Senior Journalist Dion Lefler has been providing award-winning coverage of local government, politics and business in Wichita for 20 years. Dion hails from Los Angeles, where he worked for the LA Daily News, the Pasadena Star-News and other papers. He’s a father of twins, director of lay servant ministries in the United Methodist Church and plays second base for the Old Cowtown vintage baseball team.
Property values up for 8 out of 10 homes in Sedgwick County
Property valuations are going up for eight out of 10 Wichita-area homeowners, so you’re wealthier and could probably sell your house in a heartbeat.
Unlike previous years, that may or may not affect your property taxes.
Property values are up on 79 percent of homes in Sedgwick County, with the typical increase about 6%, said Mark Clark, county appraiser. Values are unchanged on 19 percent of homes and only 2 percent declined, typically by 5%.
The median value of homes in the county went up from $169,000 in 2019 to $177,000.
“I will tell you we tamped these values down as much as we could,” Clark said.
Ordinarily, rising values would mean higher property taxes.
But the Kansas Legislature appears poised to pass a bill that would require local government to essentially freeze their property tax income at 2020 levels, by reducing tax rates as valuations rise.
Under Senate Bill 13, local governments would only be able to raise property taxes above what they collected the previous year if they publicize and hold a public hearing. Starting next year, they’d also have to mail a notice before the hearing to every property taxpayer.
The bill appears headed for easy approval. It passed the Senate 34-1 and has advanced out of committee in the House.
This year’s rise in property valuation is a matter of supply and demand, Clark said. “There is a severe lack of availability in the housing stock for sale,” he said.
New home building in the county was up by 302 units — 1,481 in 2020 compared to 1,179 in 2019.
“Most of the activity was single-family homes that were priced above $285,000,” Clark said.
New homes are pricey because the material to build them is, Clark said.
A lot of that is attributable to natural disasters such as California wildfires and a record-breaking hurricane season. Those events destroyed a lot of trees that could have been used for lumber and caused a general diversion of building materials for reconstruction along both coasts, he said.
Tax notices were mailed Monday and you have 30 days to appeal.
To file an appeal, sign the form on the back of the valuation notice and send it in.
The appraiser’s office will schedule an informal appeal hearing where you can provide evidence and make your case of why you think your valuation is too high.
Appeal meetings are usually done face-to-face, but this year will be conducted by electronic communications only to protect the staff and homeowners from the COVID-19 pandemic, Clark said.
Some typical examples of evidence that can justify a lowering of the valuation include:
▪ Prices of comparable homes in your neighborhood — if they’re lower. Those can be researched on the appraiser’s office website at www.sedgwickcounty.org/appraiser. Click “Search Property Appraisals” in the upper left corner of the homepage to see how homes in your neighborhood are appraised. Click “Search Real Property Sales” to find homes in your neighborhood that have sold recently and the sale price.
▪ Copies of recent sales contracts or private appraisals by a licensed appraiser.
▪ Photos or other proof of structural damage that would lower the value of the home.
In contrast to residential property, commercial property didn’t see much gain in value in 2020.
The majority of those properties, 56%, saw no increase in valuation. Of the 29% with rising valuation, the typical increase was only about 1%.
Fifteen percent of commercial properties went down in value, but typically by only 2% or so.
The reason commercial real estate didn’t rise like residential is that it’s been a tough year for business.
The pandemic reduced commerce overall and the safety-related grounding of the Boeing 737 Max jetliner rippled through local companies in the aircraft parts and assembly industries, Clark said.