More Property Owners Expected to Appeal Tax Bills

30 08 2009

The number of growing property owners in Northeast Florida fighting to lower their tax bills is expected to grow this year.

More property owners in Jacksonville are expected to file petitions challenging their property assessments and homestead and tax exemption classifications with the county’s Value Adjustment Board (VAB).

The increase in petitions is largely due to the economic downturn, rises in proposed city and county property tax rates, and a change in state law that requires the property appraiser’s office to prove their assessments are accurate.

Until this year, the property appraiser’s assessment was presumed correct during any challenge. The property owner was required to prove the assessment was wrong.

Under the adjustment board’s rules, special magistrates are hired to settle disputes between property owners and the county property appraiser’s office. The clerk’s office is responsible for processing petitions and scheduling hearings with special magistrates.

The property appraiser’s office mailed the 2009 Notices of Proposed Property Taxes, also called the “Truth in Millage” (T.R.I.M.) Notices to all county property owners on Monday, August 17.

How to Challenge

Duval County: Duval County Property owners have until Sept. 11 to challenge their property assessments and exemption classifications. Petitions can be filed with the county’s Value Adjustment Board online, or in person at City Hall, 117 W. Duval Street, Suite 430, Jacksonville, FL. Petitions can also be filed online at www.coj.net.

For more information call the Duval County property appraiser at (904) 630-2011.

St. Johns County: Petitions must be filed with the Clerk of the Court’s Office by September 11, 2009 at one of the following locations:

MAIN OFFICE: Minutes & Records; 4010 Lewis Speedway (Administration building adjacent to County Courthouse), St. Augustine, FL 32084; (904) 819-3644

PONTE VEDRA BEACH OFFICE: 5430 Palm Valley Road, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, 32082 (904) 285-5945

JULINGTON CREEK OFFICE: 725 Flora Branch Boulevard, Saint Johns, FL, 32259 (904) 230-0107

HASTINGS OFFICE*: 6195 South Main Street, Hastings, FL, 32145 (904) 692-1123 *Wednesdays only.

OR ONLINE: http://doris.clk.co.st-johns.fl.us/axia-weblive/

Clay County: Petitions must be filed with the Clerk of the Court’s Office by September 11, 2009 at one of the following locations:

MAIN OFFICE: Post Office Box 38, Green Cove Springs, Florida 32043-0038 Telephones: (904) 284/269-6305 Fax: (904) 284-2923

ORANGE PARK BRANCH OFFICE: 1518 Park Ave Orange Park, Florida 32073 Telephones: (352) 473-3711 (904) 529-5332 Fax: (904) 529-5340

OR ONLINE: http://www.ccpao.com/index.html





Greece , Japan, Germany, Swizerland ban Google’s Street View

27 08 2009

The Swiss joined a growing chorus of nations by demanding that Google Inc. stop its “street view” service in Switzerland.

Google has been taking photographs in Switzerland and started offering the service a week ago, according to news reports. Though it used software to blur out faces and license plates, some could still be distinguished, and the Swiss government has asked Google to stop the street view feature.

Greece, Japan and Germany have all made similar protests recently because of concerns about privacy.

Google uses a vehicle with multiple cameras above its roof to take the photos while driving. Pictures have captured people in embarrassing moments or have even revealed the inside of homes — this was the sticking point for the Japanese government, which insisted Google retake the pictures from a lower height so as not to peek over fences and walls.

Comments: Does anyone like Google’s Street View? As a real estate professional, I find this feature to be very useful. However, I agree with the complaints that captured pictures sometimes reveal too much information. Privacy laws have to be observed as well.





U.S. is 15 Years Behind South Korea in Internet Speed

27 08 2009

A surprising report on Internet speed in the U.S. finds the country isn’t likely to catch world leader South Korea for 15 years or longer. At current growth rates, the U.S. will only reach South Korea’s speed today in 15 years.

The report, by the Communications Workers of America, details Internet download and upload speeds all over the U.S. and some of its affiliated territories. In the last year, the average upload speed in the U.S. “barely changed,” the report noted, and download speed only grew a little, from 4.2 megabits per second in 2008 to 5.1 megabits per second in 2009.

In South Korea, average download speed is four times faster — 20.4 megabits per second. The U.S. also lags Japan (15.8 mbps), Sweden (12.8 mbps), the Netherlands (11 mbps) and 24 other countries.

At average U.S. speed, it takes about 35 minutes to download 100 family vacation photos, and four hours to upload them.

The report said U.S. speeds aren’t sufficient for the needs of in-home medical monitoring, distance learning programs or to run a modern business from home.

“People in Japan can upload a high-definition video in 12 minutes, compared to a grueling 2.5 hours” at the average U.S. speed, the report said.

The report found Florida’s average download speed was 5.8 megabits per second, ahead of the U.S., but significantly behind the aforementioned countries. The state’s upload speed was 1.1 mbps.

The report calls for more investment in the nation’s Internet infrastructure. It also suggests shifting the outdated universal service payments that support voice telephone service over to pay for better and cheaper high-speed Internet service for everyone.

I can’t help but agree with the report. We need faster Internet speed and better Internet infrastructure in this country.





