Revitalizing Downtown: Proposals and projects are in, what and who will be funded?

AMANDA MORRISON / NNY BUSINESS
Watertown Mayor Joseph Butler looks at a slide showcasing a potential parking garage located on Franklin Street.

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The Difference Between Appraisals & Assessments

Lance Evans

BY: Lance Evans

In August, I wrote about assessments.  You may recall that assessments are opinions of value.  An assessor looks at all of the properties in a municipality and comes up with general values that are a component in computing the real property tax. While properties are treated similarly, assessments allow for differences like square footage, lot size, and general condition and upkeep. These variations can affect the assessment.

    How does this differ from how an appraiser works and how does an appraisal end up affecting the price paid for a property?

    Similar to an assessment, an appraisal is an opinion of value.  However, instead of looking at many properties within a jurisdiction, appraisers look at one property (subject property) and then find comparable sales (“comps”) that are like the subject property.  Ideally, comps are within a few miles and have sold within the past six months.  Like the assessor, an appraiser adjusts for differences in lot size, square footage, heating systems, etc. between the subject property and the comps to come up with a value. There is no set rule for what adjustments must be made. It is up to the appraiser’s judgement.  Adjustments are based on market reactions to amenities, features, or land size of a property.  Unique property types throw a whole other set of variables, so there is not a “cookie cutter” approach. 

    An appraisal usually varies from an assessment for several reasons. First of all, you may recall that the City of Watertown actually assesses at 92% of value. This means that a house that might be worth $100,000 would be assessed at $92,000. Other municipalities use different percentages.

    The other reason that there may be a difference is that appraisers are using data that is short term (6 months or less) and may cross municipal lines.  This means that an appraiser who has a subject property on the edge of a municipality might be using comps from a nearby town.  These would not figure into the assessor’s decision making process.

    In the North Country, the “6 month rule” does not always hold. Joel Howie, JC Howie Appraisals in Canton, noted that “One thing I consider in St. Lawrence County is a larger ‘market area’ or neighborhood when looking for comps. I may go outside an individual municipality to a competing neighborhood for comps. Because of the sparse population and diverse housing stock, I also may need to consider sales up to 18-24 months. Also, I may be appraising a modern colonial in Canton and I may need to consider a Potsdam sale in order to find sufficient sales data.”

    As I pointed out last month, an assessor works for a municipality.  Appraisers are generally self-employed and work for a variety of clients including lenders, private companies, and individuals.

    Much of an appraiser’s work is contracted by lenders.  The purpose of the appraisal might be for loan approval for a buyer or when a property owner refinances a mortgage.  The lender is required to use a variety of appraisers on a rotating basis and are not allowed to specify a certain appraiser.  However, the list can be limited based on an appraiser’s certification and approvals.  For instance, an appraiser needs to apply to be Veteran’s Administration (VA) certified.

    So what education is needed for appraisers? Like assessors, appraisers have taken special training to get licensed or certified. In addition to course work, they must work with a licensed or certified appraiser for a period of time.  After being licensed, appraisers take twenty-eight hours of Continuing Education every two years. A portion of this education is in Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP).

    Property owners can also hire an appraiser.  The owner may want to find out what his or her property is worth prior to selling the property, it may be needed to help settle an estate, or the owner may want to check the worth against an assessment.

    Appraisals are usually effective as of the date of inspection.  Assessments are based on an earlier date usually as of the date the roll was submitted, which depending on that date could be nearly 2 years prior to the current date. In an increasing or decreasing market, assessment and a current appraisal may be quite different.

    So what is the difference between the assessor’s job and that of an appraiser?  Simply put, the assessor looks at the “forest” of properties and the appraiser looks at individual “trees.”

    In my August article, Last month I made an error in my article on assessment. I stated that if the assessment is $10 per thousand dollars then a property assessed at $92,000, the bill would be $92.  It would be $920.

North Country Downtown Development Builds New Opportunity

 

AMANDA MORRISON / NNY Business
Gary Beasley, director of Neighbors of Watertown, explains the layout and reconstruction of the commercial space in the former Empsall’s Building.

