Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 21, 2018

New assessment notices explained to supervisors

Apr 25, 2018

By Xiomara Levsen, The JOURNAL

The 2018 assessment notices were on the agenda for the supervisors meeting Tuesday morning.

Supervisor and board chairman Abe Miller said he asked Washington County assessor Christy Tinnes to explain what happened with the 2018 tax assessments.

The tax assessments were sent out right before April 1, Tinnes said. Your residential property is only supposed to be at market value. However, AG assessments aren’t done at market value. The house should be at market value, but the rest of the property is assessed with an AG formula.

“We did have Vanguard Appraisals from Cedar Rapids perform a rural residential re-evaluation for us for this assessment year,” Tinnes said. “The key to getting assessed values correct is having properties listed correctly, and in the cities we have permits that we collect from the cities to help keep track of new construction and we send out construction postcards every fall asking people to report changes, so those construction postcards are the only method we really have for keeping up on construction changes out in the country since we don’t have a permitting system out there.”

It had been a long time since rural residential properties were reviewed, so a lister came around to make sure things were listed correctly, she added.

Information was sent out to rural residents in 2016 advising them someone would be out looking at their property. The lister looked at type of construction, type of interior finish, physical condition of the property, and the age of the structures, and took measurements and used sales analysis, local construction costs and economic conditions to come up with the market value, Tinnes said.

“Basically, especially on a re-evaluation we try to stress to people, if they feel it’s incorrect, to call us and we can go over it with you,” she said. “We can review the listing, make sure it’s correct and do an inspection.”

If your property value went up and you want an explanation the best way to explain why is for them to pull up the property valuation in the assessor’s office to go over it with you, Tinnes said.

“Our goal is to have things listed correctly and get the value accurate,” she said. “We don’t want it too high just as much as we don’t want it too low.”

If the assessor’s office is off on the value, that’s when the state comes in and tells the assessor’s office what the values are, which would affect everyone. Their goal is to avoid having the state coming in to do this.

“We have a lot of buildings out in the county that had maybe been there for many years that were not being valued,” Tinnes said. “They weren’t being reported.”

A lot of the postcards being sent out are returned to the assessor’s office, but there are a few people who choose not to report construction on their property, she added.

Miller asked Tinnes what percentage they try to get done when re-evaluating properties. Tinnes said the contract with Vanguard said 75 percent. They would make two attempts with the property owners to do an assessment while they’re at home.

For AG properties, Vanguard looked at the listing at the assessor’s office to make sure it looked right and there weren’t any new additions, she added.

“You said that it had been quite some time since rural residences had been valued,” supervisor Jack Seward Jr. said. “How long are you talking about?”

“I’m going to say early 2000s, since we’ve done a whole review of them,” Tinnes replied.

AG dwellings were done then when the listers went to the properties and remeasured them, she added. She asked for the re-evaluation in 2013, but had to wait until 2018 for it to be done.

“Do you think a full evaluation like this should be done every 10 years or do you think it would be good to use our own staff and do a certain part of the county or a certain township as time goes on?” Seward asked Tinnes.

There is only one full-time appraiser at the assessor’s office, Tinnes replied. If they could do door to door every 10 years that would be great. The state code says every six years or based on the assessors department abilities. Instead of paying Vanguard, adding a few more appraisers would help them get to every door every six years.

“Do most contested cases get re-evaluated as far as up or down or do most of them come out the same?” Miller asked Tinnes.

Right now, is the informal review time from April 2 to April 25, Tinnes replied. They encourage property owners to let the assessor’s come to their house and do an inspection and review the listing information.

“I would say on most of them they’re ones that Vanguard didn’t catch people at home,” Tinnes added. “They didn’t return the door hanger or get online and fill out their information, so the valuation is estimated based on the outside and any details on our prior notes of what we have listed, so it’s pretty typical if it’s an estimation of value to go to the property and find things that need to be adjusted and corrected.”

By the time everything is listed correctly, some assessments are lowered, she said. If the property owner feels it’s still too high then they can go to the Board of Review — they have the power to adjust the assessments.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Glen Peiffer | Apr 26, 2018 14:18

Spring Home Builders

The house is not for sale, but I’ll sell it

By Justin Webster, Ledger sports editor | Apr 25, 2018

Judd Connor’s dining room.

Custom homebuilder and Fairfield resident Judd Connor appears to be cursed with the skills of a good builder.

He not only has a tendency to leave his customers happy, he is about to build his fifth home for personal use because people keep asking to buy his latest projects planned to house his own family.

“I built my first two houses down in Keosauqua,” said Connor. “One was a ranch and the other was a story and a half. Then we moved to Fairfield. We wanted to get closer to town and Bob Hougher had some lots for sale, so we built across the street. I also built one for Tom and Diane Bevins that’s right here and when Hougher sold their house, I built their new place across the road.”

It all started in the 1990s when he painted his neighbors’ tin roof and then worked for his dad, Ken Connor, who was a home builder himself. The now 39-year-old even helped his father build their family home south of Libertyville when he was 12 or 13 years old.

