Archive for March 2012


Property Tax Appeal

March 16th, 2012 — 8:33am

I recently appealed my property taxes on a house I bought from a bank. It was in really bad shape, and this was reflected in the price. I wanted my property taxes to reflect what I actually paid for the house on the open market. My experience is outlined in the dialog below. The research was done by my real estate consultants (my parents).  That essence of what was said is in block quotes,  what I heard is in bold, and explanations are in italics.

Victim

I’d like to see the comparables.

The State

Of course, here’s how we determined what your house is worth. These are the numbers we’ve fabricated for you.

The salient columns of the table are recreated here.


Victim

I found a comparable that appears to have been purchased by the county. Could I get more information about this sale?

The County

Of course, but we’ll need a written request. You didn’t think we were going to make this easy on you, did you?

Victim

Here’s my formal written request.

The County

Sorry, it needs to go to the legal department. We can play this game for a long time.

Victim

OK, here it is again.

Copies of the HUD are furnished showing 7373 N Kerry Hill Ct being sold for $169,305 with a mysteriously large “closing cost credit”.

Victim

There seems to be something missing. Can you explain the seller accommodation of $40,012 to the county?

The County

We don’t have to comment on that. You can’t handle the truth.

Victim

You have to provide this information.

The County

Perhaps you’re just confused. We’ve done something unethical and possibly illegal, and this is our last-ditch effort to try and throw you off the scent.

The county reluctantly hands over the contract between the county and the bank. The contract shows the true purchase price to be $129,293. It is clear at this point that the county is trying to manipulate the housing market by reporting invalid purchase prices, possibly for the purpose of increasing tax revenues. After correcting for seller subsidies of closing costs, where possible, and adding a few comparables of my own, the corrected sale prices were computed and sorted. The properties that sold for more were generally well fixed up; the properties that sold for less needed significant work. My home was assessed in the top half, both by mean and median.


Victim

I’d like my taxes to be reassessed to the value I purchased the house for on the open market. Here are the photos demonstrating why I was able to purchase the house at that price.

Public Employee

I’m not qualified to evaluate what it would cost to do the repairs. I need to see an official quote from a contractor who is not a family member. So your house is a wreck. What do you want me to do about it?

Victim

But I have all these comparables showing how low some of these houses have sold.

Public Employee

We can only use the official numbers from the state, and we don’t look at seller accommodations. We will only consider the fabricated numbers that we helped fabricate to justify our case.

Victim

Nonetheless, I have this contract from the county showing how much money was spent to fix up this other similar house.

Public Employee

We can’t look at appraisals for other houses. We won’t consider any legitimate information that would justify a lower assessment on your home.

I don’t believe that any of this is actually in the law. The “rules” themselves appear to be fabrications to prevent anyone from successfully appealing the value of their home.
Victim

But even so, this is what I paid for it, and it’s clearly in bad shape. I can’t give you an estimate since I did the work with my family, and you won’t accept an estimate from a family member.

Public Employee

You could go out and get an estimate. Anything that comes from a family member is biased, and we’ll only consider it as worth $100. I’m going to continue to focus on the one piece of evidence I know is impossible for you to document.

I wonder at this point if I should point out to him that the county’s numbers are clearly fraudulent, and yet he is implying numbers I haven’t even presented will be biased. I decide this will accomplish nothing.
Victim

If I told a contractor that I only wanted a quote to lower my taxes, he wouldn’t come out. So you’re asking me to do something that’s unethical.

Public Employee

It’s not unethical. We need an estimate. What are ethics again?

Victim

I’ve shown you all this overwhelming evidence that my house is over assessed. I obviously can’t give you the one thing I don’t have. What will convince you?

Public Employee

We need an estimate. You’re totally screwed.

Victim

So you’ll only consider properties that were cherry-picked to make the local real estate values appear higher, whose values were altered to boost those values even more? And any evidence that contradicts this obvious fiction, excluding the one thing I don’t have, will be ignored?

Public Employee

I’m sorry, but I can’t evaluate the value without an estimate. Bingo!

Victim

You and I both know this is totally ridiculous.

Public Employee

Look, I’m going to give you what you want this one time, but if you buy another house, you have to bring me an estimate or I’m going to consider all of the repairs to be worth $100. I’m not in the mood to fight anymore, and I know you’re just going to continue to appeal this, so I’m going to try to scare you away by threatening to gouge your eyes out if I ever see you around here again.

In the end, he gave up without a huge fight, mostly because he didn’t want to tangle with my parents. But I’m still in disbelief over some of what was said and done

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