STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|BRUCE PATRICK ROBERT,||)|
|Complainant,||)||Appeal No. 21-10021|
|)||Parcel No. 24O420341|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR,||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
Bruce Patrick Robert (Complainant) appealed the St. Louis County Board of Equalization’s (BOE) decision finding the true value in money (TVM) of the subject property on January 1, 2021, was $608,700. Complainant alleges overvaluation and proposed that the TVM as of that date was $525,000. The BOE decision is affirmed. The TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2021, was $608,700.
The evidentiary hearing was held on April 20, 2022, via Webex. Complainant appeared pro se. Respondent was represented by counsel, Tim Bowe.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- The Subject Property. The subject residential real property is located at 202 Greenbriar Estates Drive, St. Louis, Missouri. The subject property consists of a two-story single family home on a 0.37 acre lot. The house has 3,135 square feet of living space including a finished basement. The house also includes three bedrooms, an office, two full bathrooms, and two half bathrooms. Complainant purchased the property in 1983 for $157,000. Complainant has not listed the property for sale in the last three years, nor has he made any improvements to the property in the last three years.
- Assessment and Valuation. The BOE determined the TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $608,700. The BOE also determined the TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $608,700.
- Complainants’ Evidence. Complainants introduced Exhibits A through C which were all admitted into evidence without objection. Complainant’s exhibits are described as follows:
|A||Picture of 201 Greenbriar Estates Drive, sold in 2020, which contains an atrium ranch house and is located across the street from the subject property,|
|B||Data from two other comparable sales proffered by Complainant taken from Mid America Regional Information Systems (MARIS)|
|C||March 9, 2022 E-mail from Complainant to the State Tax Commission and Counsel for Respondent|
During his testimony, Complainant argued that the 2020 sale of the atrium ranch property across the street from the subject property (shown in Exhibit A) is a good comparable sale and shows that the subject property was overvalued by Respondent. Complainant testified that this comparable property sold for $152.47 per square foot in 2020, and in his opinion is a reasonable comparable because generally atrium ranches are more desirable than a two-story style home like the subject property.
Complainant also described two other comparable sales in the Parkway South school district that are newer than the subject and have more acreage than the subject. These comparables are identified on Complainant’s Exhibit B. Both properties sold for $525,000, which is less than the appraised value of the subject determined by Respondent. However, no sale dates are listed on Exhibit B. Complainant also mentioned another sale down the street from his house, 208 Greenbriar Estates Drive. Complainant stated that it had 4,400 square feet and upgraded interior, but sold in 2019 for $152 per square feet, a lesser amount than Respondent’s appraised value of the subject.
Complainant also offered Complainant’s Exhibit C, an email to the State Tax Commission prior to the hearing. Exhibit C contains Complainant’s calculation of the opinion of value he submitted in his Complaint for Review ($477,993), taking the $152.47 per square foot from the sale 201 Greenbriar Estates Drive 201 times the square footage of his home, 3,135 feet. Complainant then stated in the email that he realizes home values appreciate somewhat with time, and noted that therefore “had the assessor valued our home at $525,000 we would accept that value.” Exhibit C.
Complainant also testified that the backyard of his property is subject to a utility easement. Complainant asserted that the value of his property has been diminished by the existence of electric and magnetic fields (EMF) high-tension wires owned by the electric company that hover above his property.
Complainant admitted on cross-examination that he did not do any research concerning the conditions (if any) of the sales of the comparable properties he offered. Complainant also testified that he is not a licensed appraiser in Missouri, nor does he have any professional experience or training in making market-based adjustments to comparable sales to determine the TVM of a subject property. Complainant also stated that he did not get a hearing before the BOE.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent offered Exhibit 1 which was admitted into evidence without objection Respondent’s Exhibit 1 consists of a copy of the October 29, 2021 BOE decision letter determining the subject appraised value as of January 1, 2021, was $608,700.
