Summit County flooded with the most property valuation appeals filed in nearly 15 years

June 20, 2023

Housing developments in the Wildernest area are pictured Jan. 2, 2020. Between 2021 and 2023, the average valuation for a Summit County home increased by 63%, according to the county assessor’s office.

At more than 7,300 appeals, the office is seeing the most protest from property owners since the 2008-09 Great Recession

The last time the Summit County Assessor’s Office saw as many property valuation appeals as it is now, the United States economy was in a tailspin.

The Great Recession of 2008-09 marked the lowest point of economic activity since the 1930s. Across the country, millions lost homes. The unemployment rate skyrocketed to 10%. Property values evaporated.

But as property owners now see the inverse of that period, with property values at historic highs, they’ve responded with the same level of protest over their property valuation.

“I was maybe a little bit optimistic that we wouldn’t be at the 2009 levels,” said Summit County Assessor Lisa Eurich. “It’s a historic year.”

Eurich said her office has received more than 7,300 appeals from county property owners since June 8, the deadline for filing an appeal. That represents roughly 19% of all homes, commercial property and vacant land in the county. In 2021, the last year appraisals were made, the office saw appeals for 4% of all property.

The 19% figure is on par with 2009. But unlike that year, when property owners protested values that were decimated by the recession, home and landowners are currently fighting values that have, in some cases, tripled. It means that many owners are likely to see spikes in their property taxes next year.

According to Eurich, home valuations are up 63% on average when compared to 2021. Vacant land is up 90% on average, with Eurich saying the largest increase for such property was 300% this year.

Data from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs shows that four of Summit’s neighboring counties — Park, Eagle, Lake and Grand — all saw average residential value increases of 62% to 67%.

The average change in vacant land, however, varied widely. On the lower end, Eagle saw a 50% average change while Grand and Park saw 106% and 107% changes, respectively.

“Land did see — across the board, and in a lot of other counties too — a huge uptick,” Eurich said.

County assessments are issued every odd year. In 2023, the values were based on sales of similar properties that occurred between July 1, 2017, and June 30, 2022 — though it focused mostly on the last two years.

That figure, which was mailed to property owners last month, is then multiplied by the statewide assessment rate, which is currently set at 6.76%. It is then multiplied by the rate of local mill levies, which fund around 40 county entities, including Summit Fire & EMS; the Red, White & Blue Fire Protection District; and the Summit School District.

It is this final figure that represents the tax property owners will pay in 2024. Those bills will be made available in January and can either be paid in two separate installments next year — due Feb. 28 and June 15 — or in one, full installment due April 15.

Eurich said her office is racing to respond to property owners’ appeals by the state-mandated deadline on June 30. Any appeals submitted to the office past the June 8 deadline (except for mailed appeals postmarked June 8) will not be considered, Eurich said.

Eurich said it’s too soon to say how many valuations will be changed based on an appeal. In 2021, 38% of appeals led to a change in valuation, according to Eurich. Property owners will also have a second chance to protest their valuation in May of next year, Eurich said, since valuations only change every two years.

And even if those valuations aren’t adjusted, property owners could still see tax relief if Colorado voters pass a ballot question this fall.

Proposition HH, which was approved for the ballot by state legislators in May, would slightly reduce the statewide property tax assessment rate while exempting the first $50,000 of home value from taxation this year. That would then decrease to $40,000 through the 2032 tax year (second-homeowners would only receive the benefit through 2025).

Because of the uncertainty around HH’s passage, local governments and taxing entities are unclear on how much revenue will be coming in next year from property taxes. It spurred recent discussion among Summit County commissioners who’ve directed the finance department to explore multiple revenue scenarios for 2024.