Despite an opposing national trend, property values in Moffat County remain stable, mostly because home prices have not declined. The average home sale price in the county increased from December 2007 to December 2008, showing the area's stubbornness amid the national recession.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Despite an opposing national trend, property values in Moffat County remain stable, mostly because home prices have not declined. The average home sale price in the county increased from December 2007 to December 2008, showing the area's stubbornness amid the national recession.

Home values remain steady despite national trend

— Unlike the early 1990s, when some mortgages cost more than a home's valuation, property values in Moffat County have remained stable during the latest national recession.

Jennifer Riley, Moffat County Assessor's Office chief appraiser, said values are based on sale prices, not the number of sales. Despite a slight drop in the number of homes sold, prices are not falling.

"Some people say they want their value to go down, but when property values go down, it's a bad sign," Riley said. "It happened here in the early 1990s - people were upside down in mortgages, and the bottom fell out of the market."

The average sale price of a home in Moffat County increased from $177,087 in December 2007 to $188,631 in December 2008, but sales slipped from 10 houses to nine, according to the Assessor's Office.

The situation is similar in Rio Blanco County, where the average home sale price increased from $152,300 in December 2007 to $192,500 in December 2008.

It does not appear the housing market will bottom out, either, Riley said, especially in the city of Craig, where homes are selling at a similar rate as they were a year ago. Most of the market's slow-down has occurred in the county.

"During the first three months of this year, sale prices have not gone down," she said. "In March, sales were down by five from last year, but the prices have remained stable."

Sandra King, Craig Association of Realtors president, said the market has shown itself to be resilient.

"Financing is still available; lenders are lending," King said. "Things are moving along - maybe not flying off the shelf, but moving right along."

There are definite patterns, however, which could signal a future fall in prices.

"It's been a little slower than previous years, but the homes that are priced to sell have been selling," King said. "Sometimes, if a house is listed higher, it might sit for a little longer."

A healthy housing market may not please everyone, though.

An increase in prices means an increase in values, and subsequently higher property taxes.

Moffat County, along with the rest of Colorado, recently underwent a reappraisal for all property, and officials have said landowners may not like what will happen to their tax bills.

Local residents can expect to get their notices of value Friday. Any value increases - officials have said there will be some - will mean higher taxes.

Still, everyone has the right to protest their valuation if they believe their property isn't worth as much as what the county decided, Riley said.

One way to prove that would be to show examples of similar properties that sold for less, if such cases can be found.

"In May, when we send out the notice of value, and someone says, 'My house is not worth $200,000,' they can come in and file a protest and we'll go and look at the house," Riley said. "Sometimes, we'll say 'Yeah, you're right,' because either the house has problems, or the square footage was wrong."

She and her colleagues use a number of factors to determine property values, which are part of the equation that property owners can dispute.

"We start looking at things like the selling price per square foot and different qualities and characteristics to establish a base value for different types of homes," she said. "An older home will be valued lower than a newer one, for example.

"We separate them by what we call economic areas, so we're not comparing a manufactured home in Shadow Mountain to a 2008 custom-built home in Pineridge."

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