Monday, Sep 22, 2014
Local News

Sebring downtown property values may be stabilizing


— It might come as a surprise during a time of economic slowdown and generally decreasing property values, but some people have raised concerns about property values and taxes being too low, Highlands County Property Appraiser C. Raymond McIntyre said last week.

“We’ve had a handful of people come in who were concerned about local government not having enough revenue,” he said.

McIntyre also said some property owners were concerned for another reason -- that the lower property values affected the potential selling price of their land.

One person wanting to sell his or her property was so concerned the property owner sued McIntyre’s office, he said. But, McIntyre said, he ultimately won.

At Dee’s Restaurant, McIntyre presented downtown merchants and city and Community Redevelopment Agency officials with information about property values in the Sebring CRA.

Robin Hinote, director of the CRA, said the aim was to analyze that information in coming up with a plan to help attract more residents to the downtown area.

In general, McIntyre said, the situation with the taxable property values downtown has been similar to that elsewhere in the county. Before 2002, he said, the property values generally increased 3 to 4 percent a year.

Between 1996 and 2003, the taxable property values totaled between $30 and $40 million in the original boundaries of the CRA — it was expanded around 2005.

But, when the figures were released in 2007 for 2006, the total value in that area had doubled to $80 million, McIntyre said.

After that year, the bust began, but the values for 2012 and 2013 remained about $60 million, he said.

One anomaly affecting Sebring was during 2009 and 2010, all of a sudden, the total property value in the original CRA jumped back almost up to $80 million before dropping nearly $20 million in 2012.

That’s because of Majestic Cove, a condominium development that later went into foreclosure, he said.

Bill Vincent, a residential appraiser, said when Majestic Cove first opened, 11 units were sold for prices between $500,000 and $600,000.

As of this month, 18 have been sold, with the additional seven being purchased at considerably lower prices. The last two were sold for around $200,000.

Statistics presented by McIntyre also show that in the original CRA area since 2002, residential taxable property values have exceeded commercial taxable property values. As of 2013, the values were about $25,000 for commercial and $33,000 for residential.

But in the expansion area, the trend has been the opposite with residential values being higher in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 and commercial values being higher since then.

Taxable property values for the entire CRA district have followed the same trend as far as increases and decreases over the period since 2005, he said.

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