Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Is the Board of Review a Waste of Time?

April 20th, 2009
Is the Board of Review a Waste of Time?

I should have gone to Yoga class. But I skipped it to present 4 tax appeal
cases at a local board of review. The assessor had copies of my full written
reports weeks before the board of review.

As typical, the board of review is the City Council. The Mayor, who I have
much respect for, says he has presided over 10 of these things. What
typically happens is people come with a complaint and no data, and he sends
them in the other room to talk to the assessor.

I came prepared with complete written reports. I had called the assessor
days prior to the meeting and asked if I should bring copies of my reports
for the council. The assessor said no-they will reconvene in 2 weeks anyway,
and my reports would be forwarded via email to the council.

The assessor did not forward my reports.

The council wanted copies at the meeting--and no one had the code to the
copier. It gets worse.

So I started talking through my reports. Some of the council people were
familiar with the properties, had walked them. Which is more than I can say
for the assessor - who admitted to not having ever walked the land. And this
assessor had been the city assessor a long time. So one council person says
"oh, this property is just so pretty, its worth even more than that". And
they starting comparing these properties to their own.

When I asked for data to support their position no specifics were supplied.
Except the assessor threw out a sale five times my numbers-but it was from a
neighboring community. It was the equivalent of appraising a house in
Richfield and using a comparable sale in Edina-after all, the communities
are right next to each other-the values should be the same! But the Buyers
are different --and its all about the Buyers.

No one, including the assessor, would discuss the data that my reports were
based on. Or my point that all of the land buyers in the past year were
investors-and that is the lens that you must view the market because that IS
the market.

So the Board of Review voted to accept all of the assessors values-without
ever seeing the data. The process was like being in a bad movie. As soon as
I got home I was drawn to my piano to play Haydn-which is always so logical
and resets my brain.

I can't fault the council people-its the process. You're asking people that
are not valuation experts to render an opinion of value. The experience
marginally was worth missing yoga class: it affirmed my belief that the
formal Property Tax Petition process is the way to go.

When you ask me to evaluate your property for a potential appeal the first
thing I do is examine the data and see if the assessor has sales to hang
their hat on their valuation. Many times they do-and I advise NOT to appeal.
So I only accept tax appeal assignments when I can demonstrate a data based
valuation significantly lower than the assessed value.

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