Local News

Durham's skyrocketing property values stun some homeowners

Posted February 4, 2019 4:39 p.m. EST
Updated February 4, 2019 6:49 p.m. EST

— Local homeowners recently found out what Durham County says their homes are worth, and the notices were jaw-dropping for some.

The county tax office has spent more than two years crunching numbers in the reassessment before issuing the new property value notices last week.

"We went out and looked at every property in the county, about 115,000 parcels that our staff went out to review," said Teresa Hairston, the county's interim tax director. "[We look at] the square footage, the condition of the property, the age, the location – certainly,. anything that a buyer or seller would consider."

Some home values doubled in the reassessment, and many homeowners think the county's numbers are now wrong.

"The more I saw, the crazier they appeared to be – some too high and some way too low," said John Martin, president of the Old North Durham Neighborhood Association.

Martin has spent a lot of time in recent days checking out the numbers online. He cites a single-family home at 1715 Rosetta Drive that sits on less than a quarter-acre and is valued at $123,000, while a multi-family residence next door on a lot more than twice as big is valued at $30,000.

"Now you tell me how two lots next to each other, one is worth four times what the other one is worth," Martin said.

A house at 911 Mangum St. that appeared in the movie "Bull Durham" is now valued at more than $1 million, up from about $635,000 three years ago.

"Nothing has sold at a million dollars," Martin said.

Hairston said the assessment should reflect what people could sell their homes for right now. Durham's growth has driven values up in recent years, she said.

"Durham has become a place that's popular, and so the market has definitely changed," she said.

Concerned homeowners inundated the county tax office with phone calls Monday, she said, adding the officials want to ensure they have the right assessment on every property.

"We are open until 6 o’clock for the next two weeks so that we can take those phone calls, so that people can get us that information to make sure that we can get it right," Hairston said. "Our part is to make sure that we have an accurate value on the property."

Anyone who wants to appeal an assessment can call the tax office at 919-560-0300 or find an appeal form online.

Martin said he fears high values could make property taxes unaffordable for some and could push them out of the area.

"I’ve heard some people say that, yeah, they’re worried that it’ll be very hard for them to afford to pay the taxes," he said. "It could mean moving out of the neighborhood, moving out of the county."

The Durham City Council and the Durham County Board of Commissioners will take the higher assessments into account when they set the tax rates during the 2019-20 budgeting process.