Vision Government Solutions has been hired by the City of Newtown to begin the latest citywide reassessment project.
New city assessor Kathy Brown said that according to Connecticut state statute, each city must conduct a reassessment every five years. The last one in Newtown was in 2017, and was a ‘full enlistment’, meaning it was a full reassessment with building inspectors scouring most of the city, ‘knocking on every door “.
This year’s reassessment is an “update reassessment,” which means it’s primarily based on recent sales and the only home inspections are for homes that have recently sold, as well as any construction in progress.
“This is based on sales over the past few years to determine where all property values have gone since 2017,” Brown said.
A municipal reassessment has five main phases: data collection, market analysis, assessment, field review, and informal hearings. During these phases, more than 100 tasks will be implemented in order to complete the reassessment.
The data collection phase, which began this month, matches where the city currently stands, with two Vision inspectors traveling around the city to examine recently sold homes and new construction. The Assessor’s Office, First Breeder’s Office, and the Police Department all have the names, cars, and license plate numbers of these inspectors.
If residents have questions about who might inspect their home, Brown said they should feel free to call any of these three agencies to confirm if it’s a Vision inspector. In addition, inspectors will wear name badges to identify them.
The inspectors mainly seek to verify that the information submitted when selling the property is correct. During this phase, a data collector will visit the properties that have been sold and can be used in the analysis to define the values.
Properties with open building permits will also have data collected. The data collector will note the building, size, age, building components, outbuildings, topography, utilities, and many other interior and exterior features. The city updates the photos as needed.
Data collectors are not currently inspecting interiors due to COVID policies. A data sender will be sent to properties for sale in late August/early September, so owners can confirm property data on file.
During the second phase, market analysis, a variety of resources are used to analyze the real estate market. While physical data is collected by Vision’s data collectors, appraisal staff will analyze sales that have taken place over the past several years to determine what market factors have influenced property values.
Once all data is collected and reviewed for accuracy, appraisers will determine land value and define neighborhoods that rate the attractiveness of locations across the city.
The third phase, the valuation, is done according to one or more of the three recognized methods: replacement cost, capitalization of income and market value. During this phase, properties for sale are assessed and individual building characteristics are analyzed using information gathered in phases one and two.
Computer models are generated from the sales information and are applied to all properties in the city. This value is the preliminary estimate for each parcel of property, building and land.
The fourth phase, field review, is the method of verifying and re-verifying both the values that have been determined and the data that has been collected. During this review, properties are examined in the field by experienced appraisers who verify the consistency and accuracy of information.
“They verify that the information they have collected is accurate and that the assessments are consistent; for example, two similar houses side by side on the same street have similar valuations,” Brown said.
Upon completion of the field review and final analysis, a notice with the new preliminary appraised value will be mailed to each owner. This notice is expected to be published after October 1, 2022.
Currently, anyone with questions about the reassessment process or the data collected on their property has the opportunity to meet with a Vision staff member to discuss their property during the fifth phase, informal hearings.
The assessor’s last word
Once the five phases are complete, all data, files, records, etc. used in the reassessment are then turned over to the Newtown assessor’s office.
“This office has the final say,” Brown said.
Anyone who disputes the valuation of their home at this stage will be able to file an appeal with the Valuation Appeal Board and follow this procedure.
Brown noted that this year, home values have increased significantly, but that won’t necessarily translate to higher taxes.
“It still has nothing to do with the budget process,” Brown said.
The tax effect of the reassessment cannot be known until the mill rate is set, and the mill rate is set taking into account the city’s current big list.
“It’s not taxes, it’s valuation assessments,” Brown said. “Taxes can actually go down.”
Brown also said home values can be fluid and a few years ago values were down. Even with the current peak in values, these values could go down again in the future.
The new home valuations will take effect after next year’s budget process, in July 2023.
Journalist Jim Taylor can be reached at [email protected]
Kathy Brown, New Town Assessor. —Bee Photo, Taylor