SOUTHINGTON – If you bought your home in the last year or got a building permit, you can expect a knock on the door over the next few weeks from assessors doing a revaluation of residential and commercial property.
Every five years, the town updates its estimates for the fair market value of residential and commercial properties. Those valuations, and how much the town needs to fund the budget, determine the mill rate.
The mill rate is the number of tax dollars due on every $1,000 of assessed property value. Properties are assessed at 70 percent of market value.
Since markets and properties change, Town Assessor Teresa Babon said the goal of revaluation is to get accurate estimates for building values. Inspectors will determine if the addition of rooms, a finished basement or other improvements would increase the value of a house.
What should I expect with an inspection?
Assessors with Vision Government Solutions, a company hired by the town, started knocking on doors this week to inspect the inside and outside of some homes. Each assessor has identification and residents can check the identity of anyone claiming to be an assessor by calling the Southington Police Department or the Town Assessor’s office at 860-276-6205.
If the first attempt isn’t successful, Babon said they’ll try again at a different time. After two unsuccessful visits, assessors will send a letter requesting the homeowner contact the company to make an appointment.
“We do really want to get in if at all possible,” Babon said.
State law doesn’t require homeowners to allow inspectors on their property. Babon said the company will still make an estimate of value even if inspectors weren’t granted access.
Does a revaluation mean my taxes will go up?
Taxes owed depends on more than just the assessment. If housing prices rise town-wide, there may be a mill rate decrease since there is more taxable real estate value overall. That last happened in the 2004 revaluation, Babon said. The mill rate dropped from 29.43 in 2004 to 21.4 in the following year.
Even with a lower mill rate, a homeowner whose property has jumped in value may still pay more in taxes.
During the last revaluation in 2014, the mill rate went from 29.14 that year to 29.64 in 2015.
Town leaders also increase the budget, raising the amount of money required to fund town operations for that year and with that the mill rate.
Town Council Chairman Chris Palmieri, a Democrat running for reelection, said his party made good on campaign promises two years ago concerning low taxes. The mill rate stayed flat in 2017 and increased slightly in 2018.
“We had promised we were going to keep taxes at a very reasonable and minimal rate and we absolutely delivered on that,” Palmieri said. “We want to try to do the same moving forward.”
Tom Lombardi, a Republican councilor also running for reelection, said unexpected state aid, economic development and other factors allowed the council to adopt minimal mill rate increases. He said promising a particular tax rate is “irresponsible” but said he’d work to keep taxes as low as possible while still maintaining town services.
“We can promise that every tax dollar is spent as effectively and efficiently as possible,” Lombardi said.
Will my house assessment likely rise or drop?
Matt Denorfia, a real estate agent, said the average single family home price has risen $17,000 from 2015 to 2018.
New home construction and sales pushed up the averages but also helped older homes in good condition. Southington’s location is attractive to homebuyers, Denorfia said, and that’s helped property values.
While the housing market in Southington has risen in the past five years, real estate agent Diana McDougall said a home’s value won’t automatically rise with time. Buyers mostly want turnkey properties that require little if any work before moving in.
“No, your home is not worth more money just because it’s in Southington,” she said. “Buyers today will pay if the house is in good condition.”
In selling homes, she’s often found unpermitted work and improvements that aren’t reflected in town records. McDougall favors home inspections since they can catch unpermitted work and show that planned work, for which permits were pulled, was never done.