Arms length city sales

There are bargains to be had if you’re looking to buy a house in the city of Dunkirk. The numbers don’t lie, on average, buying property in the city has become less expensive to do over the past few years.

Figures on arms-length sales of residential properties for 2012 show nearly 36 percent of those sale prices were under the property’s assessed value.

An arms-length sale refers to 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 84 of these sales in the city in 2012, with 49 above the assessed value; 30 below the assessed value and five at the assessed value.

The total selling price for the 84 properties was $4,520,891 while the total assessed value was $3,805,025, a difference of $715,866. The average selling price of $53,820 was $8,522 over the average assessed value of $45,297.92.

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.

When September rolls around, Tom Mleczko will mark five years as the city’s assessor. He was asked if there have been any big changes since he began in 2008.

“Not really. You get the ups and downs when the housing market was taking a little bit of a dive, things were a little rough,” he replied. “We’ve got a big certain percentage of homes that are being sold way above the assessed and way below the assessed. There are very few being sold at the assessed value.”

Location, location, location, is a real estate mantra and Mleczko said Dunkirk has another criteria that will move a house.

“One-story ranch homes are premium and if you have a laundry room on the first floor instead of the basement it almost puts you into the bonus situation – in general,” he explained.

Sales prices have dropped but Mleczko said that may be based on what’s selling.

“It’s more of the multiple parcels so it looks like the price has dropped, but it might be for two parcels and stuff like that. It’s keeping pretty close to the vest,” he said. “There are some pockets that are selling well and way above, and some pockets selling way below.”

What a house sells for doesn’t affect the assessment, according to Mleczko.

“To keep everything on an even keel, sale price has no bearing on the assessed value, whether it’s up, down or stays the same. It’s all comparable properties,” he explained. “The big thing is it starts off with your lot size and then goes to square footage, and then whether it’s colonial, or old-style, or ranch or brick or whatever, but square footage is the big thing you start off with and then your lot size.”

Mleczko said the state has a formula but it’s basically for new additions.

“Actually you have to depreciate it some because you can’t put a brand new addition onto a home at 100 percent when the rest of the home is only at 60 percent of its value,” he stated. “All the numbers in the system, unless they’ve added or deleted something, are from the re-val year that went into effect in 1997. A lot of people get confused when they get their tax bill because they see the market value on the tax bill and then they call and want to know why their assessment went up.

“The assessment didn’t go up but the market value changes based on the equalization rate. As the equalization rate goes down your market value goes up, because it says it should be selling higher than your assessed value. A lot of people get confused with that.

“This year we probably won’t have too many problems because its staying at an 82 percent equalization rate.”

Mleczko was asked for a guess on there are more buyers moving into the city or its residents buying a different house in the city.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a big influx, but you’ve got a fair amount moving in, especially if somebody can get lakefront property or a block off the lake,” he replied. “Value wise, it still holds a good value in housing, and with the equalization at 82 percent you’re still getting a good exemption on your veteran’s and STAR. As far as the value, housing in Dunkirk is still undervalued.”

The property that went for the largest amount over its assessed value was 448 Lake Shore Drive W. with an assessed value of $265,000 and a selling price of $500,000, a difference of $235,000. Other sales with large differences between assessed value and sale price included 30 N. Wright Park Drive ($80,900-$127,000); 66 Leming St. ($36,500-$78,500); 412 Lake Shore Drive E. ($47,000-$85,000); 124 Fizell Ave. ($74,500-$117,000); 1180 Main St. ($86,500-$119,000); 60 W. Green St. ($77,000-$110,000) and 29 Willowbrook Ave. ($53,000-$84,500).

Topping the below assessed value sale was 335 Washington Ave. with an assessed value of $65,000 and a sale price of $41,500, a difference of $23,500. Close behind was 217 Lake Shore Drive E. ($62,000-$39,000) and 27 N. Wright Park Drive ($75,000-$55,000).

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.

Send comments to gsnyder@observertoday.com