Orange Township Trustee Jim Agan's hobby can be helpful to other Delaware County property owners, he said.

Orange Township Trustee Jim Agan's hobby can be helpful to other Delaware County property owners, he said.

Curious about how the downturn in the economy is affecting the area, he has been keeping track of what some houses sell for.

He logged onto the Delaware County auditor's Web site and compared several selling prices to the auditor's "market value" amount. The market value is used to determine property tax.

Agan found some property sales that were lower than the market value, which prompted him to look at 2008 Orange Township home sales, as described by the Columbus Board of Realtors.

He said he compared most of the 266 sale amounts with the auditor's Web site's market values. He said that a number of houses have a listed market value higher than the actual sale price.

Because property taxes are based on property value, those homeowners could end up paying too much, he said.

Of the 44 property summary documents from the county Web site that Agan showed ThisWeek, 28 showed sale prices from 4.3 to 9.6 percent below the listed market value and 17 showed sale prices from 11 to 27.7 percent below the listed market value.

Agan said he contacted the home buyers in a number of these transactions, and advised them to ask the auditor's office to adjust the market value to match the actual sale price. Those requests were granted, he said.

Interim Delaware County Auditor Jerry Heston said property owners who think their homes' market value is too high can file a "complaint against the valuation of real property" with the county's board of revisions.

Chief deputy auditor Mark Potts said the auditor's office can grant such requests as long as the sale is an "arm's length" transaction, in which the seller aims to make a profit.

Auditors' offices cannot, however, make such adjustments without a request, he said.

Ordinarily, county auditors change the appraised value, or market value -- if a change has occurred -- twice in a six-year cycle, said Frances Lesser, executive director of the County Auditors Association of Ohio.

At the triennial update, auditors use various statistical data including averaging a house's sale prices to determine a property's value. At the reappraisal, auditors use that data and hire people to visit properties and appraise them.

Potts and the real estate staff from the auditors' offices of Franklin and Fairfield counties, Tony Frissora and Ed Laramee, respectively, said county auditors neither increase nor decrease the market value when a property is sold, but rather make changes, if needed, at the three-year intervals. The data, however, would be used in determining a new value.

In 2008, Delaware County performed a triennial update, Potts said. For residential property, the state recommended that auditors use a zero-percent change in the aggregate value -- the overall county value, Potts said. Very little change occurred in the county -- a few housing developments saw a value increase, a few saw a value decrease and most residential properties had no change, he said.

Lesser said, "Just because your value is lowered does not necessarily mean your taxes will go down. It depends on the types of levies and bonds that the property is subject to."

The deadline to file board of revision complaints is March 31 of every year.

For more information, call the county auditor at (740) 833-2900 or visit us/auditor.