ERIC A. TROTZ
With the June 30 deadline for Shelby County 2012 tax appeals quickly approaching, here are some suggestions for homeowners considering an appeal.
Don’t assume that the assessor is “out to get” the property owner. In a perfect world, the assessor’s value of a particular property would match market value. However, the assessor is not able to look at each property individually as an appraiser would. The assessor applies a value model to produce what is called a mass appraisal. This differs from an individual appraisal performed for a client, which focuses only on a particular property. Naturally, a mass appraisal is often less precise.
Most assessors’ offices will work with an individual or company to try and achieve market valuation for the property. The assessor is not interested in seeing a consumer bring in reams of data to support their position, as too much information will usually leave everyone confused. Sometime the assessor’s value is higher than market value, but the public should know that sometimes the assessor’s value is lower than market value, and the public should treat the assessor as if they are a partner more so than an adversary.
Property owners can be emotional about their homes, and that can get in the way of allowing the assessor to generate an agreeable value. It is preferable to have an independent appraisal prepared and present that to the assessor, as appraisers are third-party experts who provide credible, reliable opinions of value. Also, many appraisers collaborate with property tax consultants and attorneys who specialize in tax appeal matters, which could provide the best opportunity for a property owner to increase the chances of a successful tax appeal.
There can be different stages of tax appeals based on the municipality, and property owners should check with an experienced local appraiser, a property tax consultant or their assessor’s office who can shed light on the local appeals process.
Assessors’ offices have generally become more precise lately due to their use of technology, which allows them to gain access to the same data as a property owner, appraiser, tax appeal consultant or attorney. However, how the data is used is where the difference of opinion usually arises. That is why it is always best to start with an appraisal.
The consumer should keep in mind that assessors are usually adept at spotting faulty appraisals and “hired gun” appraisals, which appear to be unreasonably low. That is why it is very important to choose an appraiser whose work not only conforms to accepted industry standards, but to a strict code of ethics such as the one governing the actions of Appraisal Institute-designated members and associates.
Trotz is president of the Memphis Chapter of the Appraisal Institute. For more information, visit www.aimemphis.org or www.appraisalinstitute.org .