Property owners are still reeling from last decade’s financial and housing crisis, the latest property reappraisal by Montgomery County Auditor Karl Keith’s office shows.
Fully three-fourths of the homes in the county lost value since 2011, for a total loss of more than $1 billion in the last three years.
And that was on top of the $1.6 billion loss in housing values from 2008 to 2011, during the worst of the Great Recession.
Not all of the news is bad for all areas of the county, but only about 47,000 out of approximately 185,000 residential properties increased in value, a Dayton Daily News analysis of preliminary data from Keith’s office found. The new values are based on sales in calendar years 2011 through 2013.
More than 40 percent of the properties analyzed — which do not include lot splits or combinations, or land that was undeveloped in 2011 and has since been built on — declined by 10 percent or more. Almost 17 percent, or more than 31,000 homes, declined by 20 percent or more.
While there are good stories to be told among the neighborhoods, the losses in some areas have been devastating, Keith said.
“For most people their home is their largest investment,” Keith said. “So they’ve lost equity that they would have used to do updates to their home. Now they won’t have the capacity to do that. Or maybe they would have used the equity to their home to send their child to school.”
Drexel takes biggest hit
The losses are so great in some neighborhoods, residents see little hope for recovery.
Take, for example, the Drexel neighborhood in Trotwood that is north of West Third Street and on both sides of the Trotwood Connector.
The 569 residential properties in the area saw a 56.7 percent drop during the period — the worst among the 412 neighborhoods with at least 100 properties.
The median assessed value for the neighborhood was $37,860 after 2011 Triennial Update conducted by the auditor, but fell to just $16,410 in the official 2014 reappraisal. The median is the value exactly in the middle of all values in a given distribution.
Joyce Steinmetz has lived in her house on Devonshire Avenue for 44 years. She said there is “no hope” for the Drexel neighborhood.
“When I moved here, well it was the Drexel area, which had a little rep,” said Steinmetz, who is 80. “But the people who lived here were from Kentucky and southern Ohio. They were nice, family people that appreciated what they had and took care of it.”
That’s all changed, she said.
“In the past 10 years, the drugs and the riff raff and all that’s moved in, and it’s just really … horrible,” she said.
Steinmetz’s 832-square-foot home lost a quarter of its value from 2011 to 2014, falling to an appraised value of just $16,730.
Her home fared much better than some of those around her, however. Just a few houses down at 143 Devonshire is a boarded-up bungalow that lost 82 percent of its value in the last three years, falling to $7,570 in 2014. Sixteen properties in the neighborhood had even greater percentage declines.
One property in that group, an abandoned home at 167 Crown Ave., went from an appraised value of $40,640 in 2011 to $3,990 this year.
Properties like these can drag down values throughout the neighborhood, penalizing even those who maintain their homes.
“It’s so hard on older people who thought their property would help them when they got older to sell and go in where they’re taken care of,” said Steinmetz, who took out a $50,000 loan on her property in 2000.
The plunging values and deterioration of the neighborhood has her stuck, said Steinmetz.
“I think there’s no hope for me and there’s no hope for this area,” she said.
Harrison Twp. suffering
A similar but not quite as drastic scenario is playing out in a neighborhood just north of the now-closed Grafton Kennedy Elementary School in Harrison Twp.
The 167 homes in the neighborhood saw a 44.8 percent decrease in residential property values — from $63,980 in 2011 to $35,960 in the latest figures.
The neighborhood is symptomatic of the entire surrounding taxing district. The 2,904 residences in the part of Harrison Twp. that attends Northridge schools fell 30.5 percent — from a median of $48,520 in 2011 to $33,710. That was the worst among the 53 large taxing districts in the county.
Residents say many homeowners left in recent years, especially since the elementary school closed after the 2011-12 school year.
Anna Vandenbrock has lived in the neighborhood for 15 years. Her three-bedroom, one-bath single-story home on North Haven Way lost 38.3 percent of its value, according to the reappraisal. It fell from $60,340 to $37,210.
