News Column

Mortgage tax revenue sliding in Warren County

August 30, 2014

By Don Lehman, The Post-Star, Glens Falls, N.Y.

Aug. 30--Mortgage tax receipts are down more than 30 percent in Warren County so far this year, and county officials are wondering why.

Those who take out mortgages on real estate in Warren County pay a 1 percent tax on the amount of the mortgage, a tax that amounted to $1.05 million in revenue for the county last year.

The figure had been rising in recent years as the real estate market recovered from the financial collapse in 2008-09, with receipts growing more than 20 percent between 2011 and 2013.

But the revenue has dropped substantially this year, a trend that is being noted around the state, Warren County Clerk Pam Vogel told county supervisors Thursday. The figure was on pace through the end of July to barely top $700,000, Vogel said.

She said the long winter and late arrival of spring played a part in a slow start to the year around New York.

Others said there were indications the housing market was suffering locally.

"That would indicate to me we are not getting many house sales in Warren County," Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Doug Beaty said.

Johnsburg Supervisor Ron Vanselow said the real estate representatives he had spoken with said the local market was "kind of slow."

Vogel said many of the sales of more expensive waterfront properties do not involve mortgages, so no mortgage tax is collected on those purchases.

Thurman Supervisor Evelyn Wood said there may not be a big drop in mortgages, but the mortgages being taken out are not as sizeable, so less tax is collected.

"You could have many mortgages of small value," she said.

The mortgage tax should get a boost in the coming months when the sale and $193 million mortgage of a hydropower plant that straddles the Hudson River in Warren and Saratoga counties goes forward, Vogel said.

David Strainer, an agent with Realty USA in Queensbury, said new listings have dropped this year by about 10 percent. He said his agency has had a good year, but many waterfront sales are being made for cash without mortgages, and banks are taking longer to approve loans so it takes longer to close a sale than it had.

"The banks are looking for more information than they had been, and it's taking longer," he said.

Home sales last year in Warren County were up 11 percent, and statewide sales hit a six-year high.

In a series of Post-Star articles this spring, local real estate agents reported good activity in the housing market. Glens Falls 2nd Ward Supervisor Peter McDevitt, a real estate agent, said he thinks the property market is "improving slowly."

Warren County enacted the mortgage tax in 2008, and is one of 23 counties in New York that imposes it. Vogel said other counties have similar taxes that they don't call a mortgage tax.

The Board of Supervisors County Clerk Committee voted Thursday to extend the mortgage tax for another two years.


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Source: Post-Star (Glen Falls, NY)

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