Reval reflects a depressed market

SPECTRUM/Realtor Andrea Swiedler leafs through her information in front of a recwntly sold home on Forest Drive in New Milford. Feb. 17, 2011.
SPECTRUM/Realtor Andrea Swiedler leafs through her information in front of a recwntly sold home on Forest Drive in New Milford. Feb. 17, 2011.Carol Kaliff

Matt and Doreen McNally of New Milford were disheartened when they received their new property assessment.

The value of their three-bedroom, ranch house in the northeastern section of town had plummeted.

Homes in their neighborhood, built in the 1980s, were assessed from a bit less than $200,000 to about $205,000 in 2005.

Today, that assessment ranges from $175,000 to $185,000.

Generally, the value of homes has gone up during revaluations required by state law every 10 years.

This year is different, reflective of a weak housing market, real estate agents say.

Though many homeowners may be shocked to see the decline, there could be a benefit of correspondingly lower taxes.

However, there's no guarantee.

Matt McNally is a police lieutenant in Danbury. Doreen McNally works in the accounting department at Neeltran Corp. in New Milford. They have three children from middle school to college age.

The couple also saw the value decline on the Willow Springs condominium rental property they bought in 2005.

Doreen McNally said they expected that decrease -- the condo is now assessed at $99,680, down from about $112,000.

They did not expect the lessened assessment of the house they bought in 1992.

"It is very unsettling,'' Doreen McNally said.

There is an upside, however.

The depressed value of the home could mean a lower tax bill this year. The assessment is 70 percent of market value.

The McNallys and other homeowners will not know the exact amount of taxes they must pay until the town and school budget referendum in May, and the final mill rate is determined.

New Milford's revaluation process showed a general decline in value across the town.

Vision Appraisal Technology of Northboro, Mass., inspected 12,000 properties, 8,500 of them single-family homes.

Single-family home values decreased by an average of 8 percent; commercial properties declined 2 percent; vacant land value decreased 18 percent; apartments and condominiums fell 4 percent; and industrial property fell 2 percent, according to revaluation records.

Mayor Pat Murphy has proposed a $91.3 million town and school budget, an increase of about 1 percent.

That amount would increase the mill rate from 22.7 to 24.63, or 8.5 percent, to compensate for a $4 million, or 6 percent, decrease in the grand list.

The grand list is the value of real estate, motor vehicle and personal property.

In 2010, the grand list was $2.93 billion, as compared with $3.124 billion in 2005.

Town tax assessor Kathy Conway explained revaluation is a state-mandated process for all municipalities.

In 2005, the town underwent a statistical revaluation to document new properties and market values.

The 2010 appraisal was the 10-year version, which required inspection of all 12,000 properties in town, including 8,500 residential properties, commercial properties and other personal property and land.

The revaluation cost $67,000.

Ms. Conway said this 10-year revaluation is an anomaly because it did not result in higher property values.

New Milford's revaluation reflects economic trends tainting the real estate market in every town and city in the state, as well as across the nation, said Vision Appraisal's vice president, David Arnold.

Ms. Conway said she has not had many complaints so far, but it is still early. Tax bills are mailed in July.

She said the town has to collect money to pay for services, such as schools and police officers.

Andrea Swiedler, a Prudential Adams Realtor, said she believes the revaluation has been relatively positive, because it helps buyers and sellers be realistic about the market.

In the not-so-distant past, she said, many houses sold at inflated prices.

"Now the numbers are real,'' Ms. Swiedler said.

Ray Jankowski, the town's finance director for more than 20 years, said revaluation is all about making sure assessments are fair for all taxpayers.

"In my time here," he said, "we've always gone up in values during revaluation.

It's a different view. But I don't think anyone is really surprised that values are less.''

To better understand the revaluation process, visit the town's website at www.newmilford.org.