If you find a yellow card on your doorknob, you probably missed the inspectors who are fanning out through Jersey City to gather information for the upcoming reevaluation of property.
The inspectors are coming into each neighborhood during the hours between 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. to determine the actual market rate value of properties, for a reval to be concluded by Nov. 1 this year.
The yellow card on your door knob will, of course, have contact information that allow property owners to reschedule an appointment from 5 to 7 p.m.
“We understand that people have to work or that they may have concerns about our people coming during the day when there are children in the house,” said Mark Duda, vice president of Appraisal System, the firm hired to conduct the city’s reevaluation of property. “But because we need to examine the exterior of properties as well, we need to do this during the day.”
The come back if they are not let in the first time, and leave a blue ticket to alert the property owner that he or she should call for an inspection of the interior.
The overall value of the city property tax base will rise, and the tax burden will be spread out across many more properties, so that could lessen the impact on individuals.
Revaluation reassesses the value of all properties up to their actual potential sales value. This may help people who bought newer properties that went down in value. However, many properties in the city are assessed at values that are decades old compared with more recent properties constructed or sold.
While a revaluation theoretically would increase the potential tax on older homes, city officials say the impact might not be as drastic as people would expect. The overall value of the city property tax base will rise, and the tax burden will be spread out across many more properties, so that could lessen the impact on individuals.
Since Jersey City has not conducted a revaluation in 28 years, the average property is assessed at 23 percent of its market value. Any figure under 80 percent, the state contends, is in violation of state statutes and requires the city to conduct a revaluation.
It’s a different city now
Duda said Jersey City has changed significantly since 1988, the market value of property has skyrocketed, leaving a confused landscape in which some properties are over assessed while many older properties are seriously under assessed. This is created a windfall for appeals attorneys filing challenges to city taxes, and put the city in the poor economic conundrum of having to pay out refunds.
Last year, the state of New Jersey ordered Jersey City along with several other delinquent municipalities elsewhere to conduct a reevaluation of property, giving them until Nov. 1 this year to complete the process or risk losing state aid.
Jersey City has not completed a reevaluation since 1988, although the city did attempt to do one in 2013, a process stopped when Mayor Steven Fulop took office.
In order to help alleviate fears rumor and misinformation that the reval has engendered, Fulop set up the series of information meetings.
Concerned residents showed up at City Hall on March 22 for one of a series of revaluation public sessions where they learned about the process first hand and raised questions that might not have been made clear by the literature issued. While property owners can challenge these assessments through an appeal, the best way is to allow inspectors in and then meet with the assessment company to challenge the details before resorting to tax appeals.
Appraisal first, tax bill second
Some alarmed residents were concerned by the increased value translating into increased taxes. While Duda said a revaluation program seeks to spread the tax burden equitably within a taxing district by appraising property according to its true value and assessing it based upon such value, he admitted that properties currently undervalued will likely see an increase, while properties currently overvalued would see a reduction in taxes.
“But how much tax people pay is based on the city budget, our job is to assess property at their proper value based on market rate,” he said.
The assessment will be based on recent sales of property in Jersey City for a two year period ending on Oct. 1, 2017 with the strongest emphasis on most recent sales closest to Oct. 1 cutoff.
While Duda stressed that the reval would not determine what people pay in taxes, he did admit that values would more reflect market rate, so that taxes people owe would be based on true value of their property.
Fulop said the process make for a fairer system of taxation, but the revaluation would not increase the city’s overall tax receipts. Newer homes tend to be assessed at a rate that is closer to actual value – the amount property can be sold for in the modern day. So older homes tend to assessed much lower than they are actually worth and pay less in their share of taxes to the city, county and schools.
Property owners throughout the city first received an information packet from Appraisal Systems informing property owners that they will be canvassing properties.
Inspectors would then visit properties unannounced during the day, to measure the exteriors and if possible interiors, evaluating properties on a number of key factors such as parking, views, location in regards to public transportation as well as interior improvements such as finished basements or attics. Sketches will be made of the building to determine style, condition, and such, factors that would be used in comparing these properties to other property recently sold. These factors would go into determining that the market rate value of the property might be if sold today.
If an inspector cannot gain access, a card is left, indicating a time when the inspector would return in the evening. If not able to access an interior, the assessment will likely be the top value for similar houses in the neighborhood, Duda said.
Although sales isn’t the only determining factor, it is significant, Duda said.
Although rumor suggested there would be a huge tax spike for some properties, Duda said the assessment is not about increase in taxes. The city determines taxes, and the revaluation company’s role is simply to determine that actual potential sale value of each property.
Duda offered an overview of the process that will take place between now and Oct. 1 when the final figures for the assessments are due to be calibrated.
“We intend to inspect every property in the city,” he said. “This will be a long task, but necessary.”
The firm hopes to complete collecting the data by Oct. 1 and have it analyzed by December, at which time residents will be informed of the new assessed value. Representatives of the firm would then give residents an opportunity to dispute some of the findings in one on one meetings with the firm.
These assessments as well as the assessments of all properties in the city will be posted on the city’s website for the public to review, giving property owners in each neighborhood the opportunity to look at other similar properties and compare.
Once complete, the company will give the results to the city and county, at which point, residents who are not happy with the result can take the matter to the county tax appeal court.
There are still several public hearings for residents to attend one on April 10, 7:30 p.m., in School 28, 167 Hancock Ave. The other will be held on April 11, 7:30 p.m., School 7, 222 Laidlaw Ave.
For additional information visit, ASINJ.com or email JerseyCity@asiNJ.com.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.