We’ve looked out our back windows and watched a bobcat prowl the edge of our woods. We’ve watched deer and wild turkeys. That’s why we won’t move to Columbus or Pittsburgh, or even into “town.” We value our views.
It stands to reason that a property on a lake front has more value than a piece of land overlooking a landfill. Real estate market values have always reflected the desirability of property and aesthetics.
But some New Hampshire landowners are up in arms that their property valuations include a figure for a “view factor.” And I can’t say I blame them.
Pay per view. Over the past few years, New Hampshire re-evaluations have put a dollar figure on a property’s “view,” although assessors say taxes are based on the overall property value. Properties with a scenic view have been assessed for much higher values than similar properties without a view.
So while the “view factor” has always been an inherent part of property values, a new line item on the assessment form actually plugs in a dollar value for that view. Thus the furor. That and the fact that many valuations have doubled, tripled or even quadrupled.
In an extreme case, a one-room cabin with no electricity, running water, phone service or driveway – with a basic property value of $22,900 – was assessed an additional $140,000 because of its view of surrounding hills and distant mountains.
The Portsmouth Herald reports of one man whose property value doubled due to a “view factor.” But it’s a view he can’t enjoy: The resident is blind.
No control. Tree farm owner Tom Thomson of Orford, N.H., writing in the local Valley News, calls the view tax a “penalty against those of us who happen to have a view from our property.” He reports the view his mother has from her Mount Cube farm has been assessed at $100,000.
“Tax me for what I own, not for something I don’t own and over which I have no control,” Thomson writes.
The underlying problem, and one that we all can understand, is an over-reliance on property taxes as funding for states, schools and counties.
Slippery slope. While there is a “current use” valuation for farmland that gives a break to New Hampshire property used for agriculture, land under and around farm buildings like barns or residences not eligible for current use valuation was assessed the view factor. Many are concerned that the very farms and open space vistas that lure lots of tourists to New Hampshire will be sold in the wake of ever-increasing property taxes. Cows may be replaced by cul-de-sacs.
New Hampshire is not alone. The Associated Press reports Nevada state law requires assessors to consider views.
New Hampshire legislators have proposed a flurry of bills to change the current property tax system, including a bill to eliminate the “view tax.”
We would hope that any new bill would remove the subjective nature of a “view” or any other assessment and concentrate on measurable market factors.
The New Hampshire state motto is “Live Free or Die.” But the complete quote from Revolutionary War hero Gen. John Stark is “Live free or die; death is not the worst of evils”
No, in New Hampshire that would be property taxes.
(Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell can be reached at 800-837-3419 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)