One way to judge the economic health of a community is the strength of its real estate market.
In the city of Dunkirk, which is a smaller version of a large city facing economic difficulties, sales can be affected for the most part by what sales usually are: location, location, location.
City Assessor Thomas Mleczko said there is another factor driving some sales.
OBSERVER Photos by Gib Snyder
Pictured is 27 Lake Front Boulevard. The property sold for $180,000 in 2013, $131,600 over its assessed value of $48,400, the largest amount paid over assessed valuations.
OBSERVER Photos by Gib Snyder
Pictured is 74 Ounce St., which sold for $50,000 in 2013, $27,500 under its assessed value, the largest under-valuation sale in 2013.
"One-story ranch homes, because everybody in their late 50s and 60s are looking to downsize because of knees, backs. They're looking for a one-story home," he explained. "Ones that have a one-story home, and if you have a laundry room on the first floor, all that stuff is playing into it, but that's driven more by age of the individual buying than by anything else.
"The stock that's carrying value is selling at or above, because of no new construction, and there's a lack of areas really to do new housing complexes. We've had another one going up on Greco Lane; there is a modular on Franklin Avenue, but the building lots in the city are far and few between."
Mleczko's office issues an annual report about the city's arms-length residential sales, which are defined as a real estate transaction in the open market freely arrived at by normal negotiations without any undue pressure on either the buyer or seller.
There were a total of 106 of these sales in the city in 2013, with 71 above the assessed value, 33 below the assessed value and two at the assessed value.
The property that went for the largest amount over its assessed value was 27 Lake Front Blvd., which sold for $180,000, which was $131,600 more than the assessed value of $48,400. Other sales with large differences between assessed value and sale price included: two parcels at 29 Elm St. ($24,300-$99,400); 445 Lord St. ($65,100-$114,500); 54 E. Green St. ($49,800-$87,500); 614 Washington Ave. ($56,000-$89,000); 31 Pennsylvania Ave. ($105,000-$139,000); 17 N. Wright Park Dr. ($50,350-$88,500); 57 Point Drive W. ($63,500-$97,500); and 613 Washington Ave. ($61,500-$95,650).
Topping the below assessed value sale list was 74 Ounce St., which is assessed at $77,500 and sold for $50,000.
Five other properties sold for more than $20,000 under assessed valuation, including: 542 S. Roberts Rd. ($41,000-$20,000); 718 Grant Ave. ($43,500-$20,000); 190 Lake Shore Drive E. ($36,500-$15,000); 93 E. Seventh St. ($45,500-$23,000); and 132 Ruggles St. ($32,000-$11,500).
In 2013, there were a total of eight sales over $100,000 - six between $90-99,999, six between $80-89,999, 12 between $70-79,999, 10 between $60-69,999, nine between $50-59,999, 11 between $40-49,999, 16 between $30-39,999, 22 between $20-29,999, six between $10-10,999, and one sale that was for $8,000, which consisted of two parcels at 515 Main St.
April and August each had 14 sales while September had 13 with June and July each seeing 11 arms-length sales. January was the lowest month with two sales with February at four and December seeing five sales.
In 2012, there were a total of five sales over $100,000 - three between $90,000-99,999, six between $80,000-89,999, one between $70,000-79,999, six between $60,000-69,999, 12 between $50,000-50,999, 15 between $40,000-40,999, 17 between $30,000-39,999, 11 between $20,000-29,999, six between $10,000-19,999, and two below $10,000.
June and October were the busiest months with 13 sales each while February was lowest with two arms-length sales. May had 10 sales while January and March each had three sales.
In 2013, the average arms-length selling price for a house was $54,638 while the average assessed value was $44,776, a difference of $9,862.
In 2012, the average arms-length selling price for a house was $53,820 while the average assessed value was $45,297, a difference of $8,522.
In 2011, the average arms-length selling price for a house was $55,071 while the average assessed value was $45,494, a difference of $9,523. There were 91 arms-length sales with 58 above the assessment and 33 below.
In 2010, the average arms-length selling price of a house was $56,845 while the average assessed value was $43,773, a difference of $13,071. There were 87 arms-length sales with 63 above, 22 below and two at the assessed value.
Mleczko said his office gets a copy of every building, electrical and demolition permit issued. He was asked what has changed since he started.
"Nothing really. We have more computer-driven information than we ever did before, but basically a lot of it is still the old-fashioned legwork where you go out and look, do the long calculations to come up with a value of what's going on, or coming off," he explained. "Because of the housing stock selling above the assessed value your equalization rate is dropping, we're about 82 percent again this year."
He was asked what affect that equalization rate has on property owners.
"It has no effect on the property taxes but what it plays into is the exemptions. A $1,000 veterans exemption, the individual is probably getting $820," he replied. "Say you're $50,000 house has an equalization rate of 82 percent so it's giving you a market value of $60,975. The equalization rate translates into a market value and it's just a guesstimate, it's not an exact science. So if you have a $50,000 house, the market value should be like almost $61,000. In some instances that translates exactly right to the 't', some instances it doesn't."
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