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Flood buyout properties to be appraised

Fifteen properties that will be included in Decatur County’s application seeking to designate them as flood-destroyed will have their values appraised in two separate phases.

Under the buyout program, property owners would be paid a portion of their homes’ values, with most of the cost being paid for by the federal government and a small portion coming from county government. In exchange, the properties would be declared unlivable and no future re-development could be done. To qualify, the properties have to have experienced three flood events.

At Tuesday’s county commissioners meeting, County Finance Director Carl Rowland explained that county commissioners could choose from two methodologies to determine the properties’ fair market value for the purposes of the buyout program. Commissioners could either choose to set the properties’ values based on those on record with the Tax Assessors’ Office, or choose to determine their values through an independent assessment.

Rowland said he and County Administrator Tom Patton believed it would be more fair to the property owners to conduct the independent appraisal, the option county commissioners ultimately approved by unanimous vote on Tuesday.

In the meantime, while county government staff are finishing up the application for the flood buyout program through the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, the county will pay Roy Simpson, a local real estate agent, to conduct intermediate appraisals to come up with “reasonable values.” While Simpson is not a certified appraiser, Rowland said he has expertise at calculating an estimate known as the “residential broker price option,” which the county finance director said would be approximate to a property’s fair market value.

The county will obtain bids for an independent appraiser to conduct final appraisals at a later date, Rowland said.

Simpson will be paid $100 to produce an estimate for each of the 15 properties, or $1,500 total. The final appraisal is expected to cost about $300-$400 per property, or $4,500-$6,000 total. If Simpson’s estimate and the independent appraisal for a property differ significantly, a property owner can request a review from a separate independent appraiser.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will pay 85 percent of the cost of the independent and review appraisals, Rowland said.