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Local experts discuss north country’s economic outlook at Chamber event

The Economic Forecast event featured a panel of five speakers discussing the economic trouble spots and assets in the north country.

The Economic Forecast event featured a panel of five speakers discussing the economic trouble spots and assets in the north country. Photo by Stephen Swofford, Watertown Daily Times.

Trying to get a glimpse of the local economic future is more like staring into an opaque globe than a crystal ball, noted Donald C. Alexander, chief executive officer of Jefferson County Economic Development. [Read more…]

January 2016 20 Questions: Joseph M. Butler Jr., City of Watertown

Charting a new course

Joseph M. Butler Jr., talks about his vision for Watertown during an interview in the conference room at his Community Bank office on the eve of his swearing-in as mayor of the City of Watertown. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Business.

Joseph M. Butler Jr., talks about his vision for Watertown during an interview in the conference room at his Community Bank office on the eve of his swearing-in as mayor of the City of Watertown. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Business.

Mayor Joseph M. Butler Jr. shares his
vision for a city that celebrates its victories

On the eve of his swearing-in as mayor of Watertown, Joseph M. Butler Jr. is decidedly optimistic about the city’s future while talking about its challenges. In short order, he hopes to see a city where people talk more about “our victories over drugs opposed to our defeats.” He also envisions a downtown “that flourishes morning, noon, afternoon and evening.” After serving two terms as a city councilman, the 48-year-old financial advisor took the same oath of office on Jan. 1 that his father, Joseph M. Butler Sr., took in 2000. We sat down with the young mayor hours before he began a new four-year term, taking the reins from the same man the elder Mr. Butler defeated in 1999 to become mayor. [Read more…]

September 2015 20 Questions: Erin E. Gardner, Superintendent, parks and recreation department, City of Watertown

A vision for parks & rec

City of Watertown Parks and Recreation Superintendent Erin E. Gardner reflects on her three-year tenure last month in her temporary office at the Watertown Fairgrounds off Coffeen Street. Photo by Amanda Morrison, NNY Business.

City of Watertown Parks and Recreation Superintendent Erin E. Gardner reflects on her three-year tenure last month in her temporary office at the Watertown Fairgrounds off Coffeen Street. Photos by Amanda Morrison, NNY Business.

After three years, excitement still stirs in city’s parks chief

When Erin E. Gardner transitioned from executive director of a senior living residence to superintendent of parks and recreation for the city of Watertown in April 2012, her new job came with a few surprises. Since that time, Mrs. Gardner has worked to improve the department’s relationship with the community and make a positive impact on the area. This month, she sat down with NNY Business to discuss the work she’s done, the state of local projects such as the city arena and dog park, and her vision for parks and recreation. [Read more…]

Farmers market to conclude lively business season today

People spend their lunch hour at the final farmers market of last season on Washington Street. Photo by Norm Johnston.

Sunny weather this summer that’s carried into the fall has made the Farm and Craft Market in downtown Watertown a frequent stop for both tourists and area families.

To be hosted for the final time this season from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. today, the market has reeled in thousands to Washington Street with its range of fresh produce, handmade crafts and live entertainment, said Michelle A. Farrell, director of events for the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce.

“You get to enjoy the hot weather with lemonade, snow cones and ice cream,” she said. “The downtown sidewalks are a beautiful venue with the sun shining.”

Fifty-five vendors maxed out the 82 available spaces for the farmers market this year, including four new arrivals. In addition to the farmers selling fresh produce, the market’s also become an ideal spot for newly launched small businesses looking to get the word out.

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City building activity slows in Q1

2011 saw record-setting $43m in construction permits

Construction activity in the Watertown area is off to a sluggish start this year on the heels of a record-setting 2011, a review of building permits indicates.

Major projects, including the continuing construction of Creek Wood Apartments off Mill Street and renovations to Samaritan Medical Center, contributed to the more than $32 million in declared construction value during the third and fourth quarters of 2011.

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