On May 1, county assessors throughout Colorado mailed out valuation notices to all property owners in the state, as they do every two years. The new valuations reflect the appraised value of properties as of June 30, 2016, based on comparable neighborhood sales for the two-year period prior to that. We spoke with Larry Fite, chief appraiser for Pitkin County, and with Eagle County Assessor Mark Chapin, to explore the trends they discovered during the two-year valuation period which began mid-2014 and ended mid-2016. It’s helpful to understand these trends, both to understand how and why property values fluctuate and to get an idea of where things are going.
Fite and Chapin both agreed that the market strengthened between mid-2014 and mid-2016 in the upper Roaring Fork Valley and that, in general, property values rose accordingly in and around Aspen, Snowmass Village, and Basalt. But whether individual property values went up, down, or remained the same is very neighborhood-specific.
“The biggest thing which characterizes this cycle is the lack of uniformity of the market from one end of Pitkin County to the other. It runs the gamut,” said Fite.
Here’s a closer look at valuation trends in the three upper-valley towns.
Aspen: Stronger Closer
Reflecting on 24 months of sales, Fite indicated neighborhoods in and around Aspen were generally strong this valuation period, particularly the West End and Red Mountain. East of Aspen did well, better than in the last valuation cycle, and West Aspen and Cemetery Lane also saw rising values.
“Historically, the core strength of Aspen is the West End, and as one goes out in concentric circles from there, it’s strong, but less so,” explained Fite.
While individual properties may have dropped in value for any number of reasons, the only notable neighborhood-wide weakness was seen on McLain Flats and in Starwood. As Fite explained, there were a number of “crazy strong sales” in the previous valuation cycle, but then little activity in the recent two-year period. “So, that’s an area where we’ve seen values go down a little bit,” he said.
Snowmass Village: Rising Optimism
While Snowmass Village has for the last several years lagged behind Aspen in terms of property values, it may be starting to catch up.
“Snowmass has definitely rounded the corner. People are more optimistic than they’ve been in a long time, and that’s been reflected in sales — although it’s still not a runaway train by any means,” said Fite, who noted that the sale of the Base Village development parcel happened after the close of the most recent valuation period. “Snowmass may see a bigger jump in the next cycle,” he suggested.
Midvalley: On the Move
In the midvalley parts of Pitkin County, values have gone up overall — but not to the extent they generally have further upvalley in Aspen and Snowmass, said Fite. Midvalley areas located in Pitkin County include a small portion of Basalt proper (part of Elk Run and the eastern end of Two Rivers Road), plus Emma, part of Southside, Holland Hills, and the Roaring Fork Club area.
“Most of Old Town Basalt, Willits, Blue Lake, and the eastern third of Missouri Heights are in Eagle County, where values have increased strongly – more so than the rest of Eagle County, but not by as much as the last valuation cycle,” according to Chapin, the Eagle County assessor.
The lower end of the market, characterized by primary residences, has recovered “quite significantly,” he said. And, compared to the median increase, there are several pockets in the Roaring Fork Valley section of Eagle County “where property values have gone up significantly more than they have in other areas the county.”
Depending upon one’s perspective, appreciating property values can be seen as good news or bad news. There is, however, one piece of universally good news for all residential property owners in Colorado. The state has finalized a lower assessment rate this year, which will translate into lower property taxes. A constitutional mandate called the Gallagher Amendment requires the state’s tax burden to remain equal between residential and nonresidential (commercial and vacant land) properties. In order to offset the statewide rise in property values the last two years, the assessment rate used to calculate property taxes is being lowered from its previous rate of 7.96% to 7.20% — which translates to the first 10½% of any increased value in a residential property being offset by the lower assessment rate. A rate of 29% remains in effect for commercial properties and vacant land.
How are property values determined in Colorado?
County officials use the appraised, or actual, value of a property to determine an assessed value, upon which property taxes are based. They do this exercise every two years. For the current valuation period, appraised values are based on comparable sales between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2016. That amount is then multiplied by 7.2% for residential properties, and 29% for commercial properties and vacant land, to get the assessed value. The assessed value is then multiplied by the mill levy in a given community or district to determine the property tax to be paid in 2018 and 2019. So:
A more thorough explanation of valuations along with the latest snapshot of related market information is available on our website here (or contact us to mail you a printed form). Comparable sales by neighborhood can be searched on Pitkin County’s website, here. (The FAQs are also helpful.) The Eagle County assessor’s website has excellent information about property valuation, appeals, and more, including comparable sales data reports by property type. And please feel free to call one of us with any questions on your property valuation.