Local News

Opinions Mixed on Wake County Land Transfer Tax

Posted September 26, 2007 12:40 a.m. EDT
Updated September 26, 2007 9:35 a.m. EDT

— Wake County is growing fast, adding an estimated 98 people a day. Some people are organizing an effort to have residents cover some of the cost of that growth when they sell real estate. It is called a land transfer tax, and some want it on the 2008 ballot in Wake County.

John Olds has worried since May about the possibility of a land transfer tax. He has already felt the pinch of a tightening real estate market while trying to sell his home.

"I think it has been more difficult, but we have had a steady flow of [house] showings,” said Olds.

If tax proponents succeed, homeowners like Olds would pay 0.4 percent of the price to Wake County when they sell a piece of real estate.

"It's just another factor that decreases that amount of equity that you are going to be able to get on the house,” Olds said .

The group, Wake Up Wake County, is in favor of the transfer tax if the money goes toward education. The 2007 General Assembly gave counties permission to seek voter approval for the 0.4 percent land transfer tax.

"We have to get the county commissioners to put it on the ballot," said Karen Rindge, of Wake Up Wake County.

Wake Up Wake County is already lobbying hard.  They have met with several Wake County commissioners, including Chairman Tony Gurley. Gurley wants to put both the land transfer tax and a quarter-cent sales tax increase on the ballot. By law, though, the county could impose only one.

Members of Wake Up Wake County want only the land transfer tax passed.

"A transfer tax can raise twice as much money than a sales tax in Wake County,” said Rindge.

Rindge's group estimates the land transfer tax would yield about $50 million a year that would stay in Wake County and could go to new schools.

"We think it's a fair way to go,” said Rindge.

The North Carolina Homebuilders Association has already come out against the idea.

"Schools are something that benefit everybody and everybody should pay for them, not just the people that are selling their home,” said Lisa Martin, regulatory affairs director of the N.C. Homebuilders Association.

Some real estate agenta argue that the land transfer tax could tighten the housing market even more.

County commissioners said they likely won't even talk about putting the tax on the 2008 ballot until November.

Gurley said he would like to see how the tax does in other counties. Brunswick, Chatham, Gates, Henderson, Hoke, Macon, Moore, Pender, Polk, Swain and Union counties have put the land transfer tax option on their 2007 ballots, according to the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners.

Davie, Graham, Harnett, Johnston and Rutherford counties are asking voters to approve both the land transfer tax and the quarter-cent sales tax.