Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Board Finds Respondent's Appraisal Proved Property was Not Overvalued but Declined to Raise Assessed Value where Assessor Failed to Request an Increase

Excerpts of the Board's Determination follow:

26. The most effective method to establish value can be through the presentation of a market value-in-use appraisal, completed in conformance with USPAP. Kooshtard Property VI, 836 N.E.2d at 506 n.6. Consequently, regardless of who has the burden of proof for each parcel, the Respondent, through Ms. Moore’s appraisal, offered substantial, probative evidence regarding the market value-in-use of both parcels. The appraisal valued the subject property in conformance with USPAP. Ms. Moore estimated the value of the subject properties as one economic unit, which was $325,000 as of March 7, 2013. She also developed a value for each lot separately. Specifically she valued Lot 33 at $120,000 and valued Lot 34 at $225,000 as of March 7, 2013. And she sufficiently related her appraisal to March 1, 2012. She almost exclusively used comparable properties that sold in 2012 in her sales-comparison approach. Thus, Ms. Moore stated that “even though the appraisal was written in 2013, my comparable sales are for 2012, and I did put a 2013 in there to show the stability in the market place on the lake.” Accordingly, the Board finds that Ms. Moore sufficiently related her value to March 1, 2012. Through this USPAP conforming appraisal, the Respondent offered substantial evidence of the correct market value-in-use for the subject properties. Thus, the Board now turns to the Petitioners’ evidence and arguments for each parcel.

27. The Petitioners offered purportedly comparable sales in an attempt to prove that the subject property was over-assessed. A party offering such evidence must show that the properties are comparable to each other, and also must show how any relevant differences affect the properties’ relative values. See Long, 821 N.E.2d at 470-71 (holding that, in applying the sales-comparison approach, the taxpayers needed to explain how any differences between their property and the properties to which they sought to compare it affected the properties’ relevant market values-in-use). The Petitioners failed to explain how their purported comparable properties were the same as the subject property or how they differed. The Petitioners merely relied on the fact that the sales of their purportedly comparable properties averaged out to be less than the assessed value of the subject property. The sales comparison evidence presented by the Petitioners lacked the type of analysis contemplated by Long.

28. Another way to show market value-in-use is through comparable assessments. See Ind. Code § 6-1.1-15-18. This statute, however, does not automatically make evidence of other assessments probative. The party relying on those assessments must apply generally accepted appraisal and assessment practices to show that the properties are comparable to the property under appeal. Again, conclusory statements that a property is “similar” or “comparable” to another property do not suffice. See Long, 821 N.E.2d at 470. Instead, one must identify the characteristics of the property under appeal and explain how those characteristics compare to the characteristics of the other properties. Id. at 471. Similarly, one must explain how any differences affect the relative market values-in-use. Id.

29. Here, the Petitioners simply offer purportedly comparable property sales and assessments with no related analysis. Other than describing the view of Lake Freeman, the Petitioners failed to go into detail about how the properties are similar to the subject property or how they differ. The Petitioners’ evidence did little to quantitatively or qualitatively show how the differences between the properties affected their relative values. In fact, the Petitioners did not even offer a conclusion as to the value of the subject property. They just argue it is over-assessed. Their evidence is insufficient to prove that the current assessments are wrong.

30. The Petitioners also argue that the appraisal obtained by the Assessor erred by using comparables all located along Lake Freeman, and it failed to adequately account for this fact. But it is well within an appraiser’s expertise to choose the sales he or she deems most comparable to the subject property and apply adjustments to account for any differences. Without probative evidence to the contrary, the appraiser’s comparables and the lack of adjustments appear to be reasonable.

31. The Petitioners claim that the view from the subject property is hindered by bushes and the use is hindered by being located on the canal instead of on Lake Freeman. Even assuming these facts are true, the Petitioners were required to do more than simply conclude that the value of the property suffers as a result. To make a case, they were required to offer probative evidence of a more accurate value. See Talesnick v. State Bd. of Tax Comm’rs, 756 N.E.2d 1104, 1108 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2001). The Petitioners failed to offer such proof. Consequently, they failed to make a case for reducing the assessments.

32. In this appeal, the only probative evidence regarding the market value-in-use was offered by the Respondent. This evidence indicates that the values were even higher than they were assessed. The Board, however, declines to raise the assessments because the Respondent did not request any increase and because the Respondent stated that the 2012 assessments were not in error.