Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Legislator wants real-estate transparency

Hailey to support Jaquet?s price disclosure bill

Express Staff Writer

Idaho House Minority Leader Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, will once again bring a bill before the state Legislature that would require disclosure of real estate sales prices, a change the local legislator sees as a means for having equitable property taxes.

And Jaquet isn't alone. The Hailey City Council vocally supported the bill during its meeting Thursday, Nov. 8.

"I think it's a grand idea," Councilwoman Carol Brown said of the city's resolution to back Jaquet, which will be made official at the council's Nov. 26 meeting.

In an interview, Jaquet said the bill, which she unsuccessfully brought before the Legislature twice in the past three years, will allow county assessors to access critical information in determining property values, which, in turn, are used for calculating taxes.

"The Legislature is realizing that assessors can't do their jobs without this information," Jaquet said. "Right now, with prices going down, assessors can't get access to declining prices."

This importance was not lost on Hailey Councilman Don Keirn, who noted that due to Idaho's status as a nondisclosure state, property taxes may be based on a peak of a few year ago, rather than staying in line with a downturn in the real estate market.

According to Marion Johnson, president of the International Association of Assessing Officers, Idaho is only one of approximately seven nondisclosure states, though he couldn't give an exact figure since sales price disclosure laws vary by county in a number of states.

"It seems like human nature for people to not want the price of their home to be public information," said Johnson, who is also the appraiser for Douglas County, Kan. "But for an assessor, it allows us to do our job better and saves time."

Jaquet echoed that sentiment, saying that under the current system, assessors have to make estimates by looking at advertisements and compare those listed prices to other homes.

"For homeowners, it's all about fairness," said Jaquet. "Someone in Bellevue could be paying more than their fair share compared to the owner of a large house in Ketchum."

But the problem goes beyond Blaine County, as exemplified by Kootenai County, where the commissioners are deliberating the possibility of requiring sales price disclosure to ensure that homeowners are being taxed at the market value of their homes.

Jaquet said she met last summer with other stakeholders in the issue, including real estate brokers and bankers, which helped show that the problem wasn't exclusive to Blaine County. She said the bill will be introduced to the state Senate in January, as a number of the bill's co-sponsors are Republic senators, in hopes that it will gain support before moving to the House, where she expects more resistance.

"I think we have the votes now," Jaquet said. "The bill now has the legs it didn't have in the past."

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