STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|JANE M. FINNEGAN,||)|
|)||Appeal No. 21-15913|
|v.||)||Parcel No. 23V330150|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR,||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
Jane M. Finnegan (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, 2021, was $237,900. Complainant alleges overvaluation and asserts the TVM was $200,000 or somewhere in between $200,000 and $237,900. Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence of overvaluation. The BOE decision is affirmed. The TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2021, was $237,900.
The evidentiary hearing was held on June 16, 2022, via Webex. Complainant appeared pro se. Respondent Jake Zimmerman, Assessor, St. Louis County, Missouri, was represented by counsel, Tim Bowe. The appeal was heard and decided by Senior Hearing Officer Benjamin Slawson.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- The Subject Property. The subject residential real property is located at 2517 Rainforest Dr., Wildwood, Missouri. The subject property includes a two-story single family home built in 1985. The house has 2,470 square feet of living space with four bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, living room, dining room, family room, kitchen, and an unfinished basement. The house has a two-car garage and sits on a lot of 0.18 acres. Other than adding new countertops on the original cabinetry in the kitchen, Complainant has not made any significant 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 $237,900. The BOE decision indicates this value represents a reduction from the Assessor’s appraised value of $244,300.
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant did not offer any exhibits. Complainant testified at hearing that she believes that the TVM of the property as of January 1, 2021, was not $237,900, but somewhere in between $200,000 and that value. Complainant feels that the comparables used by Respondent to value her property are much nicer homes. Complainant listed numerous issues that she believes make her home less desirable than others around her: 25 year old vinyl siding that needs power washing, 35 year old original kitchen cabinets and bathrooms, original vinyl countertop in the master bathroom, original sinks, patched finished molding around mirror to hide damage, and a deadman system in the walls of the unfinished basement due to foundation and structural problems. Complainant also mentioned problems issued with her neighbors’ properties, which she believes devalue her lot, such as fences that have collapsed and much-needed landscaping that has not been performed.
Complainant also asserted that recent construction of nicer homes in Kingston Estates nearby has made her property less valuable. According to Complainant, the Kingston Estates subdivision is a 25 year old subdivision, as opposed to the subdivision where the subject property is located which was developed in the 1970s and 1980s. Complainant argued that based on the appraised values of these homes, she should have been able to sell her home for $387,000. Complainant testified that she listed the subject property for sale recently for $350,000, reduced the listing to $325,000, and it did not sell at either of those prices.
Complainant testified that the condition issues with the subject property that she mentioned should be taken into account when estimating its market value. Apart from the fact that she had listed the house for sale recently, Complainant testified that she presented all other claims regarding the condition of the house, surrounding construction, etc., to the BOE.
Complainant testified that she is not appraiser, nor does she possess appraisal training and experience in order to make value comparisons and market-based adjustments between sales of comparable properties. Complainant stated that she is a former licensed realtor in Missouri.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent introduced Exhibit 1, the BOE’s October 29, 2021, Decision Letter. Complainant did not have a legal objection to Respondent’s Exhibit 1, and it was admitted into evidence.
- Value. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $237,900.
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). 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.
- 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).
- 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.
The comparable sales approach is typically used to value residential properties improved with a single-family home. “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).
Complainant offered no evidence of comparable sales or any persuasive and substantial evidence proving her opinion value of $200,000 or less than $237,900. Concerning the development of Kingston Estates and the condition issues of the home discussed by Complainant during her testimony, Complainant provided no evidence providing a way to quantify the effect of these issues on value or showing the BOE value did not account for these alleged issues. Complainant did not offer any exhibits, and her testimony alone does not establish overvaluation.
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 BOE’s value was incorrect. Further, Complainant’s testimony does not provide the necessary foundation and elements to support her overvaluation claim. Complainant admitted she is neither a certified appraiser, nor does she have experience in appraising properties to determine the TVM of a subject property. 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’s decision finding the TVM of subject property on January 1, 2021, was $237,900 is affirmed.
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 26, 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 26, 2022.
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.