Appeals of property valuations soar in Maricopa County
Amid market slump, owners dispute tax assessor’s data
by Alia Beard Rau – Nov. 10, 2009 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

The Maricopa County Assessor’s Office is working its way through the largest wave of property-valuation appeals in nearly two decades as real-estate values continue to decline and owners try to save money in the lagging economy.

Appeals have been growing for the past five years, but they have leaped by nearly 50 percent in the past two years alone.

Maricopa County Assessor Keith Russell said his office saw 13,251 appeals in 2007 for residential, commercial and vacant land. As property values began to fall, the number of appeals rose to 17,213 last year and to 19,801 this year. The biggest spike over those three years was for commercial appeals, followed by residential.

In 2005, when property prices were rising rapidly and assessments had not caught up to market values, total appeals were nearly half of what they are today.

The final deadline to appeal your property valuation this year is Dec. 15.

This year’s valuations were established in January and mailed to owners in February. But the taxes based on those valuations aren’t due to be paid until the fall of 2010, an 18-month lag that creates a disconnect between the value the county puts on a property and what an owner considers its value in today’s market.

Valuation notices indicate both a “full cash value” and a “limited property value,” the two categories by which various property taxes are determined. The full cash value, which is intended to closely resemble market value, can be appealed. If you don’t think you could have sold your home on Jan. 1 for the full cash value listed on the valuation, you may want to consider an appeal.

Over the past couple of decades, appeals have typically risen when the market declined, Russell said.

“When we don’t have as much money coming in, we all look at the bottom line, whether that’s insurance being paid for the car or property taxes,” he said.

Appeals hit record numbers during the late 1980s and into the 1990s when, Russell said, the Assessor’s Office was flooded with as many as 28,000 a year.

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