- Value. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $608,700.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
1.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). The TVM is “the fair market value of the property on the valuation date[.]” 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). “True value in money is defined in terms of value in exchange not value in use.” Tibbs v. Poplar Bluff Assocs. I, L.P., 599 S.W.3d 1, 7 (Mo. App. S.D. 2020) (internal quotation omitted). “Determining the true value in money is an issue of fact for the STC.” Cohen v. Bushmeyer, 251 S.W.3d 345, 348 (Mo. App. E.D. 2008).
“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. The STC has wide discretion in selecting the appropriate valuation method but “cannot base its decision on opinion evidence that fails to consider information that should have been considered under a particular valuation approach.” Id., at 348.
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. For this reason, the comparable sales approach is typically used to value residential property. “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.
2. Evidence. “Although technical rules of evidence are not controlling in administrative hearings, fundamental rules of evidence are applicable.” Mo. Church of Scientology v. State Tax Comm’n, 560 S.W.2d 837, 839 (Mo. banc 1977). 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). “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. The Hearing Officer’s decision regarding the assessment or valuation of the property may be based solely upon his inquiry and any evidence presented by the parties, or based solely upon evidence presented by the parties. Id.
3. 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. Westwood P’ship v. Gogarty, 103 S.W.3d 152, 161 (Mo. App. E.D. 2003). The BOE’s valuation is presumptively correct. Tibbs, 599 S.W.3d at 7. The “taxpayer may rebut this presumption by presenting substantial and persuasive evidence that the valuation is erroneous.” Id. (internal quotation omitted). The taxpayer also 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 v. State Tax Comm’n, 722 S.W.2d 72, 77 (Mo. banc 1986) (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”).
4.Complainant Did Not Produce Substantial and Persuasive Evidence of Overvaluation.
Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence to support his $525,000 opinion of value.
The comparable sales approach is typically used to value residential properties. “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.” Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 347-48 (internal quotation omitted).
While Complainant described what he believed to be comparable sales of properties in Complainant’s neighborhood and surrounding area, little information was provided by Complainant regarding the sale dates, sale conditions, and property characteristics of the comparables in order for one to use them to accurately determine the value of the subject property. In addition, these sales are not persuasive evidence as no adjustments are made to account for differences between the subject property and these other properties. Further, Complainant’s calculation of an average sale price of the comparables per square foot to determine the fair market value of the subject property is not a generally accepted approach to value property.
Complainant also argued that the presence of EMF transmission lines and the associated utility easement have a negative impact on the value of his property. However, Complainant did not offer evidence to quantify or prove the specific detrimental monetary impact that such a condition allegedly has on the TVM of the subject property.
Even if Complainant had rebutted the presumption of correct valuation by the BOE, Complainant has not proven that the TVM of the subject property is $525,000 as of January 1, 2021. While a property owner’s opinion of value is generally admissible, the opinion lacks “probative value where it is shown to have been based upon improper elements or an improper foundation.” Shelby Cty. R-IV Sch. Dist. v. Herman, 392 S.W.2d 609, 613 (Mo. 1965); see also Cohen v. Bushmeyer, 251 S.W.3d 345, 349 (Mo. App. W.D. 2008) (noting a property owner’s opinion of value loses probative value when it rests on an improper foundation).
Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence showing that the subject property was overvalued. Therefore, Complainant’s evidence does not provide the necessary foundation and elements to support his overvaluation claim. Because the STC “cannot base its decision on opinion evidence that fails to consider information that should have been considered” under a recognized approach to value, Snider, 156 S.W.3d at 348, the BOE decision is affirmed.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
The BOE decision is affirmed. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $608,700, classified as residential property.
Application for Review
A party may file 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 of Missouri, 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, and 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 the disputed taxes have been disbursed pursuant to a court order under the provisions of section 139.031.
SO ORDERED August 12, 2022.
Benjamin C. Slawson
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 August 12, 2022, 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, sec. 14; Section 138.430.1, RSMo 2000. All statutory citations are to RSMo 2000, as amended.