- The Washington Times - Friday, December 31, 2004

BALTIMORE (AP) — Rising home values in Maryland have brought the largest property assessment increases since 1980, when the state began phasing them in over three years, officials said as they prepared to mail notices yesterday to 692,000 homeowners.

Statewide, values for residential and commercial properties are up an average of 15.5 percent a year for three years. That is nearly triple the increase three years ago, when the same areas were last inspected.

Commercial values are up an average 28 percent over three years.

“It’s the largest increase I’ve seen in my 30 years here,” said Howard Levenson, assessment supervisor in Howard County, where residential land values are up 143 percent.

Baltimore’s one-year increase was 7.2 percent for the poorest third of the city, in midtown from west to east, plus Highlandtown.

Maryland’s rising assessments reflect a nationwide high demand for homes. Nationally, the median price for existing homes rose 10.4 percent in November compared with the same month a year earlier, and demand remained strong.

Most homeowners are protected from the full brunt of the increases on their annual bills by the state’s 10 percent cap on assessment increases. And 11 counties have lower limits, ranging from zero to 7 percent.

Outside central Maryland from retirement homes and waterfront condominiums going up in Crisfield, in rural Somerset County on the lower Eastern Shore, to huge vacation homes the size of small hotels around Deep Creek Lake in Garrett County prices are roaring still higher, the figures show.

Still, Allegany County trails the state with a 3.5 percent one-year increase.

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