DEWITT, N.Y. (NCC News) — The town of DeWitt is among the most desirable places to live in Central New York, with its highly rated public school system among the main reasons it is such.
Longtime residents like Cassie Berse, who raised her children through the school district, are willing to pay top dollar to live there. But in the initial annual value assessment of her home, Burse received a surprise.
“It was close to a $20,000 increase,” Berse said. “It was a bit of a shock, but not a complete surprise, because during the pandemic, with mortgage rates so low, home values have really skyrocketed. And our neighborhood was not immune from that factor.”
Indeed, the pandemic has led to one of the single biggest spikes in home values in U.S. history. The National Association of Realtors says that the median home price has increased by 24% to over $350,000 for the first time ever. This has caused property taxes to rise throughout the country, but especially in high tax states such as New York, where Berse says the increases could really hit hard.
“There are people who are selling their houses to take advantage of the hot market,” Berse said. “But then I think the fallout will be later this year is people having to sell their houses because they can’t afford the taxes. “People on fixed incomes, they may be property rich, but they’re cash poor. And so it’d be very difficult for them to pay the taxes that they’ll be assessed later in the year.”
In some cases in DeWitt, home assessment values were 10% higher than the previous year. Town board member Kerry Mannion says the supply for homes has always been there, but the demand has never matched it until recently.
“If you can buy a 2,000 square foot home in the town of DeWitt for $200,000, to build that same 2,000 square foot home would probably cost you $400,000,” Mannion said. “So we’re seeing the demand finally catch up to the supply, so home prices all over Central New York are rising, and particularly in the town of DeWitt.”
Mannion says the town’s residents in this case are victims of national circumstance.
“You’re always a victim of the circumstances,” he said. “I mean, if we go into a deep recession, we’ll probably lower our assessments. If all of a sudden we’re finding that homes are selling for 10% less than their assessed for, we’re gonna we would have to lower those values as well.”
Regardless of the rise in home values and property taxes, Mannion says that living in DeWitt is still a worthwhile investment.
“For the annual amount that we pay for school and fire protection and snow plowing and parks and recreation, it’s a good value up here in Central New York,” Mannion said.
For Berse, her estimated tax bill will not be released for a few months. She appealed her initial valuation to the town’s assessor, and while her valuation was lowered in the end, it will still leave her to foot a much bigger tax bill.
“I was successful in getting the new assessment lowered somewhat,” Berse said. “Not as much as I would have liked.”