New property valuation doubled some Houlton property assessments

7 months ago

HOULTON, Maine — Many Houlton residents could see increases in their property tax bills that are going out on Friday, even though the tax rate dropped 2 mills. A market adjustment is the cause, according to the town assessor.

Assessments for the town’s 3,109 parcels have not changed in 18 years even though the state requires towns and cities to assess properties every 10 years. So a recent required revaluation after a nearly two-decade hiatus nearly doubled some home valuations for the 2023 tax year.

“Some changed more than others.” assessor Terry Duff said, pointing to the 18-year span. “The higher-end market for better quality homes that need no work has gone up higher than the market for houses that need a lot of work.”

And as the valuations go up, the property taxes may also rise, she said.  

Duff decided to complete a market adjustment project versus a full revaluation with each property inspected, much like town assessors in Kennebunkport and Biddeford, who also chose to forego the costly revaluation. The move saved the Aroostook County town between $200,000 and $400,000, Duff said. 

Of the town’s 3,109 properties, 333 property valuations increased more than 40 percent; 17 neighborhoods were more than 40 percent and the remaining 86 were below 40 percent, according to Duff.

A Bangor Daily News random survey of Houlton properties found assessment increases from 2022 to 2023 on various streets, ranging from 40 percent to more than 100 percent. 

For example, a property on Foxcroft Road went from $58,650 to $100,800; a property on Fair Street went from $81,650 to $150,100; a property on Elm Street went from $42,450 to $88,800; a property on Pleasant Street went from $174,850 to $282,900; and a property on Pearce Avenue went from $64,050 to $124,400. 

Depending on exemptions and the accuracy of the valuation, even with the reduced mill rate of 20.6, taxes on some of these properties will increase considerably.  A property previously valued at $64,000 may have had a tax bill of $1,440, but with a new valuation of $124,400, the taxes could be about $ 2,562. 

The new assessment values came from property data on file, current market conditions and values, sales and updated cost schedules, Duff said.

“It is very reasonable after a market adjustment project or revaluation that assessed values are in line with sales prices,” she said. 

Nonetheless, a property owner could have a home that 18 years ago was in pretty good condition, but has deteriorated over the years. Because the parcels were not inspected individually, Duff would not know this and she said property owners need to contact her  to make an adjustment in the assessment and tax if that’s the case.

“I want to have that data and correct it because if not, you’re overpaying,” she said.

Detailed property information is online at the town’s property assessment page. Click on the tax map section and then search by address or name to get the current property information.  

This information not only lists the owner and square footage, in-depth property cards include condition, photos and drawings, acreage, number of rooms, number of bathrooms, basements, garages, year built, renovations, heating and cooling systems, porches and other property features.  

Maine requires property assessments every 10 years or state tax exemptions will drop. Because it had been so long since the town revalued properties, Houlton property owners only received 95 percent of their approved Homestead, Blind and Veterans exemptions last year, Duff said. 

The combination of decades-old property values and skyrocketing home sale prices pushed Houlton’s property ratios — assessed value compared with sales in the market — below the state’s minimum for a full state exemption, Duff said. 

That’s when she decided to tackle a market adjustment project.

The town’s ratios are back within the Maine Revenue Service range and property owners qualifying for Homestead, Blind or Veteran’s exemptions will get 100 percent of their tax exemptions this year, she said.

The 2023 tax bills are due Oct. 15.