The Union County Auditor's Office has completed a revaluation process that shows most properties are worth less than they were a year ago, even though overall values in Union County have increased by $26.4 million over 2012 figures, from $1.35 billion to $1.37 billion.
Auditor Andrea Weaver said those overall numbers alone don't present a true picture of what's happening in the county.
Simply put, the valuations on residential, commercial and industrial properties in Union County show marked declines.
Property is placed in three categories, Weaver said. Class 1 includes both residential and agricultural land. Class 2 is for commercial and industrial properties. Class 3 is for public utility valuations, which Weaver said are set by the state.
Overall valuations for Class 1 properties increased from 1.04 billion to $1.1 billion between 2012 and 2013, but that increase is due solely to higher values on agricultural land, Weaver said.
"Certainly, there are pockets in the county were some properties increased, but overall, residential values -- Class 1 -- lost value," she said.
Residential real estate values in Union County dropped from $850.5 million in 2012 to $836.4 million in 2013 for a $14.1-million decrease, she said.
Agriculture properties were valued at $187.5 million in 2012 and $266.4 million in 2013 -- a jump of $78.9 million.
Class 2 valuations on commercial and industrial properties dropped from $249.8 million in 2012 to to $207 million in 2013, a decrease of $42.8 million.
Class 3 valuations on public utility properties increased slightly from $59.7 million to $64 million.
"There is a small increase in public utility values, but those are decided by the state and not under my control," Weaver said. "Either way, every other area of valuation lost a pretty healthy amount of value."
Weaver said the numbers are tentative and will have to be certified in November.
"This period is to allow for any changes that property owners might bring to our attention," she said.
Union County looks a lot like the rest of Ohio after its six-year valuation process, according to Weaver.
"All counties, as they have gone through their revaluation cycles, have encountered reductions in value," she said. "The recession and a large drop in property valuations affected all 88 counties."
Agricultural land values increased simply because of higher income derived from that land, according to Weaver.
"The state of Ohio sets those values, based on a five-part formula that takes into account things like yield, cropping patterns and grain prices," she said.
The decline in residential valuations can be attributed to two things, she said.
"It's been since 2007 that homes were visually inspected. This was Union County's last revaluation. That means that in assessing each parcel, our appraisers had to bring up to date each property's grade, condition and depreciation," Weaver said. "Secondly, they had to consider the effects of the market, applying the last six years of falling prices to each neighborhood."
Completing the valuation process is quite lengthy, she said.
"Because of the scope of the project, we began our on-site visits and street-front photography late 2011 and early 2012," she said. "We also commissioned aerial photography in spring 2012.
"Throughout 2012, appraisers were doing the visual assessments and compiling sales data, and then in the first three months of 2013, they were updating the sales information," Weaver said. "Start to finish, the process is nearly two years in length."