Feb 24, 2022 - News

What to know ahead of Philly's property reassessments this spring

Illustration of a house-shaped word balloon with a question mark in it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Property reassessments for the majority of Philadelphia homeowners are back after a two-year hiatus, during which home values have spiked.

Driving the news: The city's Office of Property Assessment (OPA) will release new citywide property assessments for fiscal year 2023 later this spring.

Why it matters: The last time most property owners saw changes to their assessments was in fiscal year 2020.

  • "Homeowners should expect that their assessment will be more accurate and will reflect the changes that have occurred in the real estate market over the past several years," city spokesperson Kevin Lessard said.

The big picture: Philly's housing market looks vastly different compared to pre-pandemic times — with inventory now at historic lows and home prices surging.

  • The average home sales price in Philadelphia has gone from more than $267,000 in 2019 to nearly $311,000 as of January, according to the multiple listing service Bright MLS.

Flashback: The median assessed value for a single-family home increased by 10.5% in FY 2019, leading to public outcries and scrutiny from legislators.

  • The Philly City Council later led an audit of the OPA's process for calculating property values, and the Kenney administration put in place several reforms.
  • For tax year 2020, the value of a median single-family home rose by more than 3%.

Between the lines: The OPA didn't conduct new property reassessments for fiscal year 2021 due to concerns about the accuracy of how it valued properties.

Of note: The city has been conducting yearly property assessments for certain properties, like new construction, those with expiring tax abatements and renovations, which represent a fraction of the city's overall properties.

What they're saying: City Council will be watching the rollout of the new reassessments "carefully to make sure that property taxpayers and homeowners receive property assessments which are fair, accurate and grounded in reliable data," said Joe Grace, a spokesperson for Council President Darrell Clarke.

  • At-large Councilmember Allan Domb said he had confidence in the city's chief assessor, but was not certain whether the OPA had addressed all the issues around its assessment process.
  • "I don't have that answer yet," Domb said.

What to watch: Peter Kelsen, an attorney for Blank Rome who has litigated real estate issues in the city for decades, was watching how the city assesses hotels, office buildings and certain residential properties that have suffered during the pandemic.

  • "Those sectors have been smashed, and they ain't coming back so fast," he said.

As for when residents can expect to receive their new assessments, that remains up in the air.

  • The city has yet to finalize with a vendor when notices will be mailed to property owners, Lessard said.

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