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Staff photo by Mary Fortune / Hamilton County Commissioner Sabrena Smedley, center, talks with constituents about property appraisals on Friday evening at East Brainerd Church of Christ.

Charlie Peresta's home in Drake forest off Shallowford Road was valued at $280,000 when he bought it in the fall of 2019. He recently received a reassessment notice pegging its worth at $440,000.

In the interim, the place was devastated by a tornado, and though he rebuilt, Peresta's neighborhood is still a patchwork of empty homes, downed trees, vacant lots and in-progress construction.

"When you drive in and see it, it's depressing," said Peresta, who was one of dozens of East Brainerd residents who came to a Friday evening meeting to talk with Hamilton County Assessor of Property Marty Haynes about the reappraisals. "You try to get past it, but it's depressing."

About 10,000 people have called Haynes' office to object to increases in their recently reassessed home values during this historically hot housing market, but tornado-damaged areas of East Brainerd have generated particular concern, Haynes said.

"Did we get everything absolutely positively right? No," he told the socially distanced crowd that gathered Friday at East Brainerd Church of Christ. "We want to talk to you tonight, we want you to call us, we want to get it right."

Property values across the county have gone up about 20% in just the last two years, and more than 7,100 homes sold in Hamilton County in 2020 despite the pandemic, Haynes told the crowd.

"We've had unprecedented increases in property values in Hamilton County," he said. "We are at a high-water mark to sell you home. If you want to sell your home, I don't think there's ever been a better time."

A few people who attended the meeting Friday said the housing market is artificially inflated and likely to correct itself, and the reassessment, which is scheduled every four years by state law, could not have come at a worse time.

Haynes said any homeowner who sees property values dropping in their neighborhood can contact his office any time.

"If the market decreases, you can call us, you can do that every year, but you do have to call us," he said.

Ultimately, the amount of property taxes people pay is not likely to go up as much as their assessment did, Haynes said. By state law, the reassessment has to be revenue-neutral, and the tax rate is likely to be adjusted to help achieve that, he said.

Property Tax info

To contact the Hamilton County Assessor of Property, call (423) 209-7990.

Property values are reassessed every four years.

The property tax rate in Hamilton County is $2.76 per $100 of assessed value.

The rate in the city of Chattanooga is $2.27 per $100 of assessed value.

Residential and commercial properties are assessed at 25% and 40% of appraised value respectively.

 

"It can't be a financial windfall for the county," Haynes said. "Reappraisal is revenue-neutral across the county."

County Commissioner Sabrena Smedley, who represents the area and helped organize the meeting, told the crowd she favors lowering the property tax rate.

"I'm one of nine commissioners, and I can't speak for the other eight, but I will say that there's been no hint of a tax increase," she said. "I think that would be ludicrous."

Smedley, a real estate agent, has seen the impact of tight housing inventory and the trend of people relocating to more affordable mid-sized cities like Chattanooga, she said.

"I'll list a house and I don't even put the photos up, and within three hours I have multiple offers and they are higher than the asking price," she said. That's what is happening in our market. It blows my mind."

Contact Mary Fortune at mfortune@timesfreepress.com. Follow her on Twitter at @maryfortune.

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