Williston’s housing market continues to march full steam ahead.
Assessment numbers sent to property owners in the city in the last week show little abatement in the climbing value of property in Williston, with residential properties up 15-35 percent in the city and 0-10 percent for commercial property.
“Land was drastically undervalued,” Director of Tax and Equalization Shawna Gooch-Egge told commissioners at the last Williston City Commission meeting.
“People say it’s slowing down. It’s not,” she added of property values, as commissioner and realtor Tate Cymbaluk nodded.
But Gooch-Egge cautioned that the increase in property values does not automatically mean that taxes will be higher for people living in the city, with tax decisions made by the city commission.
“They’re two separate issues,” she emphasized. Assessments don’t “determine that final tax dollar that you pay.”
The increases are high, but Gooch-Egge said in a later interview that 2012 saw more sizable numbers. Residential assessments were up 20 percent last year and commercial assessments were up 60-80 percent.
“I would call last year one of the most dramatic years as far as value increases,” she said.
Even so, the numbers for the city and increases announced for Williams County, in the 40-50 percent increase range, are significant.
“We’re still seeing a lot of sales and properties selling for way more than we have them assessed for,” she said.
Catherine Webb, who is in her 80s and has lived in Williston with her husband since the 1950s when he moved to North Dakota to work as a geologist in the oilfield, said Saturday that they were shocked to see their assessment come in the mail.
“It was like, ‘Oh my word,’” she said. “What’s that going to do to my property taxes?”
Webb said the family bought their Williston home for $13,000 in 1962, which adjusted to today’s dollars equates to about $100,200 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ calculator.
While they also put on an addition to the house at one point, the assessed value of the house is inching toward double what they first paid at $176,000 today, according to the new assessment.
Webb said the first three months of the year were the toughest financially, with bills for vehicle and home insurance and taxes all due.
“The first three months of the year really hit us quite hard,” she said. “When you don’t have a huge income coming in, it’s kind of hard. But we survived it.”
Webb said she and her husband don’t believe their property taxes have gone up too significantly over recent years, but bills that could come with a higher assessed value are concerning.
“My husband is very much hoping that the Legislature will make some changes so that we will get a break on the property taxes,” she said.
But Webb said the real problem remains rental prices, as the cost of living for people who rent housing has forced some friends out of town.
“One of the sad things about this oil boom is it really brings the truth out of some of these people,” she said, citing “greed” and “gouging” as the major factors in high rent costs.
Webb said older people of retirement age are especially affected. Some friends she knows who sold their home and moved into an apartment to cut down on maintenance needs were later forced out by higher rental prices.
Webb said though she doesn’t know all the ins and outs of how local government makes tax decisions, she believes it has been a “huge challenge.” Still, she and her husband feel lucky to own their own home.
“Very fortunate, absolutely,” she said. “We have a good comfortable home. It’s not fancy.”