May 20—Even though Lewiston hasn't experienced the explosive growth of some other Idaho cities, property values in Nez Perce County are still shooting up, perhaps like never before, according to Assessor Dan Anderson.
"I never thought Nez Perce County would have million-dollar sales, but we have million-dollar sales," Anderson said. "And I'm not talking about farm ground."
With property assessments for calendar year 2020 going in the mail early next month, Anderson wanted to give owners a heads-up about the shock some may feel when they tear open the envelope and see the value of their home has gone through the proverbial roof.
Even if that is the case, it won't be known if a higher assessed value will mean higher taxes until all the local taxing agencies set their budgets later this year. New construction is on a strong pace, which should broaden the tax base and spread out some of the pain. There were 94 new homes built in Nez Perce County in 2019, and 100 in 2020.
"This year so far, we've had 140 building permits issued," Anderson said. "Look where we are, and it's not even June."
But Anderson said it might not be enough.
"I couldn't look you in the eye and tell you that you won't see an increase in your taxes," he said. "But you need to remember, a 20 percent increase in your value doesn't mean a 20 percent increase in your taxes."
Values are based on actual sales from the previous calendar year, so the downright shocking prices some people are getting for their homes over the last several months could have an even more dramatic effect on values next year. Chief Deputy Appraisal Coordinator Brad Bovey shared three examples of the exorbitant prices some people are willing to pay for all kinds of homes.
Last year, Anderson's office assessed a 3,700-square-foot, four-bedroom, 3.25-bathroom home on Fifth Street in downtown Lewiston at $350,000. That assessment was just raised to almost $385,000. But when it sold in March, the new owners forked over a whopping $490,000.
"When we talk to anybody who sells their house, it's a bidding war," Bovey said.
A 1,100-square-foot, three-bedroom, one-bathroom home on a quarter-acre in the Lewiston Orchards saw its assessed value rise from $149,759 to $188,770 this year. It sold in April for $267,200.
Even manufactured homes aren't immune to the forces of increased demand. A 1,500-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom double-wide built in 1993 and set on a concrete foundation on a third-acre lot saw its value rise from $165,713 to $189,495. It sold in March for $235,000.
"The market has not slowed down," Bovey said.
He added that he's personally seen excavation equipment moving dirt on three new subdivisions outside of Lewiston. And when he checked a couple of weeks ago, there were only 13 existing homes listed for sale in all of Lewiston and 22 in the rest of the county.
All those high sale prices are driving an increase in inflation. In 2019, inflation for the year was 6 percent, or about .5 percent per month. Last year that number hit 21 percent, or almost 2 percent per month.
Property taxes will be constrained somewhat by new caps on the growth of local governmental budgets enacted this year by the Idaho Legislature. Lawmakers also passed a $25,000 increase to the homestead exemption, bringing it to $125,000. But Anderson said that level means only those with home values at approximately $250,000 or lower will be able to take full advantage of the exemption.
Those who have questions about their assessments are always welcome to call Anderson's office at (208) 799-3010 to make an appointment with a staff member who can walk the owner through the assessment process. Bovey said such visits are beneficial to the appraisers too, since they can double-check their data and make adjustments if warranted. And those who are still unhappy with their assessments can file an appeal with the county Board of Equalization to petition for relief.
Mills may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (208) 310-1901, ext. 2266.