STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|CRICKLEWOOD 8 TRUST,||)|
|Complainant,||)||Appeal No. 19-10455|
Parcel No. 20N520282
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR,||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
Cricklewood 8 Trust (Complainant) appeals the St. Louis County Board of Equalization’s (BOE) decision finding the true value in money (TVM) of the subject property on January 1, 2019, was $699,900, with an assessed value of $132,980. Complainant claims the property is overvalued and proposes a value of $622,000. Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence establishing overvaluation. The BOE’s decision is affirmed.
The evidentiary hearing was conducted on September 16, 2020, via WebEx video conference. Complainant was represented by counsel Mark Scheer. Respondent was represented by counsel Monique McNutt.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- Subject Property. The subject property is located at 8 Cricklewood Place in St. Louis, Missouri. The parcel/locator number is 20N520282.
The subject property consists of a one-acre lot and a 2,962 square foot single family home that has four bedrooms, two full baths, and one-half bath. (Ex. 1 at 1.) Complainant purchased the subject property on September 30, 2015, for $687,000. (Ex. 1 at 1.)
- Respondent and BOE. Respondent classified the subject property as residential and determined the TVM on January 1, 2019, was $744,900. The BOE classified the subject property as residential and independently determined the TVM on January 1, 2019, was $699,900.
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant asserted the TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2019, was $622,000. Complainant submitted Exhibit A, a two-page document that states at the top “8 Cricklewood Place – overvalued at $744,900; 2,962 sqft? (500 rec room? Baths 2/2?)” and indicates that $622,000 was agreed to by Respondent’s agent or employee on July 17, 2019. Exhibit A is further divided into “Non-comparable properties used by St. Louis County Assessor,” “Comparable Sales,” “Comparable properties,” “St. Louis County Assessment comparison,” and “Listings.” In the comparable sales section, Exhibit A lists 15 properties that purportedly sold between July 29, 2015, and June 18, 2019. For 11 of the 15 properties, a price per square foot was developed by dividing the stated sale amount by the stated square footage. An average square footage amount was developed from the 11 price per square foot amounts and multiplied by the square footage of the gross living area of the subject property, 2,962, resulting in a product of $595,270. Exhibit A was received into evidence.
Complainant did not present any witnesses. Complainant indicated that the basis of his proposed value was the information included in Exhibit A and that Respondent’s agent or employee, Leo, at the time of the July 17, 2019, BOE hearing, had agreed to such value.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent submitted Exhibit 1, a restricted appraisal report prepared by Steven J. Zahner, a senior appraiser with Respondent, determining the TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2019, was $710,000, and Exhibit 2, the 19-page BOE file.
Complainant filed objections on September 4, 2020, to Exhibit 1 and sought the exclusion of Mr. Zahner’s testimony. Complainant’s objections were overruled, and Exhibits 1 and 2 were received into evidence for the weight deemed appropriate.
Mr. Zahner testified in support of the BOE’s value of $699,900. In Exhibit 1, Mr. Zahner utilizes the sales comparison approach to estimate the market value of the subject property from recent sales of four comparable properties within one-half mile of the subject property. The key property data in Exhibit 1 are as follows:
|Address||Subject Property||1 Cricklewood Place||2940 Devondale Place||11 Portland Dr.||2 Portland Dr.|
|Condition||Average||Below average||Above average||Average||Above average|
|Site||1 acre/ average||1 acre/fair||1 acre/ average||1.2 acre/ average||1 acre/ average|
|Gross living area (sq. ft.)||2,962||3,539||3,055||3,177||3,396|
|Room count/bedroom/ bath||10/4/2.5
|Rooms below grade||Unfinished||1,000 sq. ft. finished||1,000 sq. ft. finished||500 sq. ft. finished||½ bath only|
|Garage||3 car attached||2 car attached||3 car attached||2 car attached||2 car attached|
|Adjusted sale price||$709,800||$690,000||$771,800||$727,800|
The comparable properties are similar to the subject property with respect to design. Comparables one, two, three, and four differ from the subject property with respect to site, condition, room count, gross living area, rooms below grade, and garage; condition, room count, rooms below grade, and a three-season room; room count, gross living area, rooms below grade, and garage; and condition, room count, gross living area, rooms below grade, and garage, respectively. The sale prices of the comparable properties were adjusted to account for the differences.
