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February 09, 2010
Assessment Shenanigans
Any mail I get from Spokane County is mail I'd rather not get. There are only three things I get from the county:

1) Election ballots (and it's well documented how much I despise politicians)

2) Property tax bills

3) Assessment notices (the prelude to the tax bill)

I vaguely recall getting my property tax assessment several months ago. Since then, according to several statistics I've seen, property values in this area have started to slide rather precipitously. In fact, two websites that use comparable sales and listings to pinpoint property values have established a value estimate of my house. In both instances, the estimates are over $60,000 less than my tax assessment.

Let's revisit my lead-in to this blog. Do I think it a coincidence that the actual assessment is mailed separate (and months before) the actual tax bill?, I do not. Why? Well, I assume the county wants no part of disgruntled homeowners bringing these disparities between market value and assessment to their attention. I guess they figure if there is enough time between the two notices, most people will either forget what value the tax is based on, or will be too apathetic to do anything about it.

This is a problem nationwide. I've seen foreclosed houses sell for less than the annual property taxes. Think about that for a second. A house sells for $3,000, the county puts the market value at $60,000, and the taxes are $3,500/yr. If you owned that property, how long would you let that thievery continue?

City, county, state, and federal governments are all strapped for cash...I get it. So to help out my county, I am making the following offer:

I will sell the county my house today for a full $10,000 less than it claims it is worth. The county can then turn around and sell my house for what they say it's worth and actually make some money on the trade. Whattya say, county officials? Do you have the guts to take me up on my offer?

You may want to check your own situation. Are you paying taxes on the true market value of your property, or some pie-in-the-sky assessment some county appraiser was ordered to manufacture in order to keep the county's budget on track?

I've got some research to do in the next couple weeks. Based on a summary of all similar homes sold in my community in the past year, the average sales price dropped almost $70,000 from the year prior. Despite this, my assessment only dropped $19,000 over that timeframe. Hmmm. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one being over-assessed this year. In fact, I'd venture to say everyone in my community, and most likely the entire county, is being over-assessed. Funny how quickly our assessments go up in the good times, and how slowly they return to reality in the bad.

I understand we all need to pay our fair share, but FAIR is the key word here. Just remember, the government is only concerned with your best interests when they are aligned with theirs.

Make it a great week.


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