New London, NH
At yesterday’s Board of Selectmen’s meeting, Assessor Norm Bernaiche presented the findings of New London’s statistical update of property values. As I reported in my column dated May 11, 2010, the NH Constitution requires that property be valued “anew” every five years. Since 2010 is the year for both New London and Sunapee (Newbury is in 2011), our joint assessing department has been quite busy all summer, analyzing sales, conducting field reviews, and inspecting properties.
At the outset of this process, we projected that there would be very little overall change in value in New London since properties were already assessed on average for 96.9% of their market value (acceptable range is 90-110% of value; the target for this statistical update was 96%). In fact, Mr. Bernaiche reported yesterday that the preliminary estimate of the total “grand list” of New London’s values showed an increase of only 3%, from last year’s $1,070,410,800 to $1,103,626,900 in 2010 (the 2010 figure also includes new value added by building permit activity).
Mr. Bernaiche’s analysis revealed the following general conclusions: 1) base land values have gone up, while base rates for buildings have gone down; 2) very large homes not on the lakes have gone down more than the average; and 3) tracts of land with excess road frontage able to be subdivided have gone up higher than the average (the assessments for properties in Current Use will not be affected).
While some will be surprised to see any increase at all, especially given the regular news coverage about a tough real estate market, New London and the Upper Valley have been somewhat insulated from the national market downturns. New London’s assessment-to-sales ratio of 96.9% indicates that on average, properties continued to sell for more than their assessed value (the use of the words “on average” in this column is important because individual properties may or may not follow the average model).
Greatly affecting this update is another market indicator that showed that higher-priced properties in New London were being treated more favorably than lower-priced properties. This was reflected in the 2009 weighted mean of 92.6% and the “price related differential” (PRD) of 1.04. According to the NH Department of Revenue Administration (DRA), the state agency that oversees municipal property appraisal, a PRD over 1.03 “tends to indicate assessment regressivity (lower-value properties assessed at higher ratios than higher-value properties.” In other words, higher-priced properties in New London were under-assessed, causing disproportionality between
higher and lower-priced properties. It is primarily this adjustment from a weighted mean of 92.6% to 96% that resulted in the 3% town-wide increase of value.
Some of the disproportionality will be resolved by the reduction of values of certain condominium neighborhoods that sales showed had not been holding their values over the last five years. These include Hilltop Place, which on average has fallen in value by 25%, and Highland Ridge and the Seasons, both of which have dropped about 5% on average. Lyon Brook, on the other hand, has shown a 12% increase of value.
The remaining disproportionality will be resolved by adjusting upwards the values of higher-end properties, particularly those on or with access to Lake Sunapee, Pleasant Lake, and Little Sunapee Lake (and, to a lesser extend, certain properties on Messer Pond). One off-lake neighborhood in particular has performed well: sales in Great Pines, off Newport Road, reflect a 50% increase in property value over the last five years.
The assessors carefully reviewed the Town’s many neighborhoods for equity and consistency. At yesterday’s meeting, Mr. Bernaiche pointed out that there are many reasons for property values in different neighborhoods or different classes of property to change at different rates over the last five years: 1) there might not have been sales in a neighborhood five year ago; 2) a neighborhood might have been under- or over-rated in the past; 3) the field reviews found errors in the data on the property tax cards; and/or 4) the current assessors have a different opinion from previous assessors on the appeal of the property.
The assessors will finalize values in New London this week, paying particular focus to properties that changed significantly more or less than the average. The Town hopes to mail out “change in value” notices to all property owners during the week of September 27. At that time, property values will be updated on the Town’s on-line assessing database and all available background information will be posted on the Town’s website
(www.nl-nh.com/assessing) and will be available at the New London Town Offices.
for Tax cards and maps for New London, Newbury and Sunapee.
The notice of value letter will invite New London property owners to meet with the assessors in 20-minute “informal hearings” on October 11-13, 2010 (Sunapee’s hearings will be held October 14-16, which makes for a long week for our assessors). Those interested in scheduling a hearing should speak to Linda Jackman
(firstname.lastname@example.org) or Amy Rankins (email@example.com) at the Town Office (526-4821 ext. 10). If it is determined that the assessors should physically inspect your property to correct any data inconsistencies, then those inspections will be scheduled for later in October prior to the mailing of property tax bills.
We hope to set the new tax rate in early November, and property tax bills, which will contain the new values, will be due no sooner than 30 days after they are mailed. While bills will go out later than usual, we are remarkably close to schedule given the extra work involved to set and confirm new property values.
If after the informal review process you remain dissatisfied with your assessment, once property tax bills are mailed you have until March 1, 2011 to file an application for an abatement (this process can be followed every year between the mailing of the second tax bills and March 1). This essentially gives the assessors from October 2010 until July 1, 2011, to review and make any necessary adjustments to your property’s value.
Generally, our assessors are available to answer questions in New London on Mondays and Tuesdays (526-4821 ext. 17). Over the next few weeks, however, the best way to reach them will be through Linda Jackman or Amy Rankins. As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.
Jessie Levine, Town
375 Main Street
New London, NH 03257
Phone: 603-526-4821 extension 13