The primary issue I have is that the town's assessor continues to use less favorable comparables to justify assessed value. How can this be possible?

April 10, 2020

It is unclear how the assessor can turn away comparables if they are superior. There are several theories that come to mind based on your comments about the history. Here are some thoughts that may be helpful.

Reader Question: I would like your opinion regarding the use of comparable sales as objective evidence of market value. Similar sales within ones’ neighborhood are the most accurate indicator of market value. The primary issue I have is that the town’s assessor continues to use less favorable comparables to justify assessed value. The town lists a Bonus Room over an existing garage is valued the same as a primary two-story structure! My home is 3100 square feet total and has a large partially finished Bonus Room above the garage of almost 500 square feet.

I have submitted four (4) “like” comparable sales of homes with garage Bonus Rooms as they represent the best comparables. At the same time, the town insists on using homes without Bonus Rooms. The value of a principal structure built over a full basement has a much higher value as well utility than finished square footage over a garage. I brought this to small claims with no luck. More appalling was the fact that the town used a larger two-family home as one of their primary sales comparable. The judicial review judge believed it was a valid equal! A local real estate agent agreed with my conclusions. The over-assessment of about $30,000 means $1,260.00 extra tax. I would appreciate any recommendations.

Monty’s Answer: Depending on how long you plan to own the home, these suggestions below may be options to consider deploying:

  1. Here is one far-out thought – but stranger things have happened. What if many bonus rooms over a garage exist in your municipality? If the city grants you relief, it could negatively affect their tax revenue when all of those affected property owners pile on your discovery. A flaw in the assessor manual may be a reason for the municipality to hinder you. Here is an article where you may find a helpful kernel toward researching this angle at https://bit.ly/34aCqat.
  2. Here is an article titled How to challenge home appraisers (http://bit.ly/2hPEqkF). The difference here is the fact you are disputing an assessor. What you describe looks like an ongoing situation. It is unclear how the assessor can turn away comparables if they are superior. It crossed my mind that your dispute has become a personal or political issue and clouded the facts. Have you spoken with your alderman or ward captain?
  3. Hire a tax appeal service. These services do what you have been trying to do. They take personality out of the process. If they do not believe a client has a good case, they will not engage a client. Mainly when they work on a success only fee. Consider completing an internet search for “property tax appeal companies” to find and compare such organizations.
  4. Hire a MAI or SRA appraiser or possibly even a condemnation appraiser. This type of reviewer likely has a superior level of training that may, or may not, influence the assessor. An assessor may defer to a better explanation from a higher level. Appraisers sell their opinion, whether or not the client agrees with the results.