Exhibit 2 includes a six-page “Property Assessment Appeal – Finding of Facts – BOE Hearing” document, a one-page completed “Property Assessment Appeal Form,” a one-page “RE1 Supplemental: Single Family Residential” completed form, a two-page “Residential/Rural Review Document,” a one-page “Comparable Sales Analysis Report for Tax Year – 2019,” a one-page “Land Sales in Subject NBHD” document, a two-page “Owner’s Sheet” with handwritten notes, and a five-page July 17, 2019, MARIS listing for the subject property. On page four, section four, of Exhibit 2, the hearing officer’s comments indicate that Mr. Leo H. Hamm recommended “mkt. value for subj. @ $622,000” and that the “[o]wner agree[d].”
- Value. The TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2019 was $699,900, with an assessed value of $132,980.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
- Assessment and Valuation. Residential real property is assessed at 19% of its TVM as of January 1 of each odd-numbered year. Section 137.115.5(1)(a). “True value in money is the fair market value of the property on the valuation date, and is a function of its highest and best use, which is the use of the property which will produce the greatest return in the reasonably near future.” Snider v. Casino Aztar/Aztar Mo. Gaming Corp., 156 S.W.3d 341, 346 (Mo. banc 2005) (internal quotation omitted). The fair market value is “the price which the property would bring from a willing buyer when offered for sale by a willing seller.” Mo. Baptist Children’s Home v. State Tax Comm’n, 867 S.W.2d 510, 512 (Mo. banc 1993). Determining the TVM is a factual issue for the STC. Cohen v. Bushmeyer, 251 S.W.3d 345, 348 (Mo. App. E.D. 2008). The “proper methods of valuation and assessment of property are delegated to the Commission.” Savage v. State Tax Comm’n, 722 S.W.2d 72, 75 (Mo. banc 1986).
“For purposes of levying property taxes, the value of real property is typically determined using one or more of three generally accepted approaches.” Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 346. The three generally accepted approaches are the cost approach, the income approach, and the comparable sales approach. Id. at 346-48; see also St. Louis Cty. v. Sec. Bonhomme, Inc., 558 S.W.2d 655, 659 (Mo. banc 1977). The comparable sales approach “is most appropriate when there is an active market for the type of property at issue such that sufficient data are available to make a comparative analysis.” Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 348. “The comparable sales approach uses prices paid for similar properties in arms-length transactions and adjusts those prices to account for differences between the properties.” Id. at 347-48 (internal quotation omitted). “Comparable sales consist of evidence of sales reasonably related in time and distance and involve land comparable in character.” Id. at 348.
- Evidence. The hearing officer is the finder of fact and determines the credibility and weight of the evidence. Kelly v. Mo. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., Family Support Div., 456 S.W.3d 107, 111 (Mo. App. W.D. 2015). The finder of fact in an administrative hearing determines the credibility and weight of expert testimony. Hornbeck v. Spectra Painting, Inc., 370 S.W.3d 624, 632 (Mo. banc 2012). “It is within the purview of the hearing officer to determine the method of valuation to be adopted in a given case.” Tibbs v. Poplar Bluff Assocs. I, L.P., 599 S.W.3d 1, 9 (Mo. App. S.D. 2020). The hearing officer “may inquire of the owner of the property or of any other party to the appeal regarding any matter or issue relevant to the valuation, subclassification or assessment of the property.” Section 138.430.2.
- Complainant’s Burden of Proof. The taxpayer bears the burden of proof and must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the property was overvalued or misclassified. Westwood P’ship v. Gogarty, 103 S.W.3d 152, 161 (Mo. App. E.D. 2003). The BOE’s valuation is presumptively correct. Tibbs v. Poplar Bluff Assocs. I, L.P., 599 S.W.3d 1, 7 (Mo. App. S.D. 2020). The “taxpayer may rebut this presumption by presenting substantial and persuasive evidence that the valuation is erroneous” and must prove “the value that should have been placed on the property.” Id. “Substantial evidence is that evidence which, if true, has probative force upon the issues, and from which the trier of fact can reasonably decide the case on the fact issues.” Savage, 722 S.W.2d at 77 (internal quotation omitted). Evidence is persuasive when it has “sufficient weight and probative value to convince the trier of fact.” Daly v. P.D. George Co., 77 S.W.3d 645, 651 (Mo. App. E.D. 2002); see also White v. Dir. of Revenue, 321 S.W.3d 298, 305 (Mo. banc 2010) (noting the burden of persuasion is the “party’s duty to convince the fact-finder to view the facts in a way that favors that party”).
