July 30. 2013 10:09PM

Bedford takes stock of all town properties

Union Leader Correspondent

BEDFORD — Property owners will soon receive new assessment statements in the mail.

The town began the process in April by going door to door to collect data to calculate each property’s assessed value. The objective is for all property owners to pay a fair share of taxes within their property class and for assessments to be as close to market value as possible.

If you weren’t home at the time or did not return the assessing department’s call, town assessors estimate the value as best they can, said Bedford assessor Bill Ingalls.

“We never get 100 percent of physical inspections. More likely, if we get 50 percent we’re lucky,” he said.

All towns in New Hampshire are required to conduct revaluations every five years, as mandated by the Legislature in 2002. The town’s last revaluation was in April 2008. During the process, a physical inspection of the interior and exterior of each property is conducted. Assessors analyze the location, size, quality of construction, age of improvements, topography, utilities, zoning restrictions, etc.

Appraisers then study property sales and determine where actual increases and decreases in value are occurring, and comparisons are made.

The town’s cost of the revaluation is $100,000, which is set aside in the general fund. Most properties were inspected by the town, and some were completed by independent contractors.

“We saved the town a lot of money by doing it in-house,” Ingalls said.

In 2008, the town’s total assessed value for residential, commercial and utility properties was $3.34 billion, an assessed value of 95.7 percent. In 2003, the total assessed value was $1.8 billion, at 65 percent. The tax rate in 2003 was $18.63, and $17.86 in 2008.

“Every year, the assessors conduct a market analysis to determine the current ratio of assessments to sales,” said Jessie Levine, town manager. “In 2012, property in Bedford was assessed for about 109 percent of market value. The goal is to be between 90 and 110 percent, with 100 percent being the target. That means that on average, properties in Bedford have been selling for less than their assessed values.”

In this revaluation, Ingalls said, some property values will increase, some will decrease and some will stay the same.

“Bedford has fared well in the region and across the state, and New Hampshire has fared well over the past five years than the majority of the country,” said Ingalls.

The main thing is that the assessed value be close to the selling price on the real estate market.

Real estate agent Fred Afshar of Keller Williams in Bedford said agents look at assessed values only as a trend to see if they are increasing or decreasing.

To get a better picture of a home’s value, Afshar and other agents conduct market strategies for owners who want to sell properties.

“We look at what’s on the market to see the competition, and where a seller needs to be,” he said. “We look at assessments as a way for towns to collect taxes. Towns don’t have the money to do full appraisals.”

He said a good marketing strategy is for a home’s condition to be in the top third and the price in the lower third.

Afshar said some buyers, from California as an example, expect homes sales to be based on square footage overall, but that’s not the case here. Basements have a different value than first and second floors, and the same is true for finished third-floor spaces or attics.

Property owners have the right to appeal an assessment if they believe their new values are too high or inaccurate. For an appeal hearing, call 1-855-228-4033 weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through Aug. 9. Informal appeal hearings will take place by appointment only from Aug. 5-23, at the Bedford Meeting Room at 10 Meetinghouse Road.

Property values may also be viewed at www.bedfordnh.org. Click on Assessing Department, then to Online Property Data Queries.