State Tax Commission of Missouri
DONALD E. & E. RUTH REESE,)
v.)Appeal Number 09-10652
ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,)
AFFIRMING HEARING OFFICER DECISION
UPON APPLICATION FOR REVIEW
On August 26, 2010, Senior Hearing Officer W. B. Tichenor entered his Decision and Order (Decision) setting aside the assessment by the St. Louis County Board of Equalization and setting value for the property under appeal at $370,000, residential assessed value of $70,300.
Complainants file their Application for Review of the Decision.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
Standard Upon Review
The Hearing Officer is not bound by any single formula, rule or method in determining true value in money, but is free to consider all pertinent facts and estimates and give them such weight as reasonably they may be deemed entitled.The relative weight to be accorded any relevant factor in a particular case is for the Hearing Officer to decide.
The Hearing Officer as the trier of fact may consider the testimony of an expert witness or the owner and give it as much weight and credit as he may deem it entitled to when viewed in connection with all other circumstances.The Hearing Officer is not bound by the opinions of experts or owners who testify on the issue of reasonable value, but may believe all or none of the expert’s or owner’s testimony and accept it in part or reject it in part.
The Commission will not lightly interfere with the Hearing Officer’s Decision and substitute its judgment on the credibility of witnesses and weight to be given the evidence for that of the Hearing Officer as the trier of fact.
Complainants file their application for review claiming they were not given a fair hearing, because information regarding a decline in the housing market was not considered in the appraisal by Respondent.Complainants’ claim is not well taken.The sales used by Respondent’s appraiser were all within five to eight months of the valuation date.An adjustment was made to the one sale that occurred in August 2008.No adjustment was warranted for the sale in December 2008, since it was just prior to the valuation date of
January 1, 2009.No adjustment was required to the two sales occurring in August of 2009, as they were deemed to be reflective of the market as of January 1, 2009.
General projections, by economists or realtors concerning what the housing market will continue to do, have no relevancy to the valuation of the property under appeal on January 1, 2009.General real estate data on a national, state or regional basis does not establish the value of an individual property.The appraiser properly developed the sales comparison approach to establish the fair market value.As the Hearing Officer concluded, Complainants failed to meet their burden of proof and prove the value of their property.
A review of the record in the present appeal provides support for the determinations made by the Hearing Officer.There is competent and substantial evidence to establish a sufficient foundation for the Decision of the Hearing Officer.A reasonable mind could have conscientiously reached the same result based on a review of the entire record. The Commission finds no basis to support a determination that the Hearing Officer acted in an arbitrary or capricious manner or abused his discretion as the trier of fact and concluder of law in this appeal.
The Hearing Officer did not err in his determinations as challenged by Complainants.
The Commission upon review of the record and Decision in this appeal, finds no grounds upon which the Decision of the Hearing Officer should be reversed or modified.Accordingly, the Decision is affirmed.The Decision and Order of the hearing officer, including the findings of fact and conclusions of law therein, is incorporated by reference, as if set out in full, in this final decision of the Commission.
Judicial review of this Order may be had in the manner provided in Sections 138.432 and 536.100 to 536.140, RSMo within thirty days of the mailing date set forth in the Certificate of Service for this Order.
If judicial review of this decision is made, any protested taxes presently in an escrow account in accordance with this appeal shall be held pending the final decision of the courts unless disbursed pursuant to Section 139.031.8, RSMo.
If no judicial review is made within thirty days, this decision and order is deemed final and the Collector of St. Louis County, as well as the collectors of all affected political subdivisions therein, shall disburse the protested taxes presently in an escrow account in accord with the decision on the underlying assessment in this appeal.
SO ORDERED September 27, 2010.
STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
Bruce E. Davis, Chairman
Jeff W. Schaeperkoetter, Commissioner
DECISION AND ORDER
Decision of the St. Louis County Board of Equalization reducing the assessment made by the Assessor is SET ASIDE.True value in money for the subject property for tax years 2009 and 2010 is set at $370,000, residential assessed value of $70,300.Complainants appeared pro se.Respondent appeared by Associate County Counselor Paula Lemerman.
Case heard and decided by Senior Hearing Officer W. B. Tichenor.
Complainants appeal, on the ground of overvaluation, the decision of the St. Louis County Board of Equalization, which reduced the valuation of the subject property.The Commission takes this appeal to determine the true value in money for the subject property on January 1, 2009.The Hearing Officer, having considered all of the competent evidence upon the whole record, enters the following Decision and Order.
