Higher property assessments follow jump in Walker County, Georgia, housing sales

Walker County, Georgia, residents have until July 1 to appeal their new property assessment estimates — which have gone up an average of about 25% this year, according to the county’s chief appraiser.

The property assessment notices were sent out in mid-May, said Terry Gilreath, chief appraiser for Walker County.

“It’s not been fun, I can tell you that,” Gilreath said of the assessment process during last month’s County Commission meeting. “It’s not stopping, it’s not easing up. The values, of course, they keep going up. The sales are ridiculous.”

The millage rate determining what will be owed by property owners is set by governing authorities like the Walker County Board of Commissioners and the Walker County Board of Education. Those rates will be set later this summer, according to a media release from Walker County.

In 2021, the Walker County Board of Commissioners rolled back the millage rate to ease the impact of higher property appraisals. At their meeting in May, commissioners didn’t address whether they would ease the burden of property taxes again this year.

(READ MORE: Walker County, Georgia, commission discusses adding a county manager)

Higher property values are a trend across Georgia and the entire United States. Gilreath noted there’s a lack of supply of available houses.

Greater Chattanooga Realtors tracks sales in the Northwest Georgia counties of Walker, Catoosa and Dade, along with the southeast Tennessee counties of Hamilton and Sequatchie. From April to May, the region had a median sales price of $315,000, according to Greater Chattanooga Realtors data on its website. A year ago, the median sales price was $260,000.

“There’s places where a couple of years ago a house sold for $200,000, last year it sold for $300,000, this year it sold for $400,000. That sort of thing is common,” Gilreath said. “So we’re having to constantly chase those numbers to keep up those values up where they’re supposed to be, according to state law.”

All properties are different, and he said some won’t see a valuation increase at all. Gilreath said some of the increases are due to upgrades to the property. Bidding wars are common.

(READ MORE: Georgia’s Walker County to invest more than $45 million in water infrastructure)

A uniform property assessment estimate appeal form has been created by the state of Georgia, Joe Legge, Walker County public relations director, said in an email. The Board of Assessor does not accept emailed or faxed appeals because it is considered a sworn affidavit, he said. The form can be found on the Assessor’s Office website.

A reason property owners might appeal, Legge wrote, would be they do not believe the assessment represents the fair market value for the home. For example, he wrote, “there are comparable homes in their community that sold last year under the new assessed value. There could also be instances where the property should be tax-exempt or an exemption was missing.”

The Walker County Assessor’s Office reviewed 4,000 sales transactions last year, when it usually processes about 1,500, according to information provided by the county. Gilreath said the county was on track to hit that 4,000 mark again this year.

Locally, inventory and sales increased for May, Greater Chattanooga Realtors found. That contrasts with national trends that show sales have declined for the third consecutive month.

Contact Andrew Wilkins at awilkins@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659. Follow him on Twitter @tweetatwilkins.

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