Pandemic wreaks havoc on property value assessments

The coronavirus pandemic has affected many aspects of life and how business is conducted, and that is no different for the Isanti County Assessor’s Office. At its Aug. 5 meeting, the Isanti County Board heard how the county is conducting its quintile review from Assessor Elisha Long.

Minnesota requires property inspections once every five years, and to ensure uniformity and accuracy, a physical inspection is necessary to obtain property data, according to Long. That typically takes place from May through November in Isanti County.

“But surprise, March 13, everything changed due to COVID,” Long said, noting her office had to start conducting virtual reviews, virtual appeals process, and virtual local board of appeal and equalization meetings. 

Quintile reviews also had to be conducted remotely this year due to the pandemic, and counties are allowed to employ computer assisted office reviews to comply with quintile review requirements as long as they have adequate information. Isanti County has an adequate building permit system, high resolution street images no greater than five years old, aerial imagery less than five years old, and aerial imagery capable of measurement verification, according to Long.

This year quintile reviews are being performed on properties in Athens, Cambridge, Spencer Brook, and Stanchfield townships using 2020 aerial imagery, historical photos, Northstar MLS, and curbside reviews. 

Long showed examples of properties and how these different methods are used to review properties and verify the information the county has on each property. 

She went on to explain how the county is using a new tool in Northstar MLS to assist with the quintile reviews.

Northstar MLS gives the county access to 33,500 property listings, and there are currently 245 active listings on Northstar MLS for Isanti County , according to Long. It contains 25 year of historical market data for listed properties, including data regarding comparable and sold properties and commonly used realtors and appraisers.

Another feature that assists appraisers with the quintile review are virtual tours and photos of the properties on Northstar MLS, allowing appraisers access to interior information, Long noted. 

Northstar MLS also generates market reports, which are helpful for the local and county board of appeal and equalization, as well as in tax court, Long added.

While desktop reviews like appraisers are conducting keep appraisers and property owners safe by eliminating contact, property owners can still request on-site reviews of their property. When that occurs, appraisers wear appropriate personal protective equipment and maintain six feet of social distancing, Long said.

She also noted that desktop reviews are effective and efficient, allowing appraisers to complete 10 to 15 parcels per day. Desktop reviews are not dependent on weather conditions, and there are cost savings for not having to travel. 

However, Long also noted that desktop quintile reviews are not a replacement for physical reviews, adding that her appraisers are eager to be out in the field rather than sitting at a desk. Desktop reviews are also not allowed for more than two consecutive quintile periods.

The ideal properties for desktop review are homogenous areas, such as townhome and single-family subdivisions, Long said, noting her team plans to continue physical quintile reviews for rural jurisdictions in 2022.

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