Hot real estate market leads to higher property tax bills across Hamilton County

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If you own property in Hamilton County, chances are you recently received a notice that your assessed value has gone up, possibly by quite a bit.

More than 85 percent of residential and commercial properties in Hamilton County had a change in assessed value between 2020 and 2021, with the vast majority of them rising. Overall, assessed values in the county increased more than 6.5 percent.

While this may be welcome news for those looking to sell their home soon, for residents staying put it likely brings to mind something else: a higher tax bill.

Most local taxing units, such as cities, townships and school districts, receive a large chunk of their funds through property taxes. But determining assessed values lies solely in the hands of the county assessor’s office.

“Nobody says, ‘Hey, Robin, I need this much money for the budget,’” said Robin Ward, who has served as the Hamilton County assessor since 2011.

Higher property tax bills do not mean the tax rate has risen. For example, the City of Carmel tax rate for 2021 is 78.77 cents per $100 of assessed value, the same as 2020.

‘I’ve never seen values like this before’

The Hamilton County Assessor’s Office is responsible for assessing property values — and thus tax bills — each year. Ward said her office annually looks at home sales in each neighborhood during the previous year to assess values for the neighborhood as a whole.

The county takes a closer look at a rotating quarter of the properties in the county each year through cyclical reassessments to ensure existing records about each parcel are correct, but those properties are subject to the annual adjustment as well.

The annual review is a market-driven process, Ward said, and in the last couple of years her office has had trouble keeping up with the hot real estate market.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I’ve never seen the values like this before,” she said. “We keep thinking it’s going to level out, and I thought maybe COVID would slow it down, but it didn’t. The housing industry was still gangbusters last year.”

Keith Albrecht, a Realtor with Re/MAX Elite Properties, said those in his industry have also been surprised by the longevity of the hot housing market.

“I don’t think any of us really expected it to last this long, this strong. I’ve been in business 25 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “I’m not sure any of us really know how long (it will last). My guess would be we will start to see a correction in the fall, but who knows, because no one really expected this.”

According to F.C. Tucker Co,, the average sale price for a Carmel home in April was $507,671, an increase of 22.3 percent compared to April 2020. Homes sold nearly 60 percent faster last month than a year ago.

The assessed value of residential properties in Carmel grew 6.45 percent in the last year, with commercial assessments rising 1.95 percent. Some of the largest jumps in the county were in Westfield Washington Township, where residential assessed values increased 12.34 percent, and Noblesville Township, where those values grew 8.34 percent.

The appeals process 

Because the county appraises homes on a mass scale, by default some of the assessments won’t be accurate, Ward said. Property owners have until June 15 to appeal their assessment if they feel it’s not correct.

Often, property owners contemplating an appeal decide not to file one after they discuss the matter with the assessor’s office and learn more about the process, Ward said. If they proceed, the assessor’s office will take a closer look at the property tied to the appeal, and many times it leads to a reduced assessment. If the property owner doesn’t agree with the assessment after going through the appeals process, the matter can be taken to a state review board.

Ward said despite the large number of increased assessments this year, her office has received very few appeals. Typically, less than 2 percent of properties go through the appeals process, she said.

Her advice to homeowners is to ask themselves if they think they could sell their home for its assessed value. If not, an appeal may be in order.

Learn more at hamiltoncounty.in.gov/404/Assessors-Office.


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