On the rebound City assessments: After slump, residential and commercial real estate start to recover.

January 02, 1998

THE WORST of Baltimore City's long real estate slump is over. That's the message contained in figures compiled by the Maryland Department of Assessment and Taxation. They show the city beating all the region's wealthier jurisdictions in the rate of increase in the value of taxable residential and commercial real estate.

Impressive?

Not necessarily. The trouble is that only portions of each jurisdiction are reassessed each year. Thus, no reliable overall picture emerges. Baltimore City is a case in point. This year's reassessment cycle includes many of its better-off neighborhoods -- from Mount Washington and Homeland to Cedarcroft and Hamilton -- and pitches them against generally less thriving residential areas in Baltimore County, Anne Arundel, Carroll and Harford counties.

Moreover, since the state figures do not distinguish between residential and commercial reassessments, Baltimore City's high assessment increase includes considerable upward revaluations of office buildings in the previously sluggish downtown area. Among them is the 28-story office tower at 100 E. Pratt St., which IBM sold for a record $137 million in October.

Comparative figures on tax-base growth offer a somewhat more balanced picture than the one-year reassessment figures that show Baltimore City far ahead of the metropolitan pack. Those numbers, too, suggest that city real estate has started to recover from its long slump but that it is still lagging behind other metropolitan jurisdictions.

Topping total tax-base growth in the region is Carroll County, with a 3.8 percent increase. Harford is next (3.6 percent), followed by Anne Arundel (2.9 percent), Howard (2.4 percent) and Baltimore County (1.8 percent).

Baltimore City's growth is a more modest 1.4 percent, a bit lower than that of Montgomery (1.8 percent) and Prince George's counties (1.6 percent).

The real test in Baltimore's case will come in 1998, when many rowhouse neighborhoods on the city's east and west sides are reassessed. Those include areas that are still experiencing population loss and an attendant deterioration in housing prices.

Pub Date: 1/02/98

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