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Town assessors work within a unique year

September 10, 2020
Town assessors are managing a unique year with the pandemic resulting in some difficulties in home inspections and some different market trends.

During the Aug. 26 selectmen's meeting, Marybeth Walker of Corcoran Consulting Associates gave the selectmen an update on the assessing activities done this year.

"It has been a little bit more challenging this year both in the office and out in the field," Walker said.

Every year, they will assess a fifth of the town, with the whole town completed over a five year period, visiting around 1,400 properties in that five year period. A town wide revaluation was conducted in 2019 and Walker said the state is now in the process of reviewing and certifying that data. She said this is to make sure their records are accurate and up to date. This isn't meant to adjust the value of a property unless they find something that wasn't on the card.

This year they have been doing their usual assessing duties while managing social distancing and changing how they do things in and out of the field.

"We have still been out in the field doing regular, normal activities, we've just had to be a little bit more flexible with how we are approaching people," Walker said.

She said in the field some people have been welcoming.

"Others have been a little fearful and asked us to go elsewhere and we have," Walker said, saying they will follow up with property owners about inspections as time goes by.

One way they have been able to inspect properties is to take part in virtual tours on the MLS database, though these usually only show favorable sides of the house and not deficits.

Every year they receive a ratio report from the state and will look at if any of the sales are arms-length transactions. So far there have been 280 deed transfers since October of 2019, 195 of which were considered "valid" sales. The remaining were sales made with other factors such as between family members, foreclosure sales, estate sales, and others not included with market factors.

In 2019, the mean evaluated ratio was 97 percent within the market, so far with those 195 sales that rate is closer to 90 percent. She said usually these numbers would mean it was time to do a statistical update to keep up with market value.

"I do not suggest doing that this year because it's a very unique year," Walker said. "We're not finding that sale prices are going down, but the amount of sales have gone down a bit. Part of that was probably in place because there's less on the market. Everybody kind of sat still and didn't do much, they stayed at home."

Walker said if the market stays how it is this will need to be addressed somehow.

Looking at market data the areas with more growth this year are condos and boat slips. Walker said some boat slips are selling for double what they're assessed for, which she said might be motivated by the surge in people doing outdoor activities. She said if they do a town wide update they might focus a bit more on condos and boat slips.

She said they have completed the "normal" work this year which she emphasized is in quotes considering that this isn't a normal year.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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