STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|Complainant,||)||Appeal No. 19-10367|
|)||Parcel No. 19M220125|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR,||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
Ahmed Boudhane (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 $300,000, with an assessed value of $57,000. Complainant claims the property is overvalued and proposes a value of $240,000. Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence establishing overvaluation. However, Respondent presented substantial and persuasive evidence showing the TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2019, was $269,000. The BOE’s decision is set aside.
The evidentiary hearing was conducted on October 7, 2020, at the Wainwright State Office Building in St. Louis, Missouri. Complainant appeared pro se and attended in person. Respondent appeared by counsel Steven Robson, who attended via WebEx video.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- Subject Property. The subject property is located at 10056 Briarwood Drive in St. Louis, Missouri. The parcel/locator number is 19M220125. The subject property consists of a .70 acre lot and a 1,392 square foot single family home that has two bedrooms, one full bath, and one half bath and backs to Interstate 64. Complainant purchased the subject property in 2005 for $200,000.
- Respondent and BOE. Respondent classified the subject property as residential and determined the TVM on January 1, 2019, was $339,700. The BOE classified the subject property as residential and independently determined the TVM on January 1, 2019, was $300,000.
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant asserts that the TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2019, was $240,000. Complainant submitted (1) Exhibit A, a nine-page document listing Exteriors by Mosby as the preparer that consists of a four-page scope of work dated March 23, 2020, a two-page construction services agreement to perform work on the subject property for a total of $165,682.95 not signed by Complainant, a two-page terms and conditions, and a one-page notice of cancellation; (2) Exhibit B, a letter from Complainant dated October 13, 2019, discussing the history of values of the subject property since Complainant’s purchase; and (3) Exhibit C, 55 photographs of the subject property’s backyard, bedrooms, bathrooms, family room, living room, dining area, kitchen, driveway, walkway, roof, chimney, basement, basement window well, garage, and wiring with notes. Exhibit C shows cracks and leaks in the basement, deteriorated and patched chimney bricks, a cracked driveway and walkway, deteriorated bedroom wallpaper, and that the home is located near the highway. Some of the photographs are also labeled as illustrating “joist termite damage,” “garage wall not to fire code,” “electric not to code,” and “damaged roof.” Respondent’s counsel objected to Exhibit A on procedural and hearsay grounds. No objections were made to Exhibits B and C. Exhibits A, B, and C were received into evidence to be given the weight deemed appropriate.
Complainant testified that he believes the TVM of the subject property was $240,000 as of January 1, 2019, based upon the 2017 assessment for $219,000 and the condition of the house. Complainant also stated that since he purchased the subject property, he has had issues with Respondent’s assessment as illustrated in Exhibit B, which indicates that the BOE lowered the value to $200,000 from $243,000, to $212,200 from $292,500, and to $219,100 from $263,000, for 2005, 2007, and 2011, respectively. Complainant also testified that Exhibit A contains a list of the repairs needed for the house, totaling $165,682.95; the photographs included in Exhibit C illustrate the needed repairs discussed in Exhibit B; and he is an engineer who “used to have investment properties,” “did a lot of management myself on the residential properties,” and “worked for the county as a residential inspector for about 15 years.”
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent submitted Exhibit 1, a nine-page restricted appraisal report prepared by Steven J. Zahner, Senior Appraiser, St. Louis County Assessor’s Office, dated September 28, 2020. In Exhibit 1, Mr. Zahner’s opinion of value of the subject property as of January 1, 2019, is $269,000. Complainant had no objection to Exhibit 1, and the exhibit was received into evidence.
Mr. Zahner testified in support of his opinion of value. In Exhibit 1, Mr. Zahner utilizes the sales comparison approach to estimate the market value of the subject property from the recent sales of four comparable properties within one-half mile of the subject property. The key property data in Exhibit 1 are as follows:
|Subject Property||Comp. 1||Comp. 2||Comp. 3||Comp. 4|
|Address||10056 Briarwood Dr.
