By BEN GRAFTON
The Walton Area Chamber of Commerce First Friday Breakfast on April 4, with Camille Burlison acting as moderator, was held before a good sized crowd in the Lake House at Hammock Bay. The meeting was sponsored by builder D.R. Horton, which is presently building homes at two Freeport sites: LaGrange landing where it is represented by Art Thompson and Hammock Bay where it is represented by Allana Welch.
The primary speaker was Walton County Property Appraiser Patrick Pilcher who said, “I thought I would give you Property Appraiser 101. We have to appraise the entire county. So it’s a very technical profession. I won’t bore you with the specifics, I’ll just give you a general overview.”
Pilcher explained, ” The Florida Constitution requires that each county in Florida have a County Property Appraiser. My office is an independent body, … responsible for determining the property value for the entire county in accordance with the law. … it’s a very independent process. When the process is finished, before July 1 of each year, the property values are given to the taxing authorities, the county commission, the school board, the fire districts, things of that nature, and. …there is a state agency, the Florida Department of Revenue, that has complete legal oversight of each of the county property appraiser offices. This department audits the assessment roles each year and before the taxing process can go on, must give its blessing.”
Pilcher continued, “…we use the land deeds recorded in public records to identify and locate the property. We have property maps for the entire county. In Walton County we map properties in digital format using GIS or Autocad programs and we also use the old fashioned way using a pencil. But, these maps are not surveys. On a monthly basis we have property owners who get into a squabble over the location of a property line and one of them says, ‘I got the location off of the Property Appraiser’s map.’ We wind up in the middle when people use those maps for things they are not intended for. If you ever have a question about where a property line is, contact a professional land surveyor and get him to provide the information you need.
“Our people go out to every piece of property in the county and actually measure the exterior dimensions of the buildings and record the physical attributes of the property. This data is combined with sales data from property deeds to give us information to analyze. Appraisals are market driven. Appraisers do not create values, they follow what buyers and sellers in the market do. Appraisers don’t make predictions or projections about property values. When the appraisal roles are accepted by the state, the roles are sent out to the taxing authorities and they set the millage rate for the fiscal year. The property value multiplied by the millage rate yields the tax due on the property for that year. The Tax Collector’s Office generates and sends out the tax bills to the property owners.”
If a property owner does not agree with the Property Appraiser’s value for the property, the owner can contact the Property Appraiser. Pilcher said, “At certain times of the year we can’t get to every call, but I promise that we will call you back. After review, if the owner still feels that the value is too high, he can file a formal appeal at the Clerk of Courts office with the Value Adjustment Board. An independent magistrate will schedule a hearing where the issues will be evaluated and a decision given.”
Pilcher shared some interesting data from 2013. “In Walton County there are a little over 669,000 acres with about 90,000 parcels of land. Over 14,000 of those properties have homestead exemptions.” This year Pilcher thins “…the total investment will be somewhere around $12 billion. That is about a 4 to 7-percent increase over last year. The last time the county property value was at the $12 billion mark was in 2005. In 2007, it was a little over $17 billion. And you know what happened after that. It took a long slow slide.”
Pilcher continued, “We had a little over 2,600 residential sales in 2013. That is a 16-percent increase over the prior year. The median selling price for residential properties was right at $250,000. That is a 15.2-percent increase over the prior year. There will be over $330 million in new assessments applied to the assessment role this year. That is a 32-percent increase from the prior year. Single family building permits are averaging about 260 per month, a 51-percent increase from 2012. There were 961 vacant lots sold in 2013 with a median price of a little over $96,000, almost a 26-percent increase from the prior year. Most lots in Hammock Bay are well below the median price.”
John Kelly, Senior Vice President of Coastal Bank and Trust followed Pilcher on the program.
Kelly passed out information from a Century 21 conference. He asked the audience, “Who did a plan in 2013? And now, in the first quarter, who has reviewed that business plan, and how is it shaping up for you? One of the things that we hear most often is, ‘I don’t have a business plan, but we’re making some good money and the economy is great. So good.’ ”
Then Kelly said, “What is a plan supposed to look like? Some are two pages, some are 10 pages. It’s a lot of work, but to be successful and sustainable, you have to have a good business plan. You set your goals and keep your accountability, and you close the cycle, to maximize the profits. This is a five-minute business plan, by time. If you write a 10 or 15 page business plan you will get lost in the mix.”
“It comes down to about eight or 10 core things that you have to do for a business,” Kelly said. “That you all know. The first thing in the plan is a summary of the business plan. You have to carry your business to the needs of your clients.
Second, make your life better. This means what we are going to sell makes people’s lives better. You want to fill that need.”
Kelly continued, “Number three is financial. It always affects what I can do for everything. You have to take in more than you put out for it. I see a lot of financials where there’s a good plan in place, but when you take a quick snap shot quarter by quarter you see a declining trend. You have to recognize that what takes place in the first couple of quarters is what the rest of the year may look like. It may tell you that your investment will return very little.”
Fourth, according to Kelly: “How are you going to market your product to people out there? Is it going to be social media? A newspaper? A magazine? Social media, of course, is all over the place. I can’t sit there at my house at night without a Pinterest popping up on my wife’s phone or a Facebook popping up on mine.
“Next, I’m climbing a mountain. This is going to be the management aspect of this. This is how you’re going to mitigate things. Look for your strength. Now, with outsourcing you don’t do very well. A lot of outsourcing is going to cost more money. Managing is basically taking a given set of variables and managing a constant set. Whereas the leadership aspect is basically managing a very flexible set of conditions. Businessmen should evolve as your management strategy evolves.”
The last requirement, Kelly feels, “Is the top of the world. How do you know you’re out there? How do you know that you are maximizing your marketing? A couple of things: Whatever your success goals are, make sure they are concrete, make sure they are obtainable, and if you want someone to go get something, don’t put it so far out that they can’t even see it. Put it out where they can see it and it is a tangible goal.
“So look at those things and measure yourself and reward yourself and your employees as well.”
By BEN GRAFTON