Government & Politics

Will JoCo home appraisals skyrocket again this year, taxpayers? Location is everything

JOCO home values continue to rise

Johnson County is sending appraisal notices to about 198,000 residential property owners. Values keep going up, but not quite at the frenzied pace of the past few years.
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Johnson County is sending appraisal notices to about 198,000 residential property owners. Values keep going up, but not quite at the frenzied pace of the past few years.

Johnson County homeowners who were stunned by skyrocketing property value increases in recent years may breathe a little easier when they receive this year’s appraisal notices in the mail.

“The market has cooled somewhat,” Johnson County Appraiser Paul Welcome told The Star. “It’s not at the frenzied pace it was last year.”

Appraisal notices go out Monday to about 198,000 residential property owners in the county, and those values help determine what people pay in property taxes.

Beginning Monday, people can also check their 2019 appraisals online, by address, at https://jocogov.org/dept/appraiser/property-data.

Last year, many homeowners were shocked by property value increases of 15 percent or more, especially in the particularly desirable northern Johnson County neighborhoods of Prairie Village, Roeland Park and Fairway. Some neighborhoods in Overland Park, Merriam and Mission had 10 percent increases, and parts of Lenexa and southern Johnson County had increases just under 10 percent.

The county is responsible for appraising property at its fair market value. Last year’s increases stemmed from a super-charged real estate market, with too many buyers chasing too few homes. For people wanting to sell their homes, it was a great opportunity. But for longtime homeowners, including seniors on fixed incomes, the rising appraisals meant property tax increases of several hundred dollars or more, putting a strain on tight household budgets.

Welcome said Johnson County is still a robust real estate market, and residential property values continue to rise, as they have since 2014, after the recession. Median home sale prices in Johnson County rose from $250,000 in December 2016 to $285,000 in December 2018.

More than 90 percent of residential properties will see their county appraisals increase in 2019. But the percentage increases aren’t as dramatic as in recent years. About three-fourths of residential properties will see a bump of 10 percent or less, with almost half of those properties going up 5 percent or less.

A color-coded county map, illustrating average percentage increases by area, shows that the biggest increase of more than 10 percent is still on large lots in northern and southern Prairie Village. Parts of Fairway, Leawood, original Shawnee town and old Olathe are up 8 to 10 percent. Parts of western Shawnee, Roeland Park, Merriam, Mission and Lenexa are up between 5 and 8 percent and other parts of the county are up less than 5 percent.

Welcome said the highest demand remains for homes under $350,000. He said too few homes are on the market to meet demand throughout the county.

“It’s definitely a seller’s market at this time,” he said.

Two real estate agents with years of experience in Johnson County said the home sales market is still going strong in the county. While last summer’s frenzied sales pace has abated somewhat, that may be due to the persistent wintry weather more than anything else, they said, and springtime could see a big uptick in activity.

“I suspect as soon as the weather breaks, we’re going to be right back there,” said real estate agent Sherri Hines.

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Hines said she had a home on the market for $225,000 in Overland Park last weekend and had 25 showings, but only one offer, which was accepted. That’s in contrast to last year, when it wasn’t uncommon for sellers to receive multiple offers, even above asking price.

“The activity is not quite as crazy,” she said. “It calmed around through the fall, and this lousy winter has kept things a little calmer.”

Both Hines and real estate agent Susan Bowers didn’t think interest rates have put the brakes on home sales. The average fixed rate for a 30-year mortgage had ticked up close to 5 percent a few months ago, but is now back below 4.5 percent.

Bowers said the majority of Johnson County homes sold in the past four months were in the $200,000 to $300,000 range but many homes also sold between $300,000 and $400,000. She said the average time on the market in January was 56 days. In January 2018, homes stayed on the market for an average of 50 days.

Last year, about 6,700 homeowners challenged the county’s appraisal as too high, based on what they thought the house could sell for on the open market. About half of those received an adjustment.

People wishing to appeal can fill out a form to request an adjustment and mail it back to the appraiser’s office. The deadline to appeal is March 27.

This year, for the first time, homeowners also can appeal online. The instructions are on the back of the appraisal notice. More information is at jocogov.org/appraiser.

“The appeals process this year is more customer service friendly,” Welcome said. Those wishing to appeal online will find a code, or PIN number, on the back of their notice, so the county can verify that the legitimate owner is appealing the value.

Appraisal officials will consider new and convincing information that the county’s value was too high.

“It’s really a conversation that we want to have about your house,” Welcome said. “You know the house better than I do. We need to know what you think is right or wrong.”

The appeal conversation can occur over the phone or in person. Final results after appeals will be issued by May 20.

Lynn Horsley reports on Johnson County for the Kansas City Star, focusing on government, politics, business development and battles over growth and change in the county. She previously covered City Hall in Kansas City for 19 years and has a passion for helping readers understand how government affects their lives.


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