- Complainant Did Not Prove Overvaluation. Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence establishing that the BOE’s valuation was erroneous and that Complainant’s opinion of value, $622,000, was the TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2019. The approaches contained in Exhibit A are not generally accepted approaches to value property. The approach that seems closest to a generally accepted approach is the list of 15 comparable sales on the first page of Exhibit A. However, this portion of Exhibit A neither includes the characteristics of the proposed comparable properties, such as number of rooms, design, and lot size; makes adjustments to account for differences between the proposed comparable properties and the subject property; nor explains why other properties were excluded.
Additionally, Complainant’s contention that $622,000 is the TVM of the subject property because an employee or agent of Respondent agreed to a TVM of $622,000 on July 17, 2019, is unpersuasive. While page four of Exhibit 2 indicates that a recommendation of $622,000 was made at the BOE hearing by the hearing officer, Exhibit 2 also indicates that the assessor’s and property owner’s data and exhibits were considered, and the BOE determined the TVM to be $699,900. Complainant has not rebutted the presumption of correct valuation by the BOE with substantial and persuasive evidence.
Respondent, although not required to, presented persuasive evidence in support of the BOE’s value of $699,900. Mr. Zahner testified that he researched comparable sales, found four comparable sales in the immediate area, made adjustments to the comparable properties, and reached a $710,000 opinion of value. Additionally, the BOE’s value falls within the range of adjusted sale prices for the comparable properties.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
The BOE decision is affirmed. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2019, was $699,900 with an assessed value of $132,980.
Application for Review
A party may file with the Commission an application for review of this decision within 30 days of the mailing date set forth in the certificate of service for this decision. The application “shall contain specific detailed grounds upon which it is claimed the decision is erroneous.” Section 138.432. The application must be in writing, and may be mailed to the State Tax Commission, P.O. Box 146, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0146, or emailed to Legal@stc.mo.gov. A copy of the application must be sent to each person listed below in the certificate of service.
Failure to state specific facts or law upon which the application for review is based will result in summary denial. Section 138.432.
The Collector of St. Louis County, as well as the collectors of all affected political subdivisions therein, shall continue to hold the disputed taxes pending the possible filing of an application for review, unless said taxes have been disbursed pursuant to a court order under the provisions of section 139.031.
SO ORDERED June 18, 2021.
Laura A. Storck-Elam
Senior Hearing Officer
State Tax Commission
Certificate of Service
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing has been electronically mailed and/or sent by U.S. Mail on June 18, 2021, to: Complainant(s) and/or Counsel for Complainant(s), the County Assessor and/or Counsel for Respondent and County Collector.
 Complainant also asserted a claim for discrimination. Such claim was dismissed in a Dismissal Order issued on March 23, 2020. Complainant’s Motion for Summary Reassessment, which, among other things, challenged such dismissal, was orally denied. The certificate of service indicates that the March 23, 2020 Dismissal Order was emailed to the appropriate email address for Complainant’s counsel, and the record does not indicate that a motion to set aside was filed.
 Complainant timely filed a complaint for review of assessment. The State Tax Commission (STC) has authority to hear and decide Complainant’s appeal. Mo. Const. art. X, Section 14; section 138.430.1, RSMo 2000. All statutory citations are to RSMo 2000, as amended.
 At the request of Respondent’s counsel, Complainant’s counsel was sworn in prior to Respondent’s counsel questioning him.
 A review of Exhibit 2 shows that Leo H. Hamm served as a hearing officer at the July 17, 2019, BOE hearing.
 Two of the pages of Exhibit 2 were included twice. The 19-page count eliminates duplicate pages.
 This document appears to be the same as Exhibit A except for the handwritten notes and additions found on Exhibit A, including the statement that “St Louis Assessor agent or employee Leo agreed to $622,000 after reviewing comparable sales and tax assessor information – 7-17-19” and the calculations.
 Exhibit A does not indicate why certain proposed comparable sales were included and other sales were excluded. The list of proposed comparable sales in Exhibit A includes sale dates ranging from July 29, 2015, to June 18, 2019. However, none of the comparable sales included in Exhibit 1, which have sale dates within this same range, March 10, 2017, to May 3, 2019, are included as comparable sales in Exhibit A.