WORTHINGTON — Local housing demands are driving up prices people are paying to become homeowners across Nobles County, which in turn is driving up market values.

During the county’s annual Board of Equalization meeting Tuesday evening in Worthington, Nobles County Assessor Val Ruesch said residential property owners in Worthington saw, on average, a market value increase of 7%, while several smaller communities in the county saw market value increases of 10% to 11%.

Meanwhile, market value on bare agricultural land is holding steady, Ruesch reported.

Market values follow trends in sales, so as sale prices climb above the property’s valuation, neighboring properties will see their property value increase.

The new market values are based on sales that occurred between Oct. 1, 2017 and Sept. 30, 2018. During that time frame, there were 219 residential property sales in Nobles County, 24 bare agricultural land sales, six commercial property sales, one industrial site sale and one apartment building sale.

Five property owners appeared before the Board of Equalization Tuesday with questions or concerns about the increase in market value to their property. Several asked that their value be lowered.

The cases and corresponding action by the board are as follows:

  • Susan Blair, 308 North Ave., Ellsworth, reported a property value increase of $20,000, which she was “extremely shocked” about.

“If any of you offered me $80,000 for my property, I would take it and run,” Blair said.

Since purchasing the property three years ago, she said a lot of cosmetic changes have been made inside their home, but little has been done to the exterior or to other features of the property.

Blair had an appraisal of the property completed May 30, which stated the value at $67,000. That compares to the county’s market valuation of $84,000. She said a bank wouldn’t give anyone an $80,000 loan for the property.

“My feelings are, I don’t feel it’s fair to tax Ellsworth at such a high standard when we have a community that’s not necessarily growing,” she said before asking the board to accept the appraised value of $67,000.

The board voted 3-2, with Matt Widboom and Justin Ahlers opposed, to make no adjustment to the market value.

  • Colette Smythe, 510 Oak St., Ellsworth, said her home value increased $25,000 from last year to this year — a 27% increase.

“My home might be worth $115,000, but you have to consider the city of Ellsworth,” Smythe said. “For the people in town, (market values have) gone up substantially just in the last year.”

Ruesch said the market value increase in Ellsworth was at least 11%, attributable in part to improper calculations of property value in the past. It was also noted that what has happened in Worthington, with people paying above market value due to demand, is now occurring in these smaller communities.

In the village of Leota, it was noted residential property owners saw a 20% increase in market values.

The board voted 4-1 to make no adjustment to Smythe’s valuation, with Ahlers in opposition.

  • Gene and Sandy Sanders, 305 S. Walnut St., Ellsworth, said they paid $20,000 for a house three years ago, and it’s now valued at $38,000. In addition, a bare lot they own increased from $2,000 to $4,000 this year.

The board voted unanimously for no change to the value on the house. A motion to lower the bare lot value to $2,500 failed on a 3-2 vote, with Ahlers and Widboom voting in favor. That resulted in no change to the bare lot value.

  • Craig and Madonna Carlson, 32233 290th St., Worthington, said their new market value is a $50,000 increase and their property tax has doubled in the five years since they purchased their home near Lake Ocheda in Bigelow Township.

The Carlsons said they are getting penalized and having to pay higher taxes when 40% of the parcels in Bigelow Township have yet to be assessed or appraised.

“We want to defer our increase until all of the people in Bigelow Township have been visited,” Craig Carlson said. “We don’t want to pay more than our fair share — and earlier — than the other residents of Bigelow Township.”

Market values in Bigelow Township are not at the level they should be, and the assessor’s office is working to correct valuations. There wasn’t enough time to get to all of the parcels in the township before the deadline, assessing staff noted.

“The state has told you, ‘Straighten this out, you’ve got a problem with valuations,’” Madonna Carlson said. “We’re happy to be part of fixing it, but it shouldn’t be fixed for 60% of the people and the other 40% are left alone. If you’ve got to catch everybody up, catch them all up in one year.”

Craig Carlson said he has had an assessor visit his property in three of the past four years, and said it was ironic that none of the Bigelow Township board of equalization members had experienced such frequent visits.

“That, to me, is upsetting,” he said, noting they have not made improvements to their property since they moved in in 2014.

Ruesch said her office can review property every year up to a maximum of five years, and said she is trying to get the township into compliance. Other townships (Graham Lakes and Hersey) have the same issue, she added.

The board voted to make no changes to the Carlsons’ market valuation.

  • Brad Hoekstra, 28894 310th St., Worthington, said the $257,900 market value on his property is a $10,700 increase over last year. He said the value of his property should be lower than that of his neighbor’s, citing comparisons between his three-bedroom house to the neighbor’s five-bedroom house that had a lower market value, among other differences in the sites.

The board voted unanimously to leave the market value unchanged.

The meeting also included market value changes to 27 parcels in the Suedkamp Addition within the city of Adrian, due to infrastructure costs being included in the sale price of lots, which wasn’t known by the assessor’s office until the Adrian Board of Equalization met.

Ruesch also brought before the board a couple of market value adjustments previously agreed to by her office that needed board approval. These included the Mary Poller residence on Lot 11, Block 15, Brewster, which was adjusted from $95,800 to $88,400; and the Dale and Shirley Martin residence, 626 Dugdale Ave., Worthington, which was lowered from $306,000 to $238,500.