City braces for another dip in real estate values

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With the economic malaise that began in late 2008 taking hold of the economy for the entirety of 2009, its effect on Alexandrias tax base this year could be worse than the year before.

Were expecting a decline [in real estate values] and it will  probably be more significant of a decline than last year, but at least similar to last year, said Cynthia A. Smith-Page, director of the citys Department of Real Estate Assessments. Thats what everybodys anticipating.

Real estate assessments wont be mailed to commercial and residential property owners until mid-February, but the beginning of each calendar year is the effective date of the figures, which are based on 2009 sales, the homes historical worth, improvements and the neighborhoods selling performance. 

The 2010 figures will provide the tax base for city planners to tackle budgetary issues for the upcoming fiscal calendar, highlighted by a budget gap expected to be in the neighborhood of $40 million, according to preliminary city projections. If expectations prove true, it would mean even more dire straights for city coffers than last year.

 Our assessments will not come out until probably February 10, she said. January 1 is the effective date of the new assessed value, she continued, but the values arent completed until sometime in the next three weeks or so.

The overall value of the citys property tax base decreased about 2 percent last year about $724 million from 2008 to about $34.28 billion, according to the city. Smith-Page said residential housing stock makes up about 56 percent of the property tax base.

The average residents home value had dropped almost $24,000 nearly 5 percent at this time last year, according to last years real estate assessments. About 11 percent of the citys homes were assessed at the same value as the previous year.

The residential percentage of Alexandrias real property tax base peaked at 61.8 percent in 2006 after six consecutive years of increases. Last year represented the third year of a decline in the residential percentage, leading towards greater balance in the tax base.

The commercial market actually increased by 1.2 percent in value last year, bolstered in large part by new construction, according to the city.

Arlingtons numbers are expected to be released by the end of the month, making them one of the first barometers in the region, Smith-Page said, and Fairfax County statistics usually come out shortly after Alexandrias.

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