As for current trends, Connor said he’s been building a lot of cabin style homes and people are gravitating towards more of an open floor plan and to homes with fewer walls, where the rooms flow from one to the other.

If you’re considering a build, he suggests asking the local lumberyard for recommendations because they know who the good builders are.

When it comes to a floor plan, some people look at a house and say, “I like the flow of this house,” while others will see the photo of the outside of the house and want to work backwards from there. “Everyone has a different starting point, and you just have to find what you like,” said Connor.

Once you get started, “You have things that need to go in order,” he added. “If someone gets held up and the drywaller is stuck at another job, you can’t move forward until the work is done and you pass inspection. It takes longer when everyone is in there tripping over each other, so some guys you need to get in and get out of there.”

Connor frames up the whole house and does all of the siding and roofing. He also lays interior flooring, like hardwood floor or ceramic tile. He does a lot of that.

“I don’t lay carpet,” said Connor. “It’s one of the things I don’t do.” Connor also thinks it’s best to get specialists for certain parts of the build.

“Some guys like to do everything and do their own drywall and I find you get a better drywall job if you have guys that just do that for a living. They’re better at that when it’s all that they do.”


The house

It’s a single story craftsmen house with a fully finished basement in the Liberty subdivision which can be accessed by driving through West Hills.

“I don’t know that you could call it a ranch house since it doesn’t have an upstairs in it, but it’s a one story with a basement,” Connor described.

They try to keep everything with solid surface countertops such as granite and quartz.

“I like hardwood floors because I like to make homes that are easy to clean,” Connor said. “That’s a big deal to me.”

One of Connor’s favorite traits of his “current” home is the location.

“We have a great lot here that is really close to town and we have good access to Jefferson County Park, plus it has a nice sized yard, which I always look for.”


Inside the house

“I like wood burning fireplaces as opposed to gas. They put out real heat and I just like the real fire. They can be a little bit messy, which is why some people go to gas.”


The formal living room

The Connors use this for more of a staging area for guests. “Down in the basement I have our main living room which is where we watch T.V. and movies,” said Connor. “It’s more for family, friends and parties, while I use this for having the football game on while I’m cooking.”


Dining room

The dining room is a small section of space between the upstairs living room and the kitchen, with plenty of natural light soaked in through a wall of windows on one side with a wine bar on the other wall and a chandelier-style fixture hanging from the raised ceilings over the dinner table.

“I just like the glass and all of the openness to this area right here and obviously we keep the dining room near the kitchen,” said Connor. “With the chandelier light, you just have to know where you want to set your table so you hang it in the right spot.”


The wine bar

“We put some different textures in there,” said Connor. “If we didn’t raise the ceilings, I could have put in an upstairs, and that’s where the stairs would have been but I didn’t want to have that coming into the dining area, so we scratched that idea or in this case, I put a wine bar in.”


The kitchen

Connor went for funtionality and added a few features such as a prep sink.

“I like the look of stainless steel with the white cabinets,” he said. “Sometimes when I do wood cabinets, because I’ve had all hickory and [other kinds of] wood in the house, I would go with black appliances, but that’s just a preference. There is a different style we were going for in this house which is called a modern rustic. Everyone is starting to add barn doors to their space, more for looks than for funtionality, and the lighting fixtures were just picked based on preference.”


The floor plan

The setup has five bedrooms with three on the main floor and two in the basement, plus three and a half baths and another living room in the basement.

The square footage is 1,680 on the main floor with another 900-plus square footage downstairs.

The main bedroom downstairs is approximately 18x13 and was an afterthought after he took an upstairs bedroom from the original plan to convert into a personal office. His son uses the room and Connor thought it just made sense to utilize all of the remaining space for a larger living space. It also has a walk-in closet which Connor likes to include when space allows.

“I have three kids,” Connor explains. “I started out by giving everyone there own room and I needed an office. With this house, I happened to be working on another house and saw this plan. I liked it and thought it would be a plan that would sell when I was ready to move. I just liked the flow of it.”


Why he’s moving again

“My house wasn’t even for sale. I had a friend, who had a couple lots out here and sold them, call me and ask me if I would sell it. They knew that I had that lot and it’s kind of the same thing that happened at the last place, my house wasn’t really for sale when I sold it then, either. They asked on a Thursday if they could show it Sunday, and [by] Monday they bought it. It just sold that easy.”


How long until you are done?

“I need to get going on it. We’re finishing a house in Keosauqua and then my house will be next. We’re going to move out by July and my new house will be close enough. Hopefully, we won’t be too far behind and can move in by the end of July.”


You sound like a car collector but with houses.

“Yeah, but it becomes too costly to keep too many.”


Will you keep switching houses?

“I’m probably going to try to stop selling my own home and just building spec homes without moving into them.”


Are your kids gonna continue the legacy?

“We’ll see. I’m going to make my son help me build my new house over the summer, so we’ll see.

“We’ll get him a new hammer and see how he can swing.”

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