10:23 PM PDT on Thursday, July 7, 2011

By JOHN F. HILL
The Press-Enterprise

While Riverside County property values are still in decline, a few small, bright spots have emerged, mainly in southwest Riverside County.

Numbers released Thursday by the county Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder office show land in four cities increased in value over the past fiscal year, raising hopes that the worst of the housing crisis may be over in those areas. Perris, Menifee and Temecula in southwest Riverside County all saw their property values grow. Moreno Valley, which saw a 0.69 percent increase, was the only other city in the county to see an increase.

Overall, land value in Riverside County is down 1.45 percent. That marks the third straight year of decline, though the losses are slowing. Land values tumbled 10.5 percent in 2009.

There’s no one reason why property values in some cities are up while others continue to decline, said Riverside County Principal Auditor Appraiser Michele Martinez-Barrera. In some cases, a new project like the new 1.8 million-square-foot Skechers’ warehouse in Moreno Valley probably contributed, she said. In others, housing is more attractive.

For the most part, she said, the housing market in Riverside County is stagnant. Some cities are going to see small gains, while others will see small losses.

A modest but unexpected 1.17 percent gain in property values — and property taxes — is welcome news in Menifee. The city learned last week it could lose nearly $4 million in revenue from vehicle license fees under the newly minted state budget.

Menifee’s financial planners budgeted for a 4.6 percent drop in property taxes. A 1 percent increase means the city will bring in about a half-million more dollars than it had planned.

Menifee Councilman John Denver said most city officials didn’t think their situation would be as bleak as the budget projected but City Manager William Rawlings wanted to be cautious.

“Our city manager, God bless him, is one of the most conservative men you know,” Denver said. “Just right of Genghis Khan.”

Denver, who runs a Perris-based real estate office, attributed the growth in property values to the public’s positive outlook on Menifee’s future. Home prices are cheaper in the 3-year-old city than in more-established areas, making Menifee a more likely target for new homebuyers.

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