On True Thanks

by Nick Molnar on November 26, 2009

Turkey Trail is a mile and a half stretch of county road between Roosevelt and Miller Roads on the south side of South Bend. It has a mix of modest homes built decades ago, farmland, and expensive newer homes on large lots – the result of a St. Joseph County zoning rule which requires a minimum lot size of 20 acres for residential use on agricultural land.
It’s a manifestation of development trends of the last 50 years with ranch homes on small lots, estates with private ponds and gates, and cornfields all in a row.
Couple that with the fact it’s the only street in the area named after a Thanksgiving Day meal and it’s appropriate enough for a quick holdiday article on our blog. But I have a greater, personal reason to profile Turkey Trail today. Seven years ago my stepbrother, Eric Henry, died in an auto accident on this road.
He was a junior in high school and shortly before the accident had made a commitment to “be more giving.” That intention, fostered by Eric’s family and friends has grown into “Eric’s Promise,” a seasonal donation drive for the St. Vincent DePaul Society. It collects clothing, food and cash donations for people in need each Spring.
If you live in abundance and are looking for a way to express your thanks this holiday season, why not make a donation
http://www.saintvincent-in.org/donate.html
to St. Vincent DePaul or another worthy cause now?
Writing about Eric make me thankful for my sisters, my brothers, and all the sibling-like people in my life. Angie, David, Jeannie, Brad, TJ, Eric, Kristine, Lisa, Dave, Alex, AJ, Melissa, Brian, Vicki, Joe, Todd, Marianne, Kim, Jeff, Misti, and Dan – I’m grateful you are a part of my life.

Turkey Trail is a mile and a half stretch of county road between Roosevelt and Miller Roads on the south side of South Bend. It has a mix of modest homes built decades ago, farmland, and expensive newer homes on large lots – the result of a St. Joseph County zoning rule which requires a minimum lot size of 20 acres for residential use on agricultural land.

It’s a manifestation of development trends of the last 50 years with ranch homes on small lots, estates with private ponds and gates, and cornfields all in a row.

Couple that with the fact it’s the only street in the area named after a Thanksgiving Day meal and it’s appropriate enough for a quick holiday article on our blog. But I have a greater, personal reason to profile Turkey Trail today. Seven years ago my stepbrother, Eric Henry, died in an auto accident on this road.

Eric was a senior in high school and shortly before the accident had made a commitment to “be more giving.” That intention, fostered by Eric’s family and friends has grown into “Eric’s Promise,” a seasonal donation drive for the St. Vincent DePaul Society. It collects clothing, food and cash donations for people in need each Spring.

If you live in abundance and are looking for a way to express your thanks this holiday season, why not make a donation to St. Vincent DePaul or another worthy cause now?

Writing about Eric makes me consciously thankful for my sisters, my brothers, and all the sibling-like people in my life. Angie, David, Jeannie, Brad, TJ, Eric, Kristine, Lisa, Dave, Alex, AJ, Melissa, Brian, Eric, Vicki, Joe, Linda, Terry, Todd, Mary Anne, Kim, Jeff, Misty, and Dan – I’m grateful you are a part of my life.

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Editor’s note: Effective 11/26/09, I am closing new requests for assistance with appeals. If you have registered for assistance I’ll contact you by the end of the week with a report.

After writing about the recently mailed tax bills for St. Joseph County, which also served as notices of re-assessment, I’ve heard from a number of people who believe their assessment is inaccurate or inflated.

Warning, what follows is lengthy. I tried to make it as simple as possible, but St. Joseph County property taxes don’t lend themselves to clarity. If you are planning to appeal your assessed value I think you’ll find it helpful. But if your eyes glaze over reading tax deadlines and details you might want to skip it and look at photos of South Bend.

If you want to appeal your assessed property value, you have 45 days from the mailing date of the tax bill to do so. In my case the postmark is November 10th, but because I escrow taxes in my mortgage payment the bank received my bill and I received a duplicate copy which was apparently mailed later. The Date of Notice on my bill is November 3rd and the fine print defines that as the date the property tax bill was mailed. So I’ll need to appeal before December 18th.

While you can appeal with a letter, I’d recommend using appeal form #130 to be sure you have all the required information in your appeal. That form suggests an appraisal trended to the valuation date as “the most effective method to rebut the presumption that an assessment is correct.” They are suggesting you appeal with an appraisal. But a report by a licensed appraiser will cost in the neighborhood of $300 for a typical South Bend home.

The form also lists a few other forms of evidence that are considered valid:

  • A sale of the subject property adjusted to the valuation date (January 1st, 2007)
  • Income and expense information, if the property is an investment
  • Sales or assessments of comparable properties if the taxpayer can demonstrate the similarity between the appealed property and the comparable properties.

That’s not an exclusive list if you have some other evidence of your homes value, but those are the primary means to appeal your homes tax value. If you didn’t purchase your home in the last few years, the sales price isn’t very helpful. If you live in the house you won’t have income and expense information – think collected rents and maintenance costs. That leaves the typical taxpayer two options: pay for an appraisal or find the sales price of similar homes to justify your appeal. Unfortunately it’s difficult for people not in the real estate industry to find the actual sales prices of homes.