FINDINGS OF FACT
1.Jurisdiction.Jurisdiction over this appeal is proper.Complainant timely appealed to the State Tax Commission from the decision of the St. Louis County Board of Equalization.A hearing was conducted on July 27, 2009, at the St. LouisCountyGovernmentCenter,Clayton,Missouri.
2.Assessment.The Assessor appraised the property under appeal at $374,900, a residential assessed value of $71,320.The Board of Equalization reduced the value to $350,000, a residential assessed value of $66,500.
3.Subject Property.The subject property is located at 14713 Chesterfield Trails Dr., Chesterfield, Missouri.The property is identified by Locator number 19R210440.The property consists of a 17,360 square foot lot improved by a one and a half-story single-family residence built in 1979.The gross living area is 3,118 square feet.There is a full unfinished basement.The exterior walls are vinyl and brick.Other features include a screened-in porch, a patio, and a two-car attached garage.The home has a total of nine rooms, five bedrooms, three full and one half bathrooms.The carpet, kitchen and baths are all original to the home.The home is somewhat date, but well maintained and is in overall average condition.There was no sale of the property noted within three years prior to the tax date of January 1, 2009.
4.Complainant’s Evidence.Mr. Reese testified on behalf of Complainants.He stated his opinion of value as of January 1, 2009, to be $290,000.The opinion of value was based upon the value of the property having seen reduced to $315,000 via an appeal to the Board in 2008.Complainant contended that the housing market was worse in 2009 than in 2008.
Two exhibits were received into evidence on behalf of Complainants.Exhibit A consisted of a written statement of Complainants, copy of August 4, 2008, BOE Decision Letter, copy of September 17, 2009, BOE Decision Letter and a copy of the 2008 and 2009 tax bills on the property under appeal.Exhibit B consisted of a series of twelve photographs of the interior which documented that the interior contained original features and amenities.The photographs also verified the conclusion of Respondent’s appraiser that the home has been well maintained.There was no evidence of new construction and improvement from January 1, 2009, to January 1, 2010, therefore the assessed value for 2009 remains the assessed value for 2010.
Complainant’s evidence was not substantial and persuasive to rebut the presumption of correct assessment by the Board and establish the true value in money as of January 1, 2009, to be $290,000, as proposed.
5.Respondent’s Evidence.Respondent presented the appraisal report and testimony of Sarah Curran, State Certified Residential Real Estate Appraiser.Ms. Curran concluded a fair market value of the property under appeal for January 1, 2009, of $370,000.The appraiser developed the sales comparison approach relying on the sales of four comparable properties.
The sale properties utilized in the appraisal methodology were located within less than a half mile of the subject.Each property sold at a time relevant to the tax date of January 1, 2009.The properties were similar to the subject in style, quality of construction, age, condition, room, bedroom and bathroom count, living area, location, site size and other amenities of comparability.The appraiser made various adjustments to each comparable for differences which existed between the subject and each comparable.All adjustments were appropriate to bring the comparables in line with the subject for purposes of the appraisal problem.
Respondent did not have to meet a standard of clear, convincing and cogent evidence in this appeal, under the provisions of Section 137.115, RSMo, as he was not seeking to sustain the original valuation made by the Assessor, which was presumed to have been made by a computer, computer-assisted method or a computer program. Respondent’s evidence met the standard of substantial and persuasive to rebut the presumption of correct assessment by the Board and establish the value of the subject, as of January 1, 2009, to be $370,000, a residential assessed value of 70,300.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW AND DECISION
The Commission has jurisdiction to hear this appeal and correct any assessment which is shown to be unlawful, unfair, arbitrary or capricious.The hearing officer shall issue a decision and order affirming, modifying or reversing the determination of the board of equalization, and correcting any assessment which is unlawful, unfair, improper, arbitrary, or capricious.
Presumption In Appeals
There is a presumption of validity, good faith and correctness of assessment by the County Board of Equalization.This presumption is a rebuttable rather than a conclusive presumption.It places the burden of going forward with some substantial evidence on the taxpayer – Complainant.The presumption of correct assessment is rebutted when the taxpayer presents substantial and persuasive evidence to establish that the Board’s valuation is erroneous and what the fair market value should have been placed on the property.Complainants did not meet the required standard to rebut the presumption of correct assessment.Respondent’s evidence rebutted the presumption and established the value as of January 1, 2009 for the subject property to be $370,000.
Standard for Valuation
Section 137.115, RSMo, requires that property be assessed based upon its true value in money which is defined as the price a property would bring when offered for sale by one willing or desirous to sell and bought by one who is willing or desirous to purchase but who is not compelled to do so.True value in money is defined in terms of value in exchange and not value in use.It is the fair market value of the subject property on the valuation date.Market value is the most probable price in terms of money which a property should bring in competitive and open market under all conditions requisite to a fair sale, the buyer and seller, each acting prudently, knowledgeable and assuming the price is not affected by undue stimulus.
