February 27, 2013 - There's good news for beleaguered homeowners tired of being told their largest investment is worth less and less each year.
The State Equalized Values (SEV) of residential properties in Oxford and Addison townships increased by an average of 3.99 percent and 1.08 percent, respectively, based on the 2013 assessments from the Oakland County Equalization Division (OCED)
SEV is equal to approximately 50 percent of a property's fair market value.
"It's really nice to see things are looking up again," said Oxford Township Supervisor Bill Dunn. "I've hated seeing people lose money on their homes or owe more than they're worth. That's not the American Dream – at least not the one I remember.
"Maybe this is a sign that things are going to get back to way they used to be – or the way they're supposed to be. I hope so."
This is the second year Oxford's residential SEVs increased on average. Last year, the values went up by 0.8 percent.
Addison Township Supervisor Bruce Pearson wasn't surprised by the increase.
"Our houses are selling and they're selling for actually more than what people are asking," he said. "We think the bad times are behind us."
That certainly wasn't the case last year when Addison's residential SEVs decreased by an average of 3.34 percent.
Pearson noted how he knows of a house on Noble Rd. that "within hours of it (being put on the market), there were people bidding on it."
"(The homeowners) took the first bid and people were willing to go higher, but they were locked into a contract," he said.
Pearson knows of another home on Lake George Rd. where the appraisal came in higher than the sale price.
"Before, the appraisals all came in lower than what the people were bidding and they were having a hard time getting mortgages," the supervisor said. "Now, they seem to be doing better. I hope that the bad times are behind us."
Countywide, residential properties increased by an average of approximately 1 percent. The last time residential values increased for the county as a whole was in 2006.
"We're seeing sales activity picking up, prices going up," said OCED Manager Dave Hieber. "Obviously, interest rates (influence) the real estate market heavily and the interest rates have been favorable for at least the last year."
Fewer foreclosures is another factor contributing to increased property values.
"We're starting to see the number of foreclosures diminish," Hieber said. "There's still a significant number around the county, but it's less than what it was."
In 2012, the county had a total of 5,108 foreclosures. "That's down from the worst year so far, which was 2010 (when the county had) 9,290," Hieber said.
But just because the county's residential values increased as a whole for this year, it doesn't mean everyone in every single community benefited.
"It's really not a one-size-fits all," Hieber said. "There's still some areas in the county that are seeing some significant decreases."
The communities with the largest drop in average value were the cities of Pontiac (17.77 percent), Hazel Park (15.5 percent) and Oak Park (10.75 percent).
The communities with the largest increase in average value were Northville (6.27 percent), Bloomfield Hills (5.86 percent) and Pleasant Ridge (5.84 percent).
Average values dropped in 13 communities, but were up in Oakland's other 39 cities and townships. The county's 10 villages were included with their respective townships.
It should be noted that individual values vary from community to community, street to street and property to property.
When asked if he believes this year's increase is an isolated thing or the beginning of a trend, Hieber replied, "We're expecting further improvement in the residential market for next year as well."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.