Flint’s property values amid crisis draw concerns

Jacob Carah
Special to The Detroit News

Flint — Genesee County’s clerk is worried about the future of property values in the county and the city.

John Gleason’s concern is that once the “excitement” over Flint’s water crisis has subsided, “people are going to wonder what kind of infrastructure do I have in and going into my home.”

“There is a great deal of questions about the water situation in Flint,” Gleason said. “As a representative of people in our county, I should do everything I can to stabilize and firm up property values in our county.”

Gleason on Wednesday proposed upgrades to electronic annotation of land records to improve the “documentation and accessibility of data” in the area.

Gleason said he met with Lt. Gov. Brian Calley to advance the proposal with the state of Michigan.

“We have the confidence if we do receive public dollars to make this step, the public will have better transparency, and with the money that can be saved in terms of property value, we feel we can validate this expenditure,” he said.

The county’s clerk said the upgrade has the potential to lead to long-term stabilization of property values in Genesee County and Flint.

“People are afraid, and we must maintain the stabilization of these prices,” he said.

Upgrading the software utilized by the Register of Deeds, which is using a system from 2000, would allow the office to annotate whether a home or property has had lead service line replacement.

The proposed system offers an automated fraud alert service when documents are augmented and provide direct government-to-government record integration, allowing city to county “seamless, efficient information sharing,” Chief Deputy Register Roberta Sacharski said.

“In the midst of this crisis, one of the primary concerns we hear at the Records of Deeds office is declining property value,” she said. “We want to provide assurances to prospective buyers that in the homes the pipes have been replaced, the homes have passed whatever tests they have to pass.”

The register has issued a request for proposal bids. According to Sacharski, the current bids all price under a million dollars.

John “Biff” Snyder, who runs an appraisal company in Genesee County, said he sees the upgrade as essential to insuring a stop to short- and long-term falling property values in the city.

“Right now, we have to assume we’re all in the same boat,” Snyder said referring to the lead contamination effects on property values. “We have to assume that a property’s water needs to be tested and confirm it with plumbers or other means.

“The annotated disclosures would be essential for folks looking at a property.”

Snyder said an annotated deed would allow appraisers to know to a certainty that a home is clear of lead.

“Even if you’re outside the city of Flint, having the ability to see that on a deed would really help the situation, there would be no question.”

Gleason said he thinks the upgrade can put an end to scare tactics taking place in the city.

“It’s really critical we figure this out,” Gleason said. “Right now, there is a lot of what we may classify as vultures around.

“People ready to swoop in to buy somebody’s house, whatever they’re willing to sell it for just so they can get out to the county where the clean water is.”