Juneau Assembly votes to require disclosing final real estate sale prices — but could be headed for a do-over

The Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority has put the waterfront property known as the subport up for sale. (Photo by Adelyn Baxter/KTOO)
A “for sale” sign sits on a downtown Juneau waterfront lot that was auctioned off in 2019. A new city policy would require the disclosure of final sales prices for real estate transactions to the city assessor’s office. (Photo by Adelyn Baxter/KTOO)

The Juneau Assembly voted this week to require disclosure of real estate sales prices to the city assessor’s office, despite opposition from local realtors.

But the Assembly may decide to reevaluate that decision at a future meeting.

From the city’s point of view, giving the assessor’s office access to final sales prices helps them make better property assessments each year. That leads to fairer rates for taxpayers.

“It’s one more tool for the assessor to fulfill the mandate of state law, which says that you will assess property at true fair market value,” said Assembly member Loren Jones on Tuesday. Jones made the motion to approve the change at Monday’s meeting.

Alaska is one of a handful of so-called non-disclosure states. That means the final sales price of property transactions doesn’t have to be shared publicly. Still, local communities are free to change that.

But local real estate agents and at least one Assembly member say there are still unanswered questions.

Assembly member Greg Smith tried to delay the vote and to send it back to committee.

“I wanted to follow the recommendation of the city manager, which was put it back to committee for further discussion, and potentially even a public hearing,” Smith said on Tuesday. “I didn’t feel like I fully understood the breadth of what we were doing.”

Smith’s motion failed, with other members saying they felt they had already discussed the topic enough and were ready to vote.

The new mandatory disclosure policy passed 6 to 3, with Smith, Wade Bryson and Mayor Beth Weldon voting against it.

But later in the meeting, Jones notified the mayor that he planned to motion for reconsideration.

“That’s a parliamentary move, so that if I want to bring it up at the next Assembly meeting, whenever that is, I can do that,” Jones said.

A motion to reconsider needs a majority vote for a “do-over” to happen. Otherwise, the original vote stands.

Jones said he may not even change his vote, but he realized some of the information he shared at the meeting may have been inaccurate.

“I want to go back and review the emails, go back and review the information that I was provided,” Jones said. “And if I was wrong, I need to state that. If that then changes my opinion, which I’m not sure it will, then I would have an opportunity to bring it back up before the Assembly.”

Curtis Francis is president of the Southeast Alaska Board of Realtors. He said there were a few inaccurate statements made at the meeting about what’s publicly disclosed during real estate transactions.

He and others who testified on Monday brought up privacy and the concern that this could lead to increased taxes for property owners. He also said the final sales price isn’t the best indicator of a home’s worth.

“Maybe a seller paid $10,000 towards closing costs, which would not go into this sales price,” Francis said. “Sometimes there’s repairs that are made in lieu of sales prices that are also not disclosed. So it’s not always an accurate price.”

The ordinance also mentions estimating the value of personal property, like appliances, included in a sale. He said it’s not clear who determines the value of those items.

Francis was disappointed the Assembly didn’t do more to talk to realtors who wrote to them before the meeting.

“They could have simply called someone, any realtor, title company and got some of these answers. But that didn’t appear to happen, which is unfortunate,” he said.

The earliest a motion for reconsideration could happen is the Nov. 16 special Assembly meeting.