Trying to find the value of your home can leave you asking a lot of questions: Where do I find this information? How is property value determined? How does the value of my home compare to others in my neighborhood? All of these inquires can be answered with the ever-evolving Orange County Property Appraiser’s website, www.OCPAFL.org. The website receives a search every second and was visited by 4 million users last year.
Bill Donegan, Orange County Property Appraiser, says that the Property Map search function is one of the most used and helpful features the site has to offer. “It allows regular folks to search all of Orange County when deciding on the biggest purchase of a person’s life, which is buying a home,” he says.
The feature is built from Google’s search engine so the second you start typing, it is calculating what you want. Donegan says, “You don’t even have to know how to spell the name of the owner or the street, it predicts what you mean.” When a property is searched, users can see aerial photographs, recent sales information, future development, subdivision boundaries, zoning information and even area foreclosures. The users also have the option to see all of this information on the same map or to choose which information is illustrated using various filters.
A new feature that will be up and running within the next several weeks improves this already simple search even more. All of the information users want will be presented on one page. “There is a lot of data for both residential and commercial properties,” he says. “Everything will be tighter and only info pertaining to the type of property being searched for will be displayed.” Users won’t be confused with data that has nothing to do with the type of property they are looking up.
A common reason residents use the search feature is to determine the market value of their home. Home value is determining the price that most people would pay for a piece of property in its current condition based on the real estate market at this time. The number is established based on the price that other homes in the neighborhood sell for and the number of foreclosures in that area. “Neighborhoods that have high foreclosures actually negatively manipulate the value of surrounding homes,” Donegan says.
Due to the high number of foreclosures in Orlando, local home values are down 3.7 percent from last year and Avalon Park specifically has taken one of the hardest hits. “The Federal government decided that everyone should live in a house but didn’t take whether they could afford one into consideration,” he says.
In the past, selling foreclosed property took a long time because there was no way of knowing who owned the property or how to get in touch with them. But that’s not the case anymore as www.ocpafl.org has a foreclosure feature that provides users with owner information and the market value of the home. “This feature helped sell 7,600 of the 11,000 foreclosed homes in Orange County in an extremely short period of time,” Donegan says.
The website now allows users to file their tangible personal property tax return or their homestead exemption online, to see recent sales analysis reports, to view the information in 59 different languages and to fix and update their property cards without having to call in. Soon, users will even be able to update and upload new photographs of their property and get driving directions without having to leave the site.
The goal of every upgrade is to provide users with the most relevant and useful information, making it one of the most innovative sites of its kind across the country. It’s well on its way.
Article by Nikki Stephens