Boiled down, this leaves most appealing taxpayers two options – pay for an appraisal, or find a realtor to look for comparable sales for you. I can’t help everyone, but I do like to help people who visit this web-site. To that end, I’m offering free assistance finding comparable sales for tax appeals to the first twenty people who ask for it. Having sales data for other homes doesn’t ensure a successful appeal, especially as the value in question is for January 1st, 2007, but it is sure to stand a better chance than an emotional appeal to the county treasurer.

Just follow the link below and submit the form to get started.

Tax Appeals CMA Request

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St. Joseph County Property Tax Bills Viewable Online

by Nick Molnar on November 13, 2009

St. Joseph County recently mailed property tax bills for the “2008 pay 2009” tax year. Payments are due December 11, 2009. I’ve heard reports of odd assessments and straightforward errors showing that the system needs further refinement. But the online search allows only 30 queries per IP address, which is not enough for any real study to see what is happening with assessed values and total charges.

I’ll dig deeper in the coming weeks, but wanted to post the link where you can view tax bills today. It shows assessment, exemptions, delinquencies and total charges. For a 2.95% surcharge you can also pay your bill by credit card through the site .

http://www.stjosephtax.net

My assessment went from $140,200 to $159,800 – which is twice the $80,000 I paid for my home six months ago. My tax bill rose from $1,607.47 to $2,612.40.  That puts my effective tax rate at 1.45%, just shy of the 1.5% cap for owner occupied homes this year. In the coming weeks, I’ll detail the property tax appeals process as I go through it.

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Eddy Street Commons Update: November 6th, 2009

by Nick Molnar on November 6, 2009

editor’s update, 1/28/11: Eddy Street Commons has grown considerably. It has a handful of restaurants, retail, a fitness center and a bank. I’ve heard the apartments are leasing well, but the office space not as quickly. There are 25 townhomes built at “Champions Way.” For updated information on the townhomes, including sales prices and current photos, visit our January 2011 update on Champions Way at Eddy Street Commons.

Eddy Street Commons is open, despite the reportedly stalled state of significant pieces of the project . Eddy Street is open to traffic and lined with new construction between Napoleon and Edison/Angela. The buildings contain restaurants/retail at ground level with apartment or office space above. There are still incomplete interiors but there is a feeling of activity as you walk through.

Initial reaction is mostly positive, with some criticism that the area is overly planned and synthetic. A common question is “Can Eddy Street Commons become a memorable college town when it lacks a bar, contains mostly chain restaurants, and housing that is not intended for students due to age restrictions and prices?” I’d follow that with “If Eddy Street Commons isn’t intended to be a social space for students, who is the target market?”

Feel free to share any reaction you have to Eddy Street Commons in the comments.

Here are several photos taken November 6th, 2009.


I took this from the top of the parking garage to show the proximity to campus (the Golden Dome is visible in the background). This view will be blocked if the planned Marriott Hotel is built according to the site plans.

This is another view from the top of the parking garage. It shows ongoing construction of the Champions Way Townhomes. The model unit will reportedly be complete late in November.

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South Bend Real Estate Report: October 2009

by Nick Molnar on November 2, 2009

There are 272 closed sales for October 2009 recorded in the South Bend Area MLS totaling about $28.79 million in sales volume.

That’s a bit higher than September 2009, which had 238 sales that totaled about $24.97 million. Such an increase is not uncommon – sales have risen from September to October five of the last nine years.  But the sales volume for October 2009 is higher than the total for October 2001. That is noteworthy as it’s the first month in 2009 where sales surpassed those of any previous year since 2001.  Check the long term graph of monthly sales volume below for more detail.

The high price sale was $700,000 on a builder sold home in Granger’s Northbrook Shores. It was first listed for $895,000 but priced at $850,000 at the time of sale.

The second and third most costly sales were both in Granger’s Covington Shores:
$515,000 for 14764 Heatherton, listed in July 2009 for $550,000.
$475,000 for 51730 Harborough, listed August 2008 for $539,000 and priced at $499,900 at the time of sale.

There were 69 sales at or under $50,000 and the low price sale was $5,500.

Check the scatter graph of the price of every sale in October 2009 below for a better sense of the market.

Financing

FHA loans remain the most common means of financing, with more than one third of the sales. It’s followed closely by cash sales with just under one third of the sales, then by conventional mortgage with about 1/4th of the sales. VA loans and other types of financing such as land contract sales each account for about 3% of the sales.

Condos and Townhouses

In October, existing condos sold in

  • The Forest – $162,500 on a $174,900 list price
  • Oak Hill – $150,000 on a $158,400 list price
  • Stonebridge – $85,000 with $850 in concessions on a $85,000 list price
  • Berkley Square –  $52,000 on a $54,900 list price
  • Topsfield – $46,000 with $4,500 in concessions on a $43,900 list price

I haven’t seen any sales of new condos this month, though Kite Realty reports 21 signed contracts for the townhomes they are building at Eddy Commons, “Champions Way.” They start above $370,000.

New Construction

A commenter recently asked if I could break out new construction sales in the monthly reports. Builders don’t all record sales in the MLS (which only has info on sales that were handled by a Realtor), but I do read comments and try to respond. So take this with a caution that there may be other sales, but from MLS data it looks like there were nine homes sold by builders in October:

  • Cornerstone Builders sold 50695 Brookside Drive at $700,000
  • Classic Homes sold 51800 Bittersweet at $175,000
  • Weiss Homes sold six homes at $204,525, $184,151, $170,360, $165,000, $161,660, and $138,780
  • Portage Realty Corp sold 18221 Courtland at $183,482 with $5,000 in concessions

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