Methow Valley regains crown from Oroville for new construction

OKANOGAN – The Okanogan County Assessor’s Office recently completed inspecting and valuing new construction in the county and the Methow Valley has regained its title as new construction leader over Oroville.

“The Methow Valley has been the standard bearer in new construction for the last 25 years, with the exception last year when the Oroville area which had the highest new construction, said Scott Furman, Okanogan County Assessor.

The Assessor’s Office physically inspected all new construction that occurred throughout the County in the past 12-month period for property tax purposes, said Furman.

A total of $61,442,200 in new assessed value was picked up for assessment year 2009. This amount is a 31 percent decrease compared to the $88,630,400 that was valued in 2008. The $88,630,400 valued in 2008 was the largest amount of new construction ever valued in a one year period in Okanogan County. The $61 million that was picked up this year compares to the 2006 amount of $60.9 million. The 2007 new construction amount was $80.7 million.

The process involves the office’s four real estate appraisers going out and physically inspecting the improvements and determining the value of the improvements based upon a number of criteria including square footage, quality of construction, quality of materials used and architectural design.

A total of 93 percent of this new construction can be attributed to residential construction with the remaining 7 percent commercial construction. This compares to 81 percent residential new construction and 19 percent commercial new construction in 2008. The high percentage for new commercial construction in 2008 can be attributed to the construction of the Home Depot building in Omak, as well as buildings located at Kinross’ Buckhorn Project, a gold mining operation located near Chesaw and vacation homes at Veranda Beach Resort near Oroville on the east side of Lake Osoyoos.

The Methow Valley School District is again back on top with 32 percent of the new construction located within its boundaries in 2009. New construction within this district accounted for 27 percent of the total in 2008. Oroville School District came in second in 2009 with 22 percent of the new construction amount located within its boundaries. Tonasket School District came in a strong third for 2009 with 19 percent of the new construction. Combined the property within the boundaries of the two north county school districts accounted for 41 percent of all new construction in the county.

The Oroville School District topped all districts in 2008 with 32 percent of the value in 2008. The Tonasket School District had 6 percent of the new construction located within its boundaries in 2008.

“I think things have slowed down on the lake, there has been less construction at Veranda Beach and the gold mine is up and running. The slow down on the lake has a lot to do with less demand and that is just a reflection of the real estate market in general and the ability of people to get financing,” the assessor said.

Furman adds that he believes Okanogan County homes have held their value even while those elsewhere in the state and across the nation have fallen.

“A lot of things once you get far enough away from the I-5 corridor are different. I feel we did not get as far ahead of ourselves here in value,” he said. “At a recent assessor’s meeting the Snohomish Assessor told me that home prices there are starting to creep up, while over the last two years she has had to lower values.

Furman said it is too early to tell whether home prices in Okanogan County will start to increase again.

“We are usually a year or so behind everyone else. I’ve heard lately that home prices here are coming down, but I haven’t seen that reflected in actual sale prices recently,” the assessor said.

Furman adds that the Baby Boom generation has to be taken into account, with the oldest Boomers turning age 63 this year.

“Some 60 percent of those born between 1946 and 1964 are about to reach retirement age and they want to get off the I-5 corridor and get out of Dodge,” he said. “Between not being tremendously over priced and with less demand people want to live out here.”

Valuation of new construction in a timely manner by the Assessor’s Office is important to all property taxpayers as well as the 63 different taxing districts within Okanogan County, according to the assessor. The addition of these new values to the property tax roll of Okanogan County helps lessen the property tax burden on everyone with existing value while at the same time it gives the taxing districts where the new construction is located a small revenue boost.

All property owners who have had new construction valued by the Okanogan County Assessor’s Office this year will have a notice of value change form mailed to them on Aug. 28. These notices of value change will affect property taxes paid in 2010.

Furman encourages anyone who has questions regarding their new construction assessment to contact the office at (509) 422-7190 or stop by the Assessor’s Office at 149 3rd North in Okanogan. The Assessor’s Office is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except on holidays.