|10050 Briarwood Dr.||10074 Briarwood Dr.||10041 Clayton Road||32 Eversdale Ct.|
|Location||Fair/Backs to I-64||Fair/Backs to I-64||Fair/Backs to I-64||Fair/Traffic Street||Fair/Backs to I-64|
|Gross living area (sq. ft.)||1,392||1,977||1,677||1,446||1,250|
|Room count/ bedrooms/ baths||5/2/1||8/3/2||7/3/2||7/3/2||6/2/1|
|Rooms below grade||Bath||RecRm, Bath||Unfinished||Unfinished||RecRm, BDR, Bath|
|Garage||2 car att.||2 car att.||2 car att.||1 car att.||2 car att.|
|Adjusted sale price||249,600||276,500||263,000||268,600|
The comparables are similar to the subject property with respect to design and location except the location of comparable 3 is Fair/Traffic Street rather than Fair/Backs to I-64. Comparables 1, 2, 3, and 4 differ from the subject property with respect to condition, bedrooms, baths, gross living area, and rooms below grade; condition, bedrooms, baths, gross living area, and rooms below grade; site, condition, bedrooms, baths, rooms below grade, and garage; and condition, gross living area, and rooms below grade, respectively. The sale prices of the comparables were adjusted to account for the differences.
Mr. Zahner testified that a number of condition issues were taken into account for the appraisal report, including large adjustments for condition, and two of the comparables utilized were located on the same street as the subject property. Mr. Zahner further indicated that after reviewing part of Exhibit A during the hearing, that “you would not recoup that kind of money even if you were to invest it in the property” and that “multiple estimates would be helpful” as well as additional time to review the estimates.
- Value. The TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2019 was $269,000.
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 does not produce substantial and persuasive evidence in support of his $240,000 opinion of value. Although Complainant testified that his opinion of value is based on the previous assessment of $219,000 and the condition of his house, his evidence does not specifically support this opinion of value. Complainant’s testimony and Exhibit C establish that the subject property has condition issues, including cracks and leaks in the basement, deteriorated and patched chimney bricks, a cracked driveway and walkway, and deteriorated bedroom wallpaper. However, such evidence does not show that the condition issues negatively impacted the subject property to the extent of lowering its TVM as of January 1, 2019, to $240,000. Further, although Exhibit A lists the costs to replace the roof, gutter, and driveway; rebuild the chimney; manage water; and install a basement sump pump for the total sum of $165,682.95, Exhibit A reflects the cost of making those specified repairs through a particular company rather than the amount the TVM of the subject property should be adjusted. Exhibit B, which discusses Complainant’s challenges to his property tax assessments since he purchased the property and specifically references the 36.9% increase from the appraised value of $219,000 in 2017 to $300,000 in 2019, is not persuasive evidence in support of Complainant’s opinion of value. Changes to values in earlier years does not persuasively establish that the 2019 value is incorrect. Further, Respondent has similarly lowered his opinion of the TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2019, as Respondent did not offer evidence in support of the BOE’s $300,000 value but contends that $269,000 is the TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2019.
No evidence was offered in support of the BOE decision. Instead, Respondent persuasively establishes that $269,000, which is lower than the BOE’s valuation, is the TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2019. Mr. Zahner’s testimony and Exhibit 1 show that the sales comparison approach was developed using comparable sales within one-half mile of the subject property, and that adjustments to the four comparables were made, including significant condition adjustments. In Exhibit 1, comparable 1 had a $25,000 condition adjustment, and comparables 2, 3, and 4, had $50,000 condition adjustments. Mr. Zahner did not testify that the condition factor used in Exhibit 1 should be adjusted based upon Exhibit A. Further, Mr. Zahner’s opinion of value falls within the range of the adjusted sales price of the comparables, $249.600 to $276,500.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
The BOE decision is set aside. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2019, is $269,000.
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 July 16, 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 July 16, 2021, to:
Complainant(s) and/or Counsel for Complainant(s), the County Assessor and/or Counsel for Respondent and County Collector.
 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.
 This total includes $15,259.33 for “Roof Replacement 3-Tab Shingle” and $16,067.33 for “Roof Replacement Architectural Shingle,” which appear to be alternative options.
 The parties agreed that Complainant could e-mail his photographs, which would be labeled as Exhibit C, after the hearing.
 The August 21, 2020, Order Resetting Evidentiary Hearing provides, “The parties are required to exchange and email exhibits to the hearing officer at least seven days prior to the evidentiary hearing.” Complainant brought Exhibit A with him to the evidentiary hearing, and photographs of Exhibit A were taken and forwarded to Respondent.
 Based on Complainant’s proposed value of $240,000, Complainant does not contend that the TVM of the subject property should be determined by subtracting the amount of the estimate from the BOE value ($300,000-$165,682.95=$134,317.05) or the original appraised value ($339,700–$165,682.95=$174,017.05).