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Orange County home values leap 25 percent in tax revaluation

Some Orange county homeowners said they are worried about the economic blow higher property taxes could deliver. Assessors appraised homes an average of 23 to 25 percent higher than four years ago.

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HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. — Amid a housing market in turmoil, homeowners in some counties will get what might be an unwelcome notice in the mail: property tax revaluations.

Chatham, Cumberland, Edgecombe, Nash, Orange and Warren counties were reassessing home values in order to adjust property taxes.

In Orange County, tax assessors posted preliminary results online, and some homeowners have already said they are worried about the economic blow higher property taxes could deliver.

"I'm angry. They basically want to steal money from me. They want to take food off my table," said Don O'Leary, adding that assessors raised the value of his Hillsborough home 25 percent.

Tax officials said that overall, homes were worth an average of 23 to 25 percent more than four years ago. In Chapel Hill, the average increase was 28 percent.

The value of living in Orange County has driven home values up, county tax assessor John Smith said.

"Orange County is a great place to live," Smith said. "We've got universities. We've got parks. We've got transportation. We've got the Research Triangle. We've got the hospitals."

Assessors based property tax revaluations on houses' real-estate value for the past four years.

In November, the average house price in the Triangle dropped $23,686 from October, homes stayed on the market for 100 days – the highest average in two years – and nearly 1,000 fewer homes were sold than in November 2007, according to the Triangle Multiple Listing Service.

O'Leary said the method of calculating property taxes every four years unfairly discounts the slump in the housing market.

"It's unheard of to raise somebody's property taxes 20 to 30 percent when the housing market is going down across the board," he said.

Usually, county commissioners lower the tax rate when home values go up, and Smith said he expects that to happen this time around as well.

O'Leary said that even if the money evens out, homeowners will still be hurt by higher values.

"Here they want to raise the property values, and people can't sell their house as it is," he said.

But Smith said he did not think the effect of revaluations would be so detrimental to the local housing market.

"I'm not seeing sales that indicate that the market has gone bad. The market has certainly flattened out somewhat, but we are looking at a four-year timetable," Smith said.

Homeowners should receive their notice by mail Jan. 6. Forms to appeal the decision are available online and at the Tax Assessor's Office in the Gateway Center, 228 S. Churton St. Suite 200 in Hillsborough. Appeals can be made into the summer.

O'Leary pointed to a printed-out appeals form and said he planned to submit it.

"I have to fill all of this out, and, apparently, everyone in Orange County is going to have to get one of these," he said.


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