Henrico real estate market sends mixed messages - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

Henrico real estate market sends mixed messages

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HENRICO, VA (WWBT) -

If you're looking to buy, sell, or just want to know what you'll pay in taxes next year, the Henrico County housing market is sending some mixed signals. This month, county leaders are trying to get a jump on what the future will bring.

Wednesday, the National Association of Realtors reported that existing home sales are as high as they've been in two years. In Henrico, county leaders are trying to go beyond the headlines in a market that isn't exactly easy to read.

"There's a lot of mixed signals in the news. There's good news and bad news," said Thomas Little, Henrico's real estate assessment director.

It was Little's task earlier this month to brief the county Board of Supervisors on residential real estate trends; a briefing that occurred much earlier than usual. Among the findings: Through the first seven months of 2012, more homes were sold in Henrico compared to the same period in 2011.

That's improvement. However, the average sales price was down 4%. That's not, at least for the county's tax base.

Furthermore, county leaders acknowledge that even when the numbers appear to be improving, they are improving from depressed levels. To complicate matters, in one west end neighborhood real estate tax assessments may be going up, but just down the street they could be tanking.

Little said, locally, the story behind the numbers is anything but stable.

"As long as you don't just look at the headline and assume that we're in a booming market again or assume that it's falling apart again, I think you're in much better shape," Little said.

That's one reason the county Board was briefed in September, as opposed to December. Supervisors want more time to consider the market's effect on home prices, sales figures, and potentially the county's tax rate.

Since the economy tanked, county leaders have resisted every urge to raise the property tax rate. It's far too early to speculate about next year, they said.

The county's residential real estate assessment values have fallen by $2.6 billion since 2009. As a result, the average tax bill has declined $286.

Looking ahead, the county's budget writing process typically ramps up in January and is complete by early Spring.

Even more mixed news in Henrico: There's an increase, this year, in new home construction, but foreclosures remain at historically high levels.

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