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Working Paper 20-01: Land Valuation using Public Records and Kriging: Implications for Land versus Property Taxation in Cities

Published: 5/14/2021
Author:

​William D. Larson, Senior Economist; Jessica Shui, Supervisory Economist

Abstract:

We construct land values for each parcel in Maricopa County (Phoenix), Arizona, from 2000 through 2018 using a novel administrative dataset containing the universe of land sales and parcel records in the county. We then compare residential land values constructed using two classes of source data, vacant land sales and land under existing structures. Between 2012 and 2018, estimated land values for developed parcels are, on average, 14% higher when estimated using vacant land due to plattage effects and other unobserved factors. Growth rates are similar, facilitating the use of vacant land price indices to trace valuations over time from an accurate base year valuation. Dynamics between prices of Maricopa County land and housing suggest hypothetical land value tax revenues are more pro-cyclical than property tax revenues, with Betas with respect to national house prices of 3.3 and 2.3, respectively. By 2018, houses had recovered 96% of pre-crisis (2007) values, but land had only recovered 66%. These findings demonstrate a source of risk of dependence on public revenues from land value taxes versus a base-period revenue-neutral property tax.

Note: An earlier version of this paper was posted in March 2020. The May 2021 update includes a refresh of external data sources used in the paper and refinements to some of the underlying methods.

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