Implicit in this definition are the consummation of a sale as of a specific date and the passing of title from seller to buyer under conditions whereby:
1.Buyer and seller are typically motivated.
2.Both parties are well informed and well advised, and both acting in what they consider their own best interests.
3.A reasonable time is allowed for exposure in the open market.
4.Payment is made in cash or its equivalent.
5.Financing, if any, is on terms generally available in the Community at the specified date and typical for the property type in its locale.
Methods of Valuation
Proper methods of valuation and assessment of property are delegated to the Commission.It is within the purview of the Hearing Officer to determine the method of valuation to be adopted in a given case.Missouri courts have approved the comparable sales or market approach, the cost approach and the income approach as recognized methods of arriving at fair market value.Complainants failed to present an opinion of value based upon an accepted appraisal methodology.Respondent’s appraiser concluded the fair market value of the property under appeal based upon the development of the sales comparison approach to appraising property.This approach is generally considered the strongest indicator of value for owner occupied residential property when sufficient sales data exists for utilization of the approach.There was sufficient market data to support development of the sales comparison approach in this appeal.
Complainants Fail to Prove Value
In order to prevail, Complainants must present an opinion of market value and substantial and persuasive evidence that the proposed value is indicative of the market value of the subject property on January 1, 2009.There is no presumption that the taxpayer’s opinion is correct. The taxpayer in a Commission appeal still bears the burden of proof.The taxpayer is the moving party seeking affirmative relief.Therefore, the Complainant bears the burden of proving the vital elements of the case, i.e., the assessment was “unlawful, unfair, improper, arbitrary or capricious.”
Substantial evidence can be defined as such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.Persuasive evidence is that evidence which has sufficient weight and probative value to convince the trier of fact.The persuasiveness of evidence does not depend on the quantity or amount thereof but on its effect in inducing belief.
Owner’s Opinion of Value
The owner of property is generally held competent to testify to its reasonable market value.The owner’s opinion is without probative value however, where it is shown to have been based upon improper elements or an improper foundation.A taxpayer does not meet his burden if evidence on any essential element of his case leaves the Commission “in the nebulous twilight of speculation, conjecture and surmise.”Mr. Reese gave his opinion of value for the subject property on January 1, 2009 to be $290,000.This opinion was based upon Exhibit A.The basis for the opinion of value was essentially that the housing market in 2009 is worse than in 2008 when the valuation for the property was reduced from $388,200 to $315,000 at the Board of Equalization.This does not establish the value as of January 1, 2009, to be $290,000.
The opinion of value tendered would require the Hearing Officer to conclude a value based on no market data, but resting merely on speculation, conjecture and surmise.This cannot form the basis for a determination of value.Complainants’ opinion of value was not based upon any accepted appraisal methodology.A value based on nothing more than a belief that the house market in 2009 is worse than it was in 2008 is not an opinion of value based upon proper elements or foundation.Therefore no probative weight can be given to the owner’s opinion.Complainants failed to meet their burden of proof and prove the value of $290,000.
Respondent Proves Value of $370,000
Respondent, when advocating a value different from that determined by the original valuation or a valuation made by the Board of Equalization, must meet the same burden of proof to present substantial and persuasive evidence of the value advocated as required of the Complainant under the principles established by case law.The appraisal report of Ms. Curran
met the standard of substantial and persuasive evidence to establish the true value in money of the subject property as of January 1, 2009 to be $370,000.
The assessed valuation for the subject property as determined by the Board of Equalization for St. Louis County for the subject tax day is SET ASIDE.
The assessed value for the subject property for tax years 2009 and 2010 is set at $70,300.
Application for Review
A party may file with the Commission an application for review of this decision within thirty days of the mailing date set forth in the Certificate of Service for this Decision.The application shall contain specific facts or law as grounds upon which it is claimed the decision is erroneous.Said application must be in writing addressed to the State Tax Commission of Missouri, P.O. Box 146, Jefferson City, MO65102-0146, and a copy of said application must be sent to each person at the address listed below in the certificate of service.
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 139.031.8, RSMo.
Any Finding of Fact which is a Conclusion of Law or Decision shall be so deemed.Any Decision which is a Finding of Fact or Conclusion of Law shall be so deemed.
SO ORDERED August 26, 2010.
STATE TAX COMMISSION OFMISSOURI
W. B. Tichenor
Senior Hearing Officer
 St. Louis County v. Security Bonhomme, Inc., 558 S.W.2d 655, 659 (Mo. banc 1977); St. Louis County v. STC, 515 S.W.2d 446, 450 (Mo. 1974); Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company v. STC, 436 S.W.2d 650 (Mo. 1968).
