Letter for March 22: New property values set too high

Mar. 21, 2013 @ 05:59 PM

To the editor:

The News-Topic has improved markedly. That's good news for readers. The story in the March 21 edition on real estate values was, however, a slip in reliability.

The county tax administrator is quoted as saying, "It's Caldwell County, not Las Vegas." Indeed. But hundreds of families who have lost their homes would have loved to have had a chance to roll the dice to keep them. Real estate agents suggest that the market is stabilizing. But asking an agent about the situation is like asking a fox to guard the henhouse. The agents have been hit hard, too. They have had to lay off employees, work harder and bide their time with their fingers crossed for sales.

If our real estate market has improved, where's the evidence? We know people who have tried for two years and more to sell their homes before having to cave in to give-away prices or foreclosure.

Where's the new construction (other than U.S. 321 eateries)? Where are the News-Topic's classified ads, other than the painful legal announcements of courthouse auctions? A recent edition published 12 foreclosure ads. March 21 was a relatively slow day: only five.

Let's be honest. Almost overnight, 6,000 furniture industry jobs disappeared. Only a few have returned. We now have three organizations recruiting business, but the announcements are few and far between. Our social services workers cannot keep up with the distribution of food credit cards (not stamps anymore).

With the county attempting to raise valuations above the fair market level, we're adding to the problem. People struggling to make house payments are being dunned for higher taxes.

There's only one true way to determine the value of a property. What the buyer offers and what the seller agrees to. That figure is undoubtedly well below the county's tax guess. If the county cannot use that kind of legitimate approach to tax values, expect that to prompt even more foreclosures.

John H. Adams

Lenoir