Property values take another leap higher across metro Denver

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Property valuation notices are going out, and most homeowners in metro Denver should see tamer increases than the big shocking ones that hit them this time in 2017, according to county assessors.

But the hunt for affordability continued to drive double-digit annual gains in some areas. And apartment building owners are getting socked with 40% increases in some counties, which could drive up rents in the future.

“While property values continue to rise across the greater metropolitan region, growth is beginning to moderate here in Denver. The majority of the city’s assessed neighborhoods saw lower increases than they did during the 2017 valuations,” said Denver Assessor Keith Erffmeyer, who hosted a news conference with other assessors detailing the new property valuations.

Every two years, county assessors in Colorado must estimate property values and send out a notice of valuation. Those values are part of the formula used to determine the size of the property tax bills that will go out next January.

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Statewide, median residential property values rose 17.2% between June 30, 2016, and June 30, 2018, said JoAnn Groff, the state’s property tax administrator.

Gains in other parts of the state helped narrow the gap with metro Denver. But three metro counties continued to see home value gains above the state average, led by Adams County, which recorded a 24% increase in residential property values.

“A lack of affordable housing drove the biggest increases in the lower-end of the market,” said Ken Musso, Adams County’s assessor.

The average gain in apartment building values was much higher, 40 percent, including a 50% increase in the eastern half of the county, he said. Commercial property values rose 20%, agricultural property values rose 14% and vacant land values rose 53%.

Arapahoe County home values were up 22% on average, with apartment values up 40% and commercial properties up 15%, said Assessor PK Kaiser. The biggest gains in home values were recorded in Aurora, Sheridan and Englewood.

In the city and county of Denver, the average gain for single-family homes was 21%, 15.2% for rowhouses and 17.1% for condos. Apartment values were up 22.4%, while the value of commercial properties rose 31.4%, Erffmeyer said.

And there were wide variations in the size of gains. Sun Valley homes shot up 57% in value, while in Globeville they rose 53%, and in Elyria Swansea they were up 41.3%.

Denver’s western and southwestern neighborhoods also had bigger increases in value, including Villa Park, up 43%; Overland, up 37.5%; Westwood, up 36.8%; and Barnum West, up 34.9%.

But price gains were restrained in other places, bordering on tepid. Single-digit gains over two years were measured in Cherry Creek, Goldsmith, Southmoor Park and Windsor.

Douglas and Jefferson counties each averaged a 13.5% increase in residential values, but Jefferson County Assessor Scot Kersgaard notes that few homeowners will actually see an increase that lands precisely on that number.

In Arvada, home values rose 14.9%, while in Westminster they were up 17.2%, and in Golden they were up 13.2%.

Boulder County reported some of the slowest gains in property values. Residential properties rose 13%, multifamily properties were up 15% and commercial properties increased 13% in value, said Cynthia Braddock, the county’s assessor.

Overall, value increases are moderating. In 2017, the median home price in Adams County was up 40% over two years, while homes in Arapahoe County were up 26%, 25.9% in Denver, 24% in Boulder and 22.8% in Jefferson County.

Groff emphasized that there isn’t a direct link between the increase in property values and future property tax increases. Property tax bills are influenced by local government levies and a statewide cap on how much of the total tax burden can fall on residential properties.

That means actual property tax increases can be much smaller than the big increases shown in property valuations.

Looking at median home prices offers another way to look at how much values have increased. In 2013, the median home value in Denver was $223,900, below where it was in 2009. By 2015, it was up to $289,900 and by 2017 it was up to $360,700. In 2019, it came in at $430,800.

It is important to note that property assessments were effective as of June 30. Home price gains slowed sharply after that and have even started falling in some places. But that won’t help property owners on their tax bills until the 2021 valuations are done.

So for the next two years, they will have to deal with the notice they are about to receive. But they don’t have to hold their peace. Assessors encouraged property owners to appeal by June 3 if they disagree with their work. They can do that online, on the phone or in person.

One quick check to make is if the physical characteristics of the property — say, the number of bedrooms or square footage — line up with what is in the county records. Most assessors also use automated valuation models, and those may not track as closely when a home has more customized features.

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