Thursday, May 1, 2014

Board Weighs Competing Appraisals to Determine Property's Value

Excerpts of the Board's Determination follow:

54. Between them, the parties each offered one expert opinion by a licensed appraiser whose appraisal followed USPAP in reaching their conclusions. Only Johnson testified as to how his valuation opinion related to the relevant valuation dates for both 2010 and 2012. In contrast, Graber’s appraisal clearly states that it is for assessment years 2006-2010. The Board must weigh the 2010 opinion to determine which one most reliably estimates the subject property’s market value-in-use. Both appraisals were persuasive even though they were very far apart on land value. This difference appears to stem from the different choices each appraisal relied on with respect to the comparable properties.

1. Graber’s opinion.

55. The Board starts with Graber’s opinion. Graber is a certified appraiser and has been so since the mid-1980’s. Petitioner Ex. 2, p. 52-53. She provided an appraisal that used the sales comparison approach to determine the fee simple value of the land only.

56. Graber’s sales comparison analysis looked at four commercial properties in the Bloomington-Ellettsville area that sold between 2005 and 2009. Petitioner Ex. 2, p. 36. Graber did not testify, and her appraisal provides no information as to how she selected the comparable properties. Further, while all of her comparable properties were zoned commercial and Graber’s appraisal was only valuing land, none of the comparable properties were a convenience store/gas station.6 Finally, none of her sales occurred in 2010 or 2012, and she failed to relate any of the sales or evidence to the March 1, 2012, assessment date.

57. Johnson convincingly testified as to why three of Graber’s comparable properties were not persuasive. Specifically, comparable 2 is in Ellettsville and Ellettsville is zoned separately from Bloomington.7 Additionally, comparable 2 was tied to the sale of a restaurant on West 3rd Street. Comparable 3 is the Monroe Medical Park and the seller was under duress to sell because of a medical malpractice issue. Johnson did not consider this comparable because of the conditions of the sale and because the presence of a retention pond would make the development of a convenience store difficult. Finally, comparable 4 is a current Tractor Supply store location with a steep slope also located in Ellettsville. Johnson felt there were better sales near better intersections that did not have such conditions.

58. Finally, Graber’s appraisal was not prepared for 2012. Specifically, the appraisal states “[t]he intended use of this report is to appeal the assessment for the subject site for the assessment years of 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010.” Petitioner Ex. 2, p. 43. The summary on pages 1 and 2 was prepared on August 7, 2011, well before the 2012 assessment date of March 1, and in fact, the Board is unable to find a reference to assessment year 2012 anywhere in the appraisal. Petitioner Ex. 2.

59. Further, at the hearing, the Petitioner stated that the appraiser estimate of the value of the land would be the same through 2011. Smith testimony. The tax years on appeal, however, are 2010 and 2012. Graber’s appraisal does not relate the analysis in the report to 2012. Only Smith addressed the value of 2012 when he stated that the value for the land should be $300,000. Smith testimony.

60. As such, the appraisal is not probative evidence for assessment year 2012, and the Petitioner provided no other evidence challenging the assessment for 2012. The Petitioner failed to raise a prima facie case that the land was over-valued for assessment year 2012. When a taxpayer fails to provide probative evidence supporting the position that an assessment should be changed, the Respondent duty to support the assessment with substantial evidence is not triggered. See Lacy Diversified Indus. v. Dep’t of Local Gov’t Fin., 799 N.E.2d 1215, 1221-1222 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2003).

2. Johnson’s opinion.

61. The Board next turns to the Assessor’s expert, Wayne Johnson. The Board gives the greatest weight to his testimony and opinion that the land was properly assessed for 2010 and 2012. Johnson testimony. His appraisal offered a more comprehensive analysis that included all three generally accepted valuation approaches – the cost, the sales comparison, and the income approaches. Respondent Ex. A, p. 10; B, p. 5; Johnson testimony. And each approach arrived at a similar value. More specifically, for 2010, Johnson arrived at a land value of $1,050,000 and a total value under the cost approach of $1,500,000; under the sales comparison approach $1,400,000; and under the income approach $1,415,000 for a final value estimate of $1,450,000. The 2010 assessment by the Assessor is $1,514,500 (land $1,200,000, improvements $314,500). For 2012, Johnson arrived at a land value of $1,100,000 and a total value under the cost approach of $1,550,000; under the sales comparison approach $1,450,000; and under the income approach $1,475,000 for a final value estimate of $1,500,000. The 2012 assessment by the Assessor is $1,555,700 (land $1,200,000, improvements $355,700).

62. Under the sales comparison approach, the only approach both parties prepared, Johnson offered eight comparable properties, whereas Graber offered four, three of which Johnson persuasively challenged. While Graber’s task was to only appraise the value of the land, the Board is more persuaded by Johnson’s appraisal even though it did not separate land and improvements. It offered comparables that only included similarly developed properties as the subject property, i.e., convenience stores/gas stations, and properties that sold closer to the relevant valuation dates.

63. This appeal involved the value of land only. In the cost approach analysis, Johnson relied on vacant properties to arrive at a land value. Comparables properties 2, 4-6, and 8 were all vacant at the time of sale. Comparables 1, 3, and 7 were purchased with an existing structure that was demolished and the site was re-developed into a commercial business. Respondent Ex. A, pg. 75-91. Based on these comparables, Johnson arrived at a land value of $1,050,000 for 2010 and $1,100,000 for 2012. Respondent Ex. A, pgs. 75-91, 96; B, p. 12.

64. Johnson’s appraisal is not perfect. He includes personal property in both of the appraisals, and two of his sales disclosure forms include personal property for which he did not make an adjustment.8 The Board nonetheless for the reasons stated above, finds it persuasive. Respondent Ex. A, pgs. 65, Y, II. These imperfections do not negate the value of his appraisal.

65. Finally, although Graber was the expert offered by the Petitioner, she provided no testimony or analysis of the Assessor’s appraisal. The Petitioner’s expert did not challenge or discredit the Assessor’s appraisal.

66. The Petitioner appealed the land valuation only, and the Respondent did not challenge this limited appeal. A party is permitted to appeal the assessment for land only.

67. Graber did not testify and her appraisal does not even purport to address tax year 2012. The Board finds Johnson’s testimony and appraisal more persuasive for both 2010 and 2012.