Metric sales

‘Boom Time’: Evaluator talks about Lewis County’s growth in ‘every metric’

By Isabel Vander Stoep / isabel@chronline.com

Lewis County is growing.

At a Centralia-Chehalis Chamber of Commerce business forum on Thursday, Lewis County assessor Dianne Dorey laid out soaring home values, subsequently increasing the amount landowners pay each year in property taxes. Dorey also discussed an influx of construction projects, new housing and the effects of flooding on property values.

In “every metric you can measure to show that Lewis The county is growing,” she said. The county exceeded all estimates. In 2010, the county was estimated to have a population of 80,000 by 2025. Now, Dorey estimates the 2025 population will be closer to 100,000.

“Welcome to the new county of Lewis,” Dorey said.

Increase in property tax payments

The Lewis County Assessor’s Office, along with all counties in Washington, reassesses properties annually. Then the county’s roughly 60 tax districts, which include fire and school districts, hand in budgets that the office uses to set levy rates based on what the district can “legally” collect, according to Dorey, and these levies are voted by the residents. .

Whether or not voters approve of a levy, property tax payments may increase after reassessment. Since property tax rates are a percentage of property value, a higher assessment means higher payments. With property values ​​skyrocketing across the county due to low housing inventory and high demand, Twin Cities homeowners are seeing an average increase of 18% to 19% in the value of their homes, according to reports. precedents in The Chronicle.

Even the appraiser’s office cannot keep up with the rising value of homes in the county.

“I’m looking at the values ​​we have on our system for your assessed values ​​for the 2022 tax year, and we were 20-50% behind what they’re selling today,” Dorey said. “It’s crazy for me. In 46 years I’ve never seen anything like it. We can’t keep up.

If homeowners expect their values ​​to drop in 2023, Dorey said, they’ll be disappointed. Home valuations, unfortunately for taxpayers, are based on sales that are 18 months old, she said.

The county’s most recently reassessed area includes the city of Centralia, so land and business owners in Centralia will pay more taxes for 2022.

All Lewis County property owners can find their property taxes due online at https://parcels.lewiscountywa.gov/.

Dorey explained why homes in Lewis County are selling for much higher than appraiser values, mostly pointing to low housing inventory. The data, she said, shows the majority of homes on the market are sold within a week to 10 days of listing. For those ready to sell their home, she says, it’s best to choose the next one before listing it.

Dorey also described a domino effect in housing prices after people from Seattle or Portland arrived in the county with a “stack of cash like you wouldn’t believe”, and after that first high-value sale in a neighborhood, others were likely to follow.

“I have a son who has been trying to buy a house for four years. Every time he saves enough on the down payment, the market has changed so much he can’t do it,” she said. “And he earns a good living wage. I worry about my children. I never expected to see million dollar home sales in Lewis County.

Positives for flood victims

For those who own property that has been flooded in the past, soaring housing prices in Lewis County may actually be good news.

Dianne Dorey had 4 feet of flood water in her home when the Chehalis Basin flooded in 2007. When it started to rain hard and “the streets started bubbling with water,” she said , she still suffers from post-traumatic stress. Now his house is raised 12 feet.

“All these people who had flooded houses, and there were 1,100 in the 2007 flood, said at the time, ‘My value is nothing, I can’t sell my house.’ Guess what? Every house that was in the flood and listed, sold for more than we (the appraiser’s office) had on it,” Dorey said.

Each time the office reviewed these previously flooded properties, the values ​​rose.

While flooding may have some impact on home values ​​- as a property’s flood history must by law be disclosed – the impact on rates is negligible when considered over a period of time. of several years.

“People have what I call ‘dry memory,'” Dorey said. “As long as the buyer doesn’t see water around your house or in your house, it doesn’t seem to matter.”

New construction

Another sign of growth in First Washington County is new construction.

“We have the greatest build value Lewis County has ever had,” Dorey said.

There are three factors in the influx, she said: Lowe’s distribution center in Winlock, the Skookumchuck wind farm and new homes being built.

In the town of Winlock alone, Mayor Brandon Svenson told The Chronicle this week, “We have a lot of housing coming up. I think we are at 25 residence permits already issued this year.

Across the county, 5,000 parcels of land were added last year, Dorey said, reflecting the subdivision of land. There are now nearly 70,000 plots throughout the county.

“In the 46 years I’ve been in office, the most we’ve ever grown in a year is around 1,000 (plots). And it was a good time. It’s beyond boom, I tell you. There are more new housing developments, businesses coming in,” Dorey said. “People want to come to Lewis County.”