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Miami-Dade property values rise for first time in four years

A month ago, county leaders rolled out estimated numbers showing Miami-Dade’s property tax base had increased for the first time in four years, a clear signal the battered real estate market is beginning to turn the corner.

Friday, the picture of higher property values and new construction got even rosier.

In a small conference room just outside County Hall’s commission chambers, Property Appraiser Pedro J. Garcia explained how county real-estate values rose almost 2 percent, to $190.7 billion, from a year ago, the first year-over-year increase since the real estate market slide began in 2007 – and a slight increase over his earlier estimate in late May.

“What we are seeing is a recovery period for Miami-Dade County,” Garcia said.

At the end of May, Garcia estimated the total property value of Miami-Dade’s 897,650 properties at $189.7 billion, about one-half of one percent — or $970 million — lower than the actual number turned out to be. Though it’s considered statistically insignificant, every little bit helps in a community so dependent on construction that has seen its overall property values plummet $55 billion since 2008.

Most real-estate veterans seem in tune with Garcia, believing the South Florida marketplace has finally bottomed out.

“I’ve been saying that for a year and a half,” said Michael Y. Cannon, executive director of Integra Realty Resources. “We’re in the expansion period again. The cycle’s restarting.”

The overall tax roll has a major impact on the September property-tax rates to be set by county commissioners. Simply put, the higher the tax rolls, the more money available for the county to tax. Homeowners who have seen their property-tax bills dwindle the past few years may be in for a slight sticker shock this year, unless commissioners decide to lower the current property-tax rate. A homeowner whose property value increased will pay more in taxes if the current property-tax rate remains the same.

That’s because 18 of the county’s 35 municipalities have higher tax-roll values this year than a year ago. A final property tax bill also depends on several other taxing districts, such as the Miami-Dade School Board, and on tax rates set by individual cities.

Like other governments, Miami-Dade’s final tax roll numbers, which were submitted to the Florida Department of Revenue, typically differ from early estimates as sales of homes in neighborhoods continue to rise or drop depending on demand. In Miami-Dade, Garcia’s office also reevaluated some properties still under construction.

That was particularly significant in Bal Harbour, where the tax roll leaped by $172 million — or more than 5 percent — in the past month, mainly through the re-evaluation of some condominiums and the recently opened St. Regis Hotel, where the Bal Harbour Sheraton had been.

“We’re still reviewing some neighborhoods, and we’re evaluating new construction amounts,” said Marcus Saiz, the county’s deputy property appraiser.

Bal Harbour Village Manager Alfred Treppeda said the higher tax roll will allow him to propose lowering the property-tax rate for the village’s 3,000 or so residents.

“What we are seeing is a recovery period in Miami-Dade County,” said Garcia, the property appraiser.

Municipalities with the highest tax roll increases over last year tend to be coastal cities with growth, including Bal Harbour, which jumped by 35.4 percent; Indian Creek, which is up 11.8 percent, and Sunny Isles Beach, which increased by 7 percent.

Cities still reeling from the real-estate collapse tended to be inland areas that jumped on the construction bandwagon of the last decade but failed to draw residents. Florida City’s tax roll is down 6.3 percent from a year ago; El Portal’s dipped by 4.1 percent, and Homestead’s fell 3.8 percent.

Overall, single-family homes in Miami-Dade were valued at $58.6 billion. Condos account for $51 billion, and commercial property for $49.6 billion. The remainder of the $190 billion comprises multi-family properties, vacant land, and “others” — which includes some small businesses and large properties like Florida Power & Light and AT&T.

Broward County posted similar increases.

Property Appraiser Lori Parrish said Broward’s tax roll jumped by 1.5 percent over last year, with 24 of the county’s 32 municipalities seeing gains. The leader was Cooper City, which, pushed by Monterra Development’s 1,600 new homes, saw its tax roll jump 8.5 percent. Other winners include Sea Ranch Lakes at 4.5 percent; Lighthouse Point, which increased by 4.2 percent, and Wilton Manors, where the tax roll rose by 3.6 percent.

On the downside, West Park’s tax roll plunged 8.4 percent, Lazy Lake’s was down 7.2 percent, and Lauderdale Lakes saw its property values drop by 2.9 percent.

Overall, Broward’s tax roll jumped to $127.1 billion, an increase of $1.8 billion from the previous year.

Parrish attributed property-value increases in part to aggressive code enforcement that in some cases prevented abandoned homes “from falling into unsightly, unsafe and blighted states of repair.”