And she’s not happy about it.
“You don’t want to know,” Vandenbrock said with a wry laugh when asked how she feels about the drop in value. “You can’t put that in your paper.”
Actually, Vandenbrock is one of the luckier ones in her neighborhood. The house across the street is one of 146 other properties that fared worse. The modest home at 3961 North Haven Way lost more than half its value to fall to $44,110.
Vandenbrock has seen the neighborhood deteriorate during her time there.
“It’s worse now with the drugs and the thieves and people stealing and not wanting to get out and work,” she said. “I’ve had my garage broken into. I’ve had my house broken into….It’s getting bad around here.”
Vandenbrock bought her 1,025 square-foot home in 2002. Three years later her husband died. Then she got laid off from her job at General Motors.
Layoffs have a lot to do with the abandoned properties and plunging values, Vandenbrock believes.
“People just left their homes,” she said. “They had nowhere to go but either take the buyout or transfer.”
Vandenbrock said she’d like to move, but, “I’ve got no place else to go because I’m in debt on this house.”
As tragic as some of the losses are, opportunities abound for those who hunt for diamonds in the rough.
On Onoata Avenue, just over the fence from the closed elementary school, five homes lost more than half their value. Posting the biggest loss among the five was a 1,955-square-foot Cape Cod home at 2229 Onoata Ave.
The house, which was appraised at $78,260 in 2011, fell to $30,030 in 2014, a 61.6 percent drop. But now, nearly a year after it was purchased at sheriff’s auction for $16,000, the house is looking good.
“We had to gut the whole inside,” said Amanda Eshelman, who moved in three months ago with her husband, Jeremy, and their three children. “It was horrible.”
Across the street, Ronald Cantrell bought the house at 2661 Onoata, which was condemned at the time, for $5,000.
A handyman and longtime apartment maintenance worker, the 49-year-old Cantrell put about $5,000 into the rehabilitation, which included rebuilding the bathroom from the subfloor up, redoing a bedroom and repairing a failing roof.
“It took a lot of work to where I got it livable now,” Cantrell said. “And now I’m to the point where I’m going to start making it nice.”
Soaring South Park
It was exactly that kind of effort that — over many years — that has contributed to rising values in the South Park and other historic districts.
Together, the 1,875 residential properties in the 10 historic districts as defined by the county saw 14.4 percent increase in total assessed value. Only the Oregon District, which lost 9.3 percent, and McPherson Town, which declined by less than 1 percent, saw decreasing values.
The South Park Historic District was the county’s biggest gainer. The median assessed value for the 646 residential properties in the district increased by 32.1 percent during the three years, rising from $66,905 in 2011 to $88,410.
In South Park, the county’s largest historic district, only 35 residential properties — or about 1 in 18 — lost value, according to the newspaper’s analysis.
Brian Ressler, president of Historic South Park, Inc., the district’s non-profit neighborhood association, attributed much of the neighborhood’s resurgence to two businesses that have dedicated themselves to buying and rehabilitating homes there — Full Circle Development and The Home Group Realty Co.
“They have contributed a lot to basically creating a market where there wasn’t one before,” Ressler said of the two businesses. “They’ve been able to increase demand for housing in the neighborhood in a way that couldn’t have occurred before because they’ve been able to do so much at once.”
A number of other folks have also pitched in to rehabilitate homes in the neighborhood – many of which date to the late 1800s
Holly DiFlora, owner of The Home Group, said she and her husband Michael, who grew up in Old North Dayton, began buying blighted South Park properties in 2006 after retiring and moving back to the area.
“We’ve done 35 houses in the neighborhood,” DiFlora said of the rehabs. “We knew we had to do critical mass in order to really jump start the neighborhood. And we have.”
Longtime residents Pat and Susan Moran won’t argue about the progress, but like many property owners with increased appraisals they’re ambivalent.
