I would like to discuss two areas of progress: one, the use of technology by the public during the COVID-19 pandemic, and two, the housing market.
Let me first thank the Cabell County residents who have understood the fact that things have changed, and we must find different ways to get things done. The Assessor’s office has found the public to be very understanding and flexible. We have had thousands of documents and questions handled electronically this past year rather than physical visits to the office. Thank you for allowing us to serve you remotely!
We have seen a huge increase of traffic on our help desk email, website and online filing. I feel certain folks who take the time to learn these new systems will never again have to take time away from work and family to come to the office. Government needs to work for the public and not require an office visit during work hours. The pandemic has forced almost all interactions to change, and the result has been exciting to watch, as you, the taxpayers, have embraced the use of technology. So again, thank you for your effort to learn something new.
In years past, many processes seemed to be mostly generational: in person, mail or online. The pandemic has shattered these boundaries as all ages have worked and done business remotely by various electronic means.
Secondly, I would like to discuss the housing market. When COVID-19 first began, there was doom and gloom for every business and sector of the global economy. We certainly wondered what the new value of property would be as this unfolded. Much to our surprise, a few months into COVID, we began to see both an increase in number of residential property sales as well as an increase in prices. The housing market continued to gain momentum all through 2020 showing lack of inventory, quick sales and high prices.
I believe personally this has been fueled by the two factors of low interest rates and families spending much more time in their homes. A quick Google search will reveal statements such as “Booming housing market,” “Another strong year predicted” and “Housing market is the best performing segment of the economy.” Business Insider, Nov. 25, 2020, reported, “Existing home sales reached the highest level in 14 years, inventory is at an all-time low, expect low interest and high prices.” Bloomberg said, “in August of 2020 new construction was the highest level since 2006 and mortgage applications are up 22% since last year.”
We have now finished 2020 with record home sales, and the trend has continued into the first part of 2021. The Assessor’s office continues to track every sale in the county and, as per State Code, has adjusted as needed. I personally expect sales to continue to be strong as we head toward spring and as COVID cases continue to decrease, allowing sellers more confidence for their home to be shown by a Realtor.
So, in conclusion, thank you for allowing us to serve you remotely. We look forward to days of face-to-face interactions, but until that time, please stay safe.
Irv Johnson is the assessor for Cabell County.