PLAISTOW — Shock ran through Jerry Kamitian’s mind as he opened a letter from the town alerting him to his new assessed property value.
Between 2017 and 2019 Kamitian’s Oak Ridge Road home rose in assessed value by 25% from $314,530 to $393,750 — a $79,220 increase in value, according to town documents.
Kamitian doubts that he could get that price for his home, which hasn’t been updated recently.
“I’d be thrilled if I could get that amount of money, but I don’t think I could,” he said.
Plaistow residents like Kamitian were troubled last week when they received letters with their updated property values, which seemed higher than usual, multiple residents said.
The vast majority of residential properties increased in assessed value an average of 24%, according to Francine Hart, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen.
“It’s a great news for people looking to sell their homes, but it might be (initially) troubling to people who are staying in their homes,” Hart said.
Property values are used to determine tax bills, and it is unclear how higher assessments will affect homeowners when the new rate is set.
It doesn't necessarily mean taxes will rise in accordance with property values. It does mean the same budget will be spread over a larger tax base — about $178 million greater, Hart said.
Though the new assessed values will be used for December tax bills, budgets passed earlier this year haven’t changed, Hart said.
Right now Kamitian says it’s a waiting game to see what the tax rate is.
“Hopefully the tax rate does go down. (The tax rate) typically goes up 3-5% a year and if that’s the case (from what he paid last year) it’s OK, but I’m waiting to see how the tax rate drops in accordance with these numbers,” Kamitian said. “I’ll be mighty upset if it doesn’t.”
The state of New Hampshire mandates that assessed property values be as close to market value as possible, requiring towns update assessments every five years at a minimum.
Home values can be assessed more often if needed, which is determined by the town, explained James Gerry, director of the municipal and property division for the state’s Department of Revenue Administration.
“We’ve seen quite a bit of concern from people about property values increasing in the state, but that doesn’t always translate to higher taxes,” Gerry said. He suggests checking your property card to ensure the town’s assessor is evaluating the property on correct information if the assessment seems high.
Rising property values are a trend that Gerry’s office has been seeing around the state, especially in southern New Hampshire.
Nearby Pelham has also seen assessed property values sink below market rate, town assessor Monica Hurley said. To bring values more inline with the current market, town officials have done a statistical update of assessed property values, she said.
“It’s hard to keep up with the market,” Hurley said. “But our job is to keep up with the marketplace.”
Single family homes in Pelham increased on average about 12%, Hurley said.
Though assessed values are used to levy taxes, Hurley reiterated property owners should not immediately worry about such large tax increases.
“Don’t panic when you see the assessed value, wait until your tax rate comes out,” she said.
Overall with increased property values residents should see proportionate drops in the property tax rate unless additional expenses are added into the budget, she said. Lots of new construction in the area will also widen the tax base, she said.
According to Plaistow’s records, single-family homes sold over the past year routinely sold well over the 2018 assessed property values. For example, in September 2018 16 Witch Lane sold for $312,000 — $105,870 over the 2018 assessed value, according to town records.
Hurley said that when people see their assessed values it should line up with what they could potentially get for their homes on the open market.
According to town records, a majority of homes sold between October 2018 and August 2019 were priced more in line with the 2019 assessed values. Out of the 63 single family homes sold in that time 45 — 71% — sold above the 2019 assessed values. The other 18 single family homes sold in the area went for less than their assessed values.
Lynne Grady was surprised to see her home increase in assessed value by $108,720 when she received her letter in the mail. Her single family home was built in 2008, and they hadn’t done any improvements to it, she said.
However, there was a discrepancy in her Old County Road home’s market value in 2016. She had her home appraised by the bank to refinance, and the home was valued at $440,000, significantly higher than the town’s assessed value of $384,540, according to 2017 town records.
Today knowing that assessed value should be close to market value, Grady agreed she could probably get $493,000 for her home. However, she is still concerned about what the tax rate will be this upcoming cycle.
The overall housing market has seen some slowing down in recent months, but southern New Hampshire is still a hot spot, local real estate agent Lisa Sears said.