STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|Complainant(s),||)||Appeal No. 21-10193|
|)||Parcel No. 25L330312|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR,||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
Jeff Camilleri (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 $158,500. Complainant alleges overvaluation and claims that the TVM as of that date was between 115,000 and $120,000. 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 $158,500.
The evidentiary hearing was held on April 28, 2022, via Webex. Complainant appeared pro se. Respondent Jake Zimmerman, Assessor, St. Louis County, Missouri, was represented by counsel, Tim Bowe. The case was heard and decided by Senior Hearing Officer Benjamin C. Slawson.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- The Subject Property. The subject residential real property is located at 8666 Pardee Ln., St. Louis, Missouri. The subject property consists of a 9,148 square foot lot and a single family ranch home. The house has no basement; it is built on a concrete slab. The house has 1,081 square feet of living space in six rooms, including three bedrooms and one and a half bathrooms. Complainant purchased the property in 2019 from the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) for $70,000 in an “as is” condition under a special sales contract. Complainant testified that when he purchased the home it was on the open market and on the multi-listing service (MLS) for 258 days. Complainant renovated the home after purchase. He updated the kitchen, put in new flooring, painted the house, and installed a new driveway. Complainant said that he spent about $40,000 updating the property after purchase. Complainant currently rents the property for $1,450 a month, an increase from his original rent of $1,400 a month beginning in 2020. Complainant has not listed the subject property for sale since he purchased it.
- Assessment and Valuation. Respondent classified the subject property as residential and determined the TVM on January 1, 2021, was $158,500. The BOE also determined the TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $158,500.
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant introduced the following Exhibits which were admitted without objection:
|A||Description of comparable sales Complainant researched and found, including a Comparative Market Analysis|
|B||MLS data for the comparable properties found by Complainant in Exhibit A|
Complainant testified that his opinion of value as of January 1, 2021, for the subject property is between $115,000 and $120,000. Complainant testified that he believes that the BOE overvalued his property due to two main issues, both of which he presented to the BOE.
First, Complainant testified that the desirability of the subject is sub-par compared to surrounding properties primarily based on the fact that there is a large MSD plant across the street from the subject. As a result, the view from the subject’s front door consists of the MSD water treatment towers which Complainant argued greatly devalues the property. Complainant also added that heavy commercial activity and traffic exists to the left of the subject property and behind the subject property, which also contributes to its unique, undesirable location.
Second, Complainant asserted that the comparables that Respondent used in its assessment of the subject are not similar to the subject and therefore should not have been used. For example, Complainant noted that the first two comparables, 8727 Grant Rd. and 8731 Grant Rd., are tri-level homes with basements. Some of the other comparables used by Respondent and mentioned by Complainant also have additional bedrooms and bathrooms, or are also houses with full basements. Complainant feels Respondent’s assessment is therefore flawed because none of the comparables are slab homes like the subject.
Complainant compiled a list of comparable sales that he found by researching sales of slab homes the subject property’s general location (Exhibit A). Complainant determined an average sale price per square foot for the comparables and then multiplied that with the square footage of the subject. Complainant stated that the result is a proposed value of $123,915 for the subject based on his comparables. Given the location near the MSD plant, Complainant feels that a between downward adjustment leading to between $115,000 and $120,000 is reasonable.
Complainant testified that he is not a licensed appraiser, nor does he have any real educational background or professional training specifically in the field of appraisal. However, Complainant said that he has some experience with real estate because he is a banker by trade. He also possesses a real estate broker’s license, which he has maintained for over 30 years.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent introduced Exhibit 1, the BOE’s October 29, 2021, Decision Letter. Complainant did not object. Respondent’s Exhibit 1 was admitted into evidence.
- Value. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $158,500.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
- Assessment and Valuation. Pursuant to Article X, Sections 4(a) and 4(b), Mo. Const. of 1945 real property and tangible personal property is assessed at its value or such percentage of its value as may be fixed by law for each class and for each subclass. Article X, Sections 4(a) and 4(b), Mo. Const. of 1945. 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.
- 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.
- 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”).
- Complainant Did Not Produce Substantial and Persuasive Evidence of Overvaluation.
Complainant did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence to support his opinion of value of between $115,000 and $120,000 for the subject property as of January 1, 2021.
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).
While Complainant offered a list of comparable sales which he believes are more determinative of the value of the subject property than those Respondent used, these sales are not persuasive evidence. Little information was provided by Complainant regarding the sale conditions of these properties in order for one to use them to accurately determine the value of the subject property. For example, Complainant purchased the subject property as an investor with the intent to lease it. Such sales are often below market price. 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 feels that the subject property should be valued lower due to its proximity to the MSD sewer plant and other commercial property. However, Complainant neither demonstrated that the BOE’s valuation fails to take into account the subject property’s location and surroundings, nor did Complainant provide proof of the specific monetary impact that the MSD plant and neighboring commercial activity 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 between $115,000 and $120,000 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 $158,500.
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 September 9, 2022.
STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
Benjamin C. Slawson
Senior Hearing Officer
Certificate of Service
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing has been electronically mailed and/or sent by U.S. Mail on September 9, 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.