Lucas County (Toledo) property tax reductions more difficult

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PIN, The Property Investor's Network (https://www.toledopin.com/) hosted Anita Lopez at the March 2020 meeting. 

This was the about the fifth time I have enjoyed Anita's annual updates on the status of Lucas County and Toledo real estate, tax funding, and her view of Toledo government. Prior years have been upbeat and best characterized by Anita's commitment to keep the Auditor's staff approachable, accessible, and friendly. (Unique in county government and completely opposite of city government Anita is a vocal advocate that she is voted in and serves the public interest over those of her fellow politicians)

This year's update was more somber, specifically the appeals process would be less accepting of testimony from owners and more strict on requiring actual settlement statements and photos of property conditions. She indicated the Toledo Blade article below as a good summary of why but it sounds like her office served the public in adjusting property values which resulted in aggressive reductions as a result of the crash in real estate values. 

https://www.toledoblade.com/opinion/columnists/2019/06/07/intervention-might-clarify-lucas-county-property-tax-valuation/stories/20190606104

It is only logical that requests to reduce property values will be declining in number and percentage of value, Toledo's values have done exceedingly well over the past few years. 

However the school boards have the ability to rebut appeals and will bring property value adjustment appeals against owners in cases over $50,000 in increased value. In my experience this past year I was on the receiving end of two purchases which were over the $50,000 limit by a few thousand dollars and were challenged and increased. 

Speaking as one who has a decade and ~100 appeals under my belt...anticipate:

1) Get ready for a debate when you appear in front of the review committee, previously we simply accessed sales on the MLS and the Recorder's office...we were told last night to plan to provide closing documents a week ahead of the session. Photos were recommended in cases of foreclosures or property damage/blight.

2) No rescheduling...you will be assigned a day and have to show up (guess there were a lot of no-show's who wanted new appointments???)

3) Be incredibly wary of filing for a penny over $50,000...I regularly file my appeals for $49,500 even if I could be reduced more. WHY? Because the school board has the right to assign an attorney to argue against your case above $50,000. This means your $100k market value purchased for $40,000 (which would be pretty reasonably reduced by $49,500 if you had only the committee in the room) will be rebutted to include the $35,000 of materials/labor you put into the property for a probable final value of $75,000. 

4) Consider an attorney, I have retained a trusted attorney for my appeals. Sure it costs more but it ensures we put our best foot forward as conditions change...I feel the best option is to address the committee with sale documents, mortgages, deeds (where the attorney comes in) and market comparable and trends (using a real estate professional...I have that handled :) ). 

LaPlante Real Estate continues to offer property appeals for any who need it (filing, documentation of the value requested, and in-person attendance of the hearing by both myself and our attorney) for $400/property. We offer a $100 discount for property management clients.

5) March 31st is your deadline, don't fear the process - you will get a refund for the past year's over-payment after reduction...it's my family's summer party fund for our reductions!

@Andrew Fidler  

What percent is it worth it to go through the process?

For example if the assessment is 40,000 and the purchase price was 60,000 that's 66%.

Is it worth it to try to go lower?

@Michael P.  

Assessed price $60,000

Purchase price $40,000

Difference $20k, 33%

That would be worth the reduction...I would say a $10k or 10% reduction is about the lowest I mess with, most of the time these are 25%-50% spreads and definitely worth the time.

To answer the question "Can you go lower than the purchase price" - I was successful arguing a turn-key sale sold to an owner who didn't know the market resulting in a +$50k value increase which the school board was pursuing an increase in. I was able to argue that similar to foreclosures not being considered an "arms length" transaction (a whole conversation in itself) and thus wasn't representative of the true market value, this owner paid too much money unknowingly and shouldn't be additionally penalized.

So, you could request lower on the purchase price but you would have to be explaining to the committee how you screwed up when you bought...did a waterline burst and you didn't have insurance, the hoodlums broke in and trashed the place after purchase, etc. 

The appeal is truly story time, I enjoy it because I get to put on my "grumpy old men" persona and grumble about everything that detracts from the property's value.

Hope this helps!