Their two-story home on Bonner Street, built in 1890, increased almost 19 percent, from $101,300 to $120,230.
So, were the Morans happy with their new assessment?
“Yes and no,” Pat said with a grin. “If we were going to sell it, sure.”
But it also means they’ll pay more in property taxes.
“I think it’s good for the neighborhood,” said Susan, “but it’s not good for the individuals.”
Some suburban neighborhoods saw big gains and losses, but because the homes are worth so much more, the swings were much smaller as a percentage of total value.
Take, for example, the 157 homes in South Kettering that the county calls Dellwood Estates. The median value for those homes south of David Road and just west of NCR County Club dropped almost $68,000. But because the median assessed value was still more than $320,000, the percentage loss was only 17.4 percent.
Will and Pamela Lakoff saw their property drop by 27 percent, or almost $134,000.
They bought the property in May of 2008, when the housing bubble had yet to fully burst, for $512,500. In the latest reappraisal it fell to $359,070.
“That’s the market, and I understand that,” said Will Lakoff, a semi-retired IT consultant who moved to Kettering from the Washington, D.C. area. “We know we paid more than probably we should for a home. But I’ll be really honest with you, the prices here were so much better than from where we came from.”
Part of the reduced value came because Lakoff sought a reduction through the auditor’s appeal process and won. As a result, he said, his property tax dropped by 25 percent.
“That’s bad if I sell the house,” he said, “but it was good for my taxes.”
‘Not an exact science’
Experts say homeowners shouldn’t take as gospel the tax-appraised value estimates from the auditor’s office.
Real estate analyst Dave Dickerson said the auditor’s appraisal process is “not an exact science.”
“The auditor’s information is based on mass appraisals,” said Dickerson, president and partner of Miller Valentine Gem Real Estate Group. “They get a lot of information. They try to use as much market transactions as they can. It’s basically a template.”
The auditor’s appraisals are also based on sales from the previous three years, Dickerson said — in this case 2011 through 2013.
“You’re always looking in your rearview mirror,” he said. “You’re using past information, past data to project the future.”
Mark Kottman, president of the Dayton Area Board of Realtors and founding partner of HER Realtors, said home sales are picking up.
If a property is listed at the right price and “shows well,” he said, they are often selling in 45 days or less.
“We’re seeing a lot more multiple offers on properties,” Kottman said. “We’re seeing offers where they’re actually coming in over asking, and we’re starting to see competitive bids again, which we have not seen in the past.”
Kottman cautioned about taking the assessed value to heart
“I tell them (clients) not to look too closely at the tax assessed value,” Kottman said. “It may be high. It may be low.
“What we have to do is find three or four sales in a given area within a mile or so radius to their property which are closely comparable that have sold within the last six months, and that’s what we base our pricing on.”
Keith said the last three three-year cycles, beginning with the last full reappraisal in 2008, have presented difficulties in appraising property values.
In all three cycles, most residential property values declined in value — the first time that has happened, he said, since the Great Depression.
“I’ve lived through them when values were radically increasing,” Keith said. “And now I can say I’ve seen a historic time when we’ve seen values decline.”
Sales rose in some areas of the county, which is a sign of a healthier real estate market, Keith said. But that wasn’t true for the urban core of the county.
“What’s bringing values down in the urban core are the number of distressed sales, the number of vacant homes, the number of abandoned properties,” he said.
In the city of Dayton, distressed sales such as foreclosures and short sales outnumbered regular sales by 4-1, according to Keith. And in “a large percentage” of Dayton’s neighborhoods, there were no valid sales at all.
“That makes it a little more difficult for us,” he said.
Some areas will rebound quickly, Keith said, while others have practically hit bottom.
“Some of those neighborhoods in the urban core, some of them dropped 20 and 30 percent this time,” he said. “Some of them saw 20 and 30 percent declines three years ago as well. So they’ve really dropped to the point that there’s not much more room for them to go.”
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