U.S. Housing Prices Inch Upward

27 08 2009

Housing prices in the U.S. increased in the second quarter, the first quarterly increase in three years and an indication the market is rebounding.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller Home Price Index rose nearly 3 percent from the first quarter to 133, and June’s index was up 1.4 percent from May.

The monthly index of 20 major cities increased to 142, the second straight month it climbed. The index, which does not include Jacksonville, registered gains in all 20 markets except Las Vegas and Detroit. The two Florida markets tracked, Miami and Tampa, registered gains of less than 1 percent.

The gains have come just in the last few months. The Florida Association of Realtors reported last week that median sales prices of existing single-family homes in July were down 40 percent in Miami and 29 percent in Tampa compared to July of 2008.

Source: Jacksonville Business Journal





New Home Sales Up 9.6%

27 08 2009

There’s more promising news from the housing front.

The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that sales of new homes rose 9.6 percent in July, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 433,000. That’s above the revised June rate of 395,000, but 13.4 percent below July 2008’s rate of 500,000.

The median sales price of a new home sold in July was $210,100, while the average sales price was $269,200.

The seasonally adjusted estimate of new homes for sale at the end of last month was 271,000, representing a 7.5-month supply at the current sales rate. In the South, the seasonally adjusted estimate of new homes for sale at the end of last month was 222,000.

Home sales in the South rose 16.2 percent in July over June. Only the Northeast fared better, with home sales up 32.4 percent in the same month-over-month period.

Source: The U.S. Department of Commerce





Jacksonville on Short List for World Cup Matches

24 08 2009

Jacksonville made a short list of cities to potentially host a FIFA World Cup soccer tournament game in either 2018 or 2022. FIFA’s criteria for the World Cup requires a host nation to provide 12 to 18 stadiums capable of seating at least 40,000 spectators each. Each venue typically hosts four to six matches during two or three weeks. The event attracts a global television audience of about 26 billion. Click for audio.





Florida’s Existing Home and Condo Sales Up in July 2009

22 08 2009

Florida’s existing home sales rose in July – the 11th month in a row that sales activity increased in the year-to-year comparison, according to the latest housing data released by the Florida Association of Realtors (FAR). Statewide existing home sales in July also rose over the previous month’s sales level.

Existing home sales rose 37 percent last month with a total of 15,882 homes sold statewide compared to 11,595 homes sold in July 2008, according to FAR. Statewide existing home sales in July increased 0.2 percent over June’s statewide activity. Florida Realtors also reported a 48 percent rise in statewide sales of existing condos in July.

Eighteen of Florida’s metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) reported increased existing home sales in July; the same number of MSAs also showed gains in condo sales. A majority of the state’s MSAs have reported increased sales for more than a year (13 consecutive months).

To gain insight into current trends in Florida’s real estate industry, the University of Florida’s Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies conducts a quarterly survey of industry executives, market research economists, real estate scholars and other experts. According to the recent second quarter 2009 survey, investor confidence in the outlook for business and availability of money are reasons for cautious optimism.

“I think we’re on the road to recovery and even though most markets report they’ve seen the bottom, it’s going to be a long climb,” said Timothy Becker, the center’s director. He noted that the investment outlook for single-family development increased to its highest level since the survey began, with more respondents than ever believing it is a good time to buy.

Florida’s median sales price for existing homes last month was $147,600; a year ago, it was $193,800 for a 24 percent decrease. According to housing industry analysts with the National Association of Realtors (NAR), sales of foreclosures and other distressed properties continue to downwardly distort the median price because they generally sell at a discount relative to traditional homes. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.

The national median sales price for existing single-family homes in June 2009 was $181,600, down 15 percent from a year earlier, according to NAR. In Massachusetts, the statewide median resales price was $306,000 in June; in California, it was $274,740; in Maryland, it was $274,008; and in New York, it was $189,900.

Several positive market factors are influencing the housing sector, notes NAR’s latest industry outlook. “Historically low mortgage interest rates, affordable home prices and a large selection are encouraging buyers who’ve been on the sidelines,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “Activity has been consistently much stronger for lower priced homes. We expect a gradual uptrend in sales to continue due to tax credit incentives and historically high affordability conditions.”

In Florida’s year-to-year comparison for condos, 5,035 units sold statewide compared to 3,396 units in July 2008 for a 48 percent increase. The statewide existing condo median sales price last month was $108,300; in July 2008 it was $168,700 for a 36 percent decrease. The national median existing condo price was $183,300 in June 2009, according to NAR.

Interest rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.22 percent last month, down significantly from the average rate of 6.43 percent in July 2008, according to Freddie Mac. FAR’s sales figures reflect closings, which typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.

Among the state’s smaller markets, the Pensacola MSA reported a total of 371 homes sold in July compared to 321 homes a year earlier for a 16 percent increase. The market’s existing home median sales price last month remained level compared to a year ago at $157,800. A total of 48 condos sold in the MSA in July, up 23 percent over the 39 units sold in July 2008. The existing condo median price in July was $250,000; a year earlier, it was $325,000 for a 23 percent decrease.

Source: Florida Association of Realtors








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