past year. King County Assessor Lloyd Hara said the reason is simple: “Seattle-King County is one of the hottest markets in the country.”
While many property owners are likely stunned, Hara said the values are based on what’s actually going on in the market.
“Our number one job is to make sure that we fairly and equity value all property in King County,” he said.
The values are determined each year by appraisers who assess property based on comparable sales, various attributes of a particular property, and/or income generated by the property.
The assessor’s office annually revalues all properties and conducts a physical inspection on each property once every six years.
The increased values vary widely across the 86 residential geographic areas designated by the department, but virtually all have seen double digit increases. Average values climbed 13.8 percent in East Auburn and Southeast Kent. Bellevue’s Lake Hills/Robinswoods/Crossroads area saw average values soar 24.2 percent. In Shoreline, values climbed an average 16.4 percent.
Some areas that were already hot over the past several years saw smaller increases. On Seattle’s Capitol Hill, where the mean sale price of a home is $878,600, values climbed a relatively meager 4.9 percent between 2013 and 2014.
Despite the increases, Hara said values in many areas still haven’t returned to the high water mark set in 2008 before the recession hit.
“For those who bought houses in 2008, 2007 etc., they’re probably still underwater, so it’s a good thing they’re getting their equity back,” said Hara
The increased values are welcome news to many property owners, but they also mean increased property taxes.
Property taxes in 2014 increased 5.64 percent overall in King County. But the rates are ultimately determined by where your property is located and what levies were approved by voters.
“I think this year each election has had a special levy so what’s occurred when you pass a special levy you’re taxing yourself,” Hara said. “We have some districts in King County where 50 percent of their property taxes are voter approved.”
How much you’ll ultimately pay in 2015 won’t be determined until next January. Washington state operates under what’s known as a “budget-based” property tax system. Taxing districts such as cities, ports and school districts submit their budgets, then the assessor determines the taxing rate necessary to generate enough money to meet the budgets.
While property owners will pay more based on higher valuations, state law caps property taxes at 1 percent each year, regardless of how much someone’s property value increases. The only exception is new construction.
Those property owners who think their values are overblown can appeal to the assessors office. Online tools at the assessors website make it easy to compare your property to comparable ones in your area, and ask for a new assessment.
Hara said his office oftentimes makes adjustment, sometimes on the spot. He cites an example of a homeowner in Madison Park who argued the loss of his view reduced the value of his property.
“We went out there, took a look at his property, yeah he’d lost it. He’d lost it completely. So we adjusted for the view loss and did reduce the value of his property valuations almost on the spot.”
Along with appeals, some senior citizens and disabled homeowners can also get help paying their property taxes depending on their circumstances.
As for the future, Hara said he can’t predict if values will keep skyrocketing like they have the past year, but it’s likely.
“I don’t know,” Hara said. “If Seattle is as hot as it is and jobs are here, people will move here and clearly values will continue to climb.”