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Special Section Archives The Altamont Enterprise, May 26, 2010

Grievance Day was “typical” this year, says assessor
Home values hold steady though sales are slow

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — Grievance Day takes place on the fourth Tuesday of May every year, and Guilderland’s assessor, John Macejka, said the number of people grieving this year is no different than in years’ past.

Grievance Day allows property owners who believe their assessments are too high to ask for a review. Macejka said the town appointed Board of Assessment Review heard roughly 65 grievances this year.

Because of a new state law, Guilderland, like other municipalities, was required to post property assessments, upon which taxes are based, for review before Grievance Day; they are posted on the town website.

According to James Ader, chief executive officer of the Greater Capital Association of Realtors, or GCAR, home values in the area have not been greatly affected by the recent economic downturn. 

GCAR is a trade association of 3,400 real-estate licensees and affiliated professionals, combined to provide knowledgeable and ethical real-estate services to consumers and fellow Realtors.

“When the market was very active and there was a lot of buyer competition several years ago, housing costs shot up quickly, as much as 25 percent in a year in some areas. That was unsustainable,” said Ader. He explained that the Capital Region did not experience as much competition, and therefore, although housing prices did increase, it wasn’t by so much.

“When the economic downturn happened, we didn’t have as far to drop,” said Ader. Macejka agreed with Ader’s view, and said that Guilderland specifically didn’t experience the huge downturn that other parts of the state and country did.

Guilderland currently has an equalization rate of 86.25 percent. The rates are set by the state so that like properties are taxed similarly. For example, if a school district lies in parts of several towns, each of which assesses differently, the rate will equalize those differences so residents pay their fair share of taxes.

“The state will take a sampling of home sales throughout the town, and compare the sale prices to the homes’ assessed values. If sale prices are the same as assessed value, you have an equalization rate of 100 percent,” Macejka said. When sale prices are lower than assessed value, the equalization rate drops.

“We make every effort to get the rate as close to 100-percent as possible without having to do spot re-valuations,” the assessor said. Revaluations occur periodically, when the equalization rate falls far below 100 percent; the last revaluation in Guilderland took place in 2005. It is up to the town board to decide when another revaluation should be conducted.

“Some of the home sales we’ve had within the last year have actually been above the assessed value, so in some cases, there has even been appreciation,” said Macejka.

Although home values haven’t dropped much, the real-estate market is slow. There are 1,175 re-sale, single family homes on the market in Albany County according to the Capital Region Multiple Listing Service. Ader said the average time a house spends on the market is six months. Macejka said it is closer to nine months in Guilderland.

“There is no reason our market shouldn’t be a lot better than it is. The economy is improving nation-wide,” said Ader. He said that when people begin to feel more secure and don’t feel like they need to worry about their jobs, the market will get much better.

“The day went very smoothly,” Macejka concluded on Tuesday. “We heard many cases, each different in its own right. I’d say it was a typical year.”

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