Despite rumors of a possible recession, Volusia County has hit a new high in the worth of its land and all things built upon it.
The county’s Property Appraiser’s Office puts the value of all real estate within the county’s bounds at just under $97.7 billion, as noted in the 2023 pre-preliminary tax just value and tax roll just released. The just value is a 15.1-percent increase and $12.8 billion more than the nearly $85 billion record set last year.
“I don’t know if 15 percent is the record, but it’s a healthy number,” Property Appraiser Larry Bartlett told The Beacon.
That record high comes despite the damage wrought by hurricanes Ian and Nicole last fall. In late September 2022, Ian inflicted approximately $357.4 million in property damage, and in November Nicole left $495.3 million in losses in her wake. Together, those figures add up to more than $850 million. Had the storms not hit Volusia County, those values would have pushed the just value to more than $98.5 billion.
The pre-preliminary tax roll gives leaders of local governments and special taxing agencies such as the School Board and hospital taxing districts a glimpse of the health of the economy, as they prepare their budgets for the next fiscal year and propose property-tax rates. By state law, the pre-preliminary tax rolls in each of Florida’s 67 counties must be released to the public no later than June 1 of each year.
The $97.7 billion just value is the estimated market value of the total of lands, homes, buildings and other man-made improvements or development. The just value denotes the projected worth of the whole sum of properties, without taking into account any tax exemptions for homesteads, religious, charitable, institutional or other nonprofit organizations, and government-owned parcels.
Within the just value is the tax roll, or total tax base, which now stands at almost $55 billion — also a new record high and almost 13 percent above the 2022 mark of $48.8 billion. The tax base is determined by subtracting all full or partial exemptions, as well as caps on assessments for such things as agricultural conservation easements and the 1992 Save Our Homes constitutional amendment, from the just value.
In any event, Bartlett attributed the double-digit increases in the just and taxable values to a strong demand for homes, as more people move to the Sunshine State, and find there are a limited number of places to live.
“We have the demand, and we don’t have the supply,” he said.
The housing market remains tight, and values are escalating steadily. The increases in interest rates over the past year or so have deterred existing homeowners who may want to sell and “trade up” to another more desirable home from putting their homes up for sale.
“Nobody is willing to trade a 3-percent mortgage for a 7-percent mortgage, so when you don’t have enough sellers, then buyers have to bid higher for the property that is on the market,” Bartlett added.
The acute shortage of owner-occupied housing is spurring yet another trend, he said.
“Apartment complexes are really going for record prices. Since there is no other place to live, they can charge a higher rent,” Bartlett said.
Not least, commercial property is increasing in value.
“Volusia County is a great place to have a business,” Bartlett also said.
How high can or will the values climb? Bartlett sees nothing on the horizon that indicates a crash in home values similar to the 2007-08 foreclosure crisis is in the offing.
“We’re not looking at a bubble bursting,” he said.
With the pre-preliminary values out, Bartlett and his staff are working on the preliminary tax roll. The preliminary tax roll, which state law requires to be released by July 1, is the document that contains refined numbers on values, along with the calculations of rollback millage rates.
The rollback rate is the figure, which, if imposed by a taxing authority, would generate property-tax revenues equal to those of the preceding fiscal year, without taking into account new construction or, in the case of cities, annexations. Typically, the rollback rate decreases as property values increase.
On a political note, Bartlett confirmed he will run for a third term as Volusia County’s property appraiser. He was first elected in 2016, following the retirement of longtime appraiser Morgan Gilreath. Bartlett was re-elected in 2020.