 St. Louis County v. Boatmen’s Trust Co., 857 S.W.2d 453, 457 (Mo. App. E.D. 1993); Vincent by Vincent v. Johnson, 833 S.W.2d 859, 865 (Mo. 1992); Beardsley v. Beardsley, 819 S.W.2d 400, 403 (Mo. App. 1991); Curnow v. Sloan, 625 S.W.2d 605, 607 (Mo. banc 1981).
 Black v. Lombardi, 970 S.W.2d 378 (Mo. App. E.D. 1998); Lowe v. Lombardi, 957 S.W.2d 808 (Mo. App. W.D. 1997); Forms World, Inc. v. Labor and Industrial Relations Com’n, 935 S.W.2d 680 (Mo. App. W.D. 1996); Evangelical Retirement Homes v. STC, 669 S.W.2d 548 (Mo. 1984); Pulitzer Pub. Co. v. Labor and Indus. Relations Commission, 596 S.W.2d 413 (Mo. 1980); St. Louis County v. STC, 562 S.W.2d 334 (Mo. 1978); St. Louis County v. STC, 406 S.W.2d 644 (Mo. 1966).
 Hermel, Inc. v. STC, 564 S.W.2d 888 (Mo. 1978); Black v. Lombardi, 970 S.W.2d 378 (Mo. App. E.D. 1998); Holt v. Clarke, 965 S.W.2d 241 (Mo. App. W.D. 1998); Smith v. Morton, 890 S.W.2d 403 (Mo. App. E.D. 1995); Phelps v. Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer Dist., 598 S.W.2d 163 (Mo. App. E.D. 1980).
 Hermel, Inc. v. STC, 564 S.W.2d 888, 895 (Mo. banc 1978); Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Co. v. STC, 436 S.W.2d 650, 656 (Mo. 1968); May Department Stores Co. v. STC, 308 S.W.2d 748, 759 (Mo. 1958)
 Daly v. P. D. George Company, et al, 77 S.W.3d 645, 649 (Mo. App E.D. 2002), citing, Equitable Life Assurance Society v. STC, 852 S.W.2d 376, 380 (Mo. App. 1993); citing, Stephen & Stephen Properties, Inc. v. STC, 499 S.W.2d 798, 801-803 (Mo. 1973).
 Real Estate Appraisal Terminology, Society of Real Estate Appraisers, Revised Edition, 1984; See also, Real Estate Valuation in Litigation, J. D. Eaton, M.A.I., American Institute of Real Estate Appraisers, 1982, pp. 4-5; Property Appraisal and Assessment Administration, International Association of Assessing Officers, 1990, pp. 79-80; Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice, Glossary.
 St. Joe Minerals Corp. v. STC, 854 S.W.2d 526, 529 (App. E.D. 1993); Aspenhof Corp. v. STC, 789 S.W.2d 867, 869 (App. E.D. 1990); Quincy Soybean Company, Inc., v. Lowe, 773 S.W.2d 503, 504 (App. E.D. 1989), citing Del-Mar Redevelopment Corp v. Associated Garages, Inc., 726 S.W.2d 866, 869 (App. E.D. 1987); and State ex rel. State Highway Comm’n v. Southern Dev. Co., 509 S.W.2d 18, 27 (Mo. Div. 2 1974).
 See, Westwood Partnership v. Gogarty, 103 S.W.3d 152 (Mo. App. E.D. 2003); Daly v. P. D. George Co., 77 S.W.3d 645 (Mo. App. E.D. 2002); Reeves v. Snider, 115 S.W.3d 375 (Mo. App. S.D. 2003).Industrial Development Authority of Kansas City v. State Tax Commission of Missouri, 804 S.W.2d 387, 392 (Mo. App. 1991).
 Cohen v. Bushmeyer, 251 S.W.3d 345, (Mo. App. E.D., March 25, 2008); Carmel Energy, Inc. v. Fritter, 827 S.W.2d 780, 783 (Mo. App. W.D. 1992); State, ex rel. Missouri Hwy & Transp. Com’n v. Pracht, 801 S.W.2d 90, 94 (Mo. App. E.D. 1990); Shelby County R-4 School District v. Hermann, 392 S.W.2d 609, 613 (Sup. 1965).
 General information and understandings relative to the overall decline in the housing market in the United States or in the St. Louis metropolitan area does not establish value for any particular property.There was no market data presented that was tied to the housing market for the subject property to establish the value tendered by the taxpayers.