Keene home and business owners may see an adjustment in their property values next year, as the city begins a revaluation.
Under state law, municipalities must perform a revaluation every five years to ensure that the recorded property values are up to date, aligning them with market values. Assessors review properties, the condition they're in and other factors that affect how much a property is worth.
On Thursday evening, the City Council's Finance, Organization and Personnel Committee unanimously recommended that the city contract with Vision Government Solutions to carry out the revaluation, scheduled for 2021.
"As we're all aware, the real estate market is always changing, buyers' and sellers' needs and wants change, neighborhoods change, the cost of building homes change," City Assessor Dan Langille said at the meeting. "So we really want to look at all these things and make sure that we maintain fair and equitable assessments for all the taxpayers within the city."
Langille said the revaluation has been discussed and planned over the last several years, and now is the time to get the contract in place so the work can start.
He said a review committee unanimously determined that Vision Government Solutions, a Massachusetts-based company, would be the best of the three bids, and also the cheapest, at $118,700.
Councilors on the committee had a number of questions. Councilor Terry Clark asked how many properties would be assessed through inspections of their interiors. He was concerned that a lot of properties aren't looked at very closely, and that that could lead to disparities in the listed property values.
"I'm wondering why is it we're actually paying these people [$118,700] if they're not really eyeballing these places to give us actual costs," said Clark, a real-estate agent with the Masiello Group. "Over the last couple of years, real estate prices have not been really in line with assessments."
Langille said properties will be reviewed from the exterior, noting that asking a firm to do interior inspections would easily triple the cost. He said data from his office, routinely updated with information from building permits, will be used to supplement the exterior reviews. Anyone who wants a more complete review of their property can contact the city to set up an appointment, he added.
Councilor Raleigh Ormerod asked how potential changes to downtown zoning that the city is considering might affect assessments
Langille said the firm that carries out the revaluation will be made aware of the proposed zoning changes but will make assessments based on information the city has on file now. If the zoning change goes through, affected properties may have to be looked at again, he said.
Councilor Mitch Greenwald, who is not a member of the committee but owns a number of properties in Keene through his company Greenwald Realty, noted that much has changed amid the economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. He said rents are down significantly and asked if that would be taken into consideration.
Langille said the city will send out questionnaires to get a sense of local businesses' revenues and expenditures, which will be factored into the assessment. He said the assessment will take into account conditions over time.
"Typically, we look for a couple of years," he said. "So we're going to be looking to see maybe what it was prior to the pandemic versus what it is now so we can really determine what the effect is."