Reval rollout: Property owners get first look at new assessments
Published 6:36 am, Monday, November 30, 2015
Though probably not as eagerly anticipated as the coming holidays, the notices for new property assessments were mailed to owners last week and were posted online.
The property revaluation is required every five years, and this year, the town hired Vision Government Solutions to conduct a full physical survey of local properties, which included, when owners allowed it, an interior inspection.
“It’s been quiet,” Assessor Don Ross said when asked about initial reaction to the new property values — at least in his office in old Town Hall. “People are apparently contacting Vision for appointments.”
VGS representatives are holding informal hearings on the figures through Dec. 16 at the town’s Bigelow Center for Senior Activities on Mona Terrace. Property owners can schedule a 15-minute appointment by visiting the VGS website — http://gis.vgsi.com/fairfieldct. If necessary, Ross said, two more hearing days will be added. Owners will have the results of those hearings by January. If they disagree with the outcome, formal appeals can be filed with the Board of Assessment Appeals.
The assessment, which is supposed to reflect 70 percent of a property’s market rate appraisal, helps to determine the property tax bill, based on the mill rate, which now is 24.79. Ross cautions residents, however, not to try to figure out their new tax bill using the current mill rate. The new rate — using the latest revaluation figures — will be set in May by the Board of Finance, after several months of hearings on the 2016-17 budget before the Board of Selectmen, the Board of Finance and Representative Town Meeting.
Using data for the Oct. 1, 2014-15 housing market, Ross said about 10 percent of the town’s homeowners will not see any change in their property assessments, while about 40 percent will see their assessments increase and 50 percent will see a decline in their assessments. Ross said those percentages most likely will change following the hearings.
To find a property’s newly revalued assessment, visit http://gsi.vgsi.com/FairfieldCT
To schedule an informal hearing on an assessment, visit www.vgis.com/schedules or call 1-888-844-4300, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Informal hearings will be held at the town’s Bigelow Center for Senior Activities, 100 Mona Terrace.
Hearing appointments are currently being taken though Dec. 16, although two more days may be added if needed.
COMPARING PROPERTY VALUE CHANGES
Here is a comparison of some of the new property assessments for homes in different neighborhoods around town. The assessments are supposed to reflect 70 percent of a property’s market value. The 2014 assessment is listed in parenthesis next to the new value.
Fairfield Beach Road
272 Fairfield Beach Road: $812,980 ($879,900)
24 Fairfield Beach Road: $693,000 ($764,190)
1034 Fairfield Beach Road: $647,010 ($813,500)
26 Rhoda Ave.: $1,141,980 ($1,120,840)
104 Rhoda Ave.: $545,160 ($586,740)
133 Rhoda Ave.: $531,090 ($474,880)
144 Harbor Road: $1,421,910 ($1,697,360)
330 Harbor Road: $1,296,960 ($1,750,000)
1085 Harbor Road: $2,275,070 ($1,080,170)
537 Congress St.: $248,360 ($275,660)
1185 Congress St.: $618,450 ($658,280)
2333 Congress St.: $454,300 ($517,230)
7 Melville Ave.: $215,600 ($212,170)
80 Melville Ave.: $263,970 ($239,050)
499 Melville Ave.: $262,290 ($256,480)
34 Edgewood Place: $256,060 ($259,420)
78 Edgewood Place: $248,500 ($265,650)
118 Edgewood Place: $277,340 ($290,290)
20 Grasmere Ave.: $167,160 ($168,140)
63 Grasmere Ave.: $194,600 ($188,090)
228 Grasmere Ave.: $235,900 ($211,890)
22 Veres St.: $310,450 ($324,800)
134 Veres St.: $311,850 ($318,430)
336 Veres St.: $629,510 ($516,460)
Fairfield Woods Road
18 Fairfield Woods Road: $157,080 ($173,460)
175 Fairfield Woods Road: $140,980 ($146,020)
1225 Fairfield Woods Road: $575,190 ($827,500)
“About 75 to 80 percent of properties are within plus or minus 10 percent of the 2010 levels,” Ross said, the last year a revaluation was done. “The area that saw more decline, a lot more than 10 percent, was the direct shoreline,” Ross said. “That’s what the market was telling us.”
The direct shoreline, he said, includes Fairfield Beach Road and the Pine Creek area. “Some declined more than 10 percent, others less that,” Ross said.
Homes in the Fairfield Beach Road are, he said, are in a distinctive neighborhood. “That was the area that had a greater change than other Fairfield neighborhoods,” he said.
Properties in the beach area — streets north of Fairfield Beach Road — could see larger valuation increases if smaller homes were torn down and replaced with larger houses in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, as has been the case for many properties.
The impact of new Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations and flood zones was the “elephant in the room” at the start of the revaluation process, Ross said. “That was a concern at the meetings,” he said. “We spent a lot of time reseaching it, and worked with the Westport Assessor’s office” to devise a formula.
What they came up with is outlined on the VSG website: “Land values in FEMA-regulated areas will be based on an analysis of sales on non-compliant homes. FEMA-compliant and non-compliant homes will have similar land values. The market value of FEMA compliance will be represented in the value of building improvements. FEMA compliance or non-compliance is reflected in what the market is willing to pay for compliant and non-compliant properties.”
While VSG sent appraisers to every home in town, not everyone let the appraisers inside to conduct an inspection, Ross said, which is permissible. A refusal to allow appraisers inside does not result in a penalty, he said, and is understandable in an age when people are often busy with work and family, and there is a heightened wariness about letting strangers into a home.
“You’re not penalized if you don’t let someone in,” Ross said.
If an appraiser did not get into a property, a questionnaire was sent to the owner to confirm data already on file. “The idea is to keep the information as accurate as possible,” Ross said. “That’s why we did the data mailing.” The questionnaire was also sent to those who allowed their property to be inspected to verify the data that was collected, he said.
There was an 8 percent refusal rate, according to Ross, for the 20,105 local properties to be inspected.
Throughout the revaluation process, the town and VSG held informational hearings for the public to explain each step. “We did 10 of them,” Ross said. “I think it was very educational for people, and they began to understand the process. I thought it was a very good thing to do.”
The meetings’ average attendance was about 25 to 50 people, he said.
Anyone who is not satisfied with the results of the informal hearings with VSG can seek a formal appearance before the Board of Assessment Appeals. An owner does not need to have an informal hearing with VSG beforehand to appear before the board. Those who still do not agree with the board’s decision have a right to file a court appeal.
BAA hearings will be held next March, and appeal requests must be physically filed in the Assessor’s office by Feb. 19. Appeals postmarked Feb. 19, but not received in the office, will not be considered.