The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

City Assessor still working to value flood-damaged property; here’s a window into how it’s done

In Floods on February 16, 2009 at 4:54 pm

City Assessor Scott Labus reports that it’s not been easy coming up with assessments for the city’s flood-damaged property.

He hopes to have the job complete in early April.

In his newsletter, which he calls ViewPoint, Labus provides some insight into how he is going about trying to come up with fair numbers for those with flood-damaged properties.

It’s eye-opening for every resident because the value of all the property in the city matters to every single resident. A drop in value once place — and, hence, a drop in the amount of property-tax revenue coming from that place — could increase the burden on property elsewhere in the city.

Labus reports that his office began confronting what the flood would do to the city’s property value even as the flood was hitting last June. At the flood’s crest, Labus arranged to take aerial photographs to identify exactly where the flood reached.

He then used the city’s GIS mapping system to pinpoint which properties were affected by flood water. In total, his office found some 2,700 parcels with actual structural damage, he says.

His office hired two additional appraisers, and in October, his enlarged staff began visiting all the damaged properties to come up with an estimate of valuation loss for each property. To determine the size of each property’s valuation loss, the assessor takes into account the general economic climate in the affected area by looking at sale prices and trends. Now the office is heading back out to revisit each property again before arriving at a final, new valuation.

For homes in which the structure is a complete loss, the valuation of the property will be the value of the land minus the estimated cost to demolish the property, Labus reports.

Flood-damaged homes that have been restored, he adds, won’t necessarily see an increase in valuation from the pre-flood level once the adjustment is made for the overall economic health of the flood-damaged neighborhood.

The downtown is the city’s most concentrated area of valuation, and the basements and first floors of many downtown buildings were flooded. Labus said about 50 percent of the value of a first floor derives from the shell of the building and 50 percent from the interior.

Commercial valuations also are based on the net income a parcel produces. The assumption for now is that rental income for most first floors will be lost for an entire year, Labus says.

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