STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|JOSEPH AND SOAD SULEIMAN,||)|
|Complainant,||)||Appeal No. 19-10792|
|)||Parcel. No. 25M230745|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR,||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
Joseph and Soad Suleiman (Complainants) appeal 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 $95,000, with an assessed value of $18,050. Complainants claim the property is overvalued and proposes a value of $75,000. Complainants did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence establishing overvaluation. The BOE’s decision is affirmed.
The evidentiary hearing was conducted on November 4, 2020, at the Wainwright State Office Building in the City of St. Louis, Missouri. Complainants appeared pro se and in person. Respondent was represented by counsel Monique Nketah, who attended via Webex video conference.
FINDINGS OF FACT
- Subject Property. The subject property is located at 230 Monica in St. Louis, Missouri. The parcel/locator number is 25M230745.
The subject property consists of a 5,280 square foot lot and a 1,095 square foot single family home that has three bedrooms and one full bath. (Ex. 1 at 6.) The home is located on a slab and has no basement. (Ex. 1 at 6.)
- Respondent and BOE. Respondent classified the subject property as residential and determined the TVM on January 1, 2019, was $131,500. The BOE classified the subject property as residential and independently determined the TVM on January 1, 2019, was $95,000.
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainants assert the TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2019, was $75,000. Complainants testified in support of their opinion of value and submitted the following exhibits:
|A||Bid to install windows, gutters, downspouts, soffit, and fascia on the subject property for a total of $13,095 dated February 18, 2020.||Admitted|
|B||One-page printout of assessment information for the subject property.||Admitted|
|C||Photographs of the front and portions of the interior of the subject property.||Admitted|
Respondent did not object to any of the exhibits, and Exhibits A through C were received into evidence.
Complainants assert the following general arguments: (1) the subject property is a small house with low ceilings that needs some work completed; (2) the appraised value for the subject property for 2015 through 2018, was $60,000; (3) when considering the work as seen in Exhibit B, the value should be around $75,000; and (4) the comparables included in Respondent’s appraisal, Exhibit 1, are not comparable properties due to such things as newer windows and roofs, and the presence of a carport and/or a garage.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent presented the testimony of Steven J. Zahner, a senior appraiser with Respondent, and submitted Exhibit 1, Mr. Zahner’s October 23, 2020, restricted appraisal report for the subject property indicating a $100,000 opinion of value as of January 1, 2019.
In Exhibit 1, Mr. Zahner utilizes the sales comparison approach to estimate the market value of the subject property from recent sales of four comparable properties. The key property data in Exhibit 1 is as follows:
|Address||Subject Property 230 Monica Dr.
210 Monica Dr.
123 Monica Dr.
234 Monica Dr.
|Comparable 4 253 Deane Ct.|
|Proximity to Subject||0.06 miles NW||0.20 miles NW||0.01 miles NE||0.03 miles SE|
|Date of Sale||9/20/2016||10/27/2017||5/23/2019||12/212016|
|Location||Residential/Avg.||Residential/ Avg.||Residential/ Avg.||Residential/ Avg.||Residential/ Avg.|
|Site (square feet)||5,280||5,280||5,280||5,280||5,280|
|Room Count/ Bedroom/ Bath||5/3/1||5/3/1||4/2/1||4/2/1||6/3/1|
|Gross Living Area (sq. ft.)||1,095||945||732||889||1,056|
|Basement and Finished||Slab||Slab||Slab||Slab||Full|
|Rooms Below Grade||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||300 sq. ft. Rec. Room|
|Garage/ Carport||None||None||None||1 Car Det. Garage||1 Car Carport|
|Adjusted Sale Price||$100,900||$99,500||$97,100||$100,000|
The comparable properties are similar to the subject property with respect to location, site, actual age, and design (style). Comparables 1, 2, 3, and 4 differ from the subject property with respect to condition and gross living area; gross living area; condition, gross living area, and garage/carport; and basement and finished, rooms below grade, and garage/carport, respectively. Exhibit 1 indicates that these differences have been adjusted for when determining an opinion of value, and that adjustments were also made to Comparables 1 and 4 due to date of sale.
- Value. The TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2019, was $95,000, with an assessed value of $18,050.
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”).
- Complainants Did Not Prove Overvaluation. Complainants did not produce substantial and persuasive evidence establishing that the BOE’s valuation was erroneous. Although Complainants submitted Exhibit A, the estimate to install new windows, gutters, downspouts, soffit and fascia, Complainants’ evidence does not persuasively show that the BOE failed to consider the condition of these items when determining the TVM of the subject property. Additionally, although Exhibit B illustrates that the appraised value of the subject property increased from $60,000 for the 2018 tax year to $95,000 for the 2019 tax year, Complainants’ evidence does not show that the $95,000 value is incorrect.
Respondent, although not required to, presented persuasive evidence in support of the BOE’s valuation. Mr. Zahner’s testimony and Exhibit 1 explain that four properties that sold between September 20, 2016, and May 23, 2019, with bungalow homes located within one-half mile of the subject property have an adjusted sales price from $97,100 to $100,900. The TVM of the subject property determined by the BOE, $95,000, falls less than $2,000 below the bottom of this range.
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
The BOE decision is affirmed. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2019, was $95,000, with an assessed value of $18,050.
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 November 19, 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 November 19, 2021, to: Complainant(s) and/or Counsel for Complainant(s), the County Assessor and/or Counsel for Respondent and County Collector.
 Complainants timely filed a complaint for review of assessment. The State Tax Commission (STC) has authority to hear and decide Complainants’ appeal. Mo. Const. art. X, Section 14; section 138.430.1, RSMo 2000. All statutory citations are to RSMo 2000, as amended.
 Complainants’ contention that the comparables are not actually comparable to the subject property is unpersuasive. Exhibit 1 includes adjustments for differences between the comparables and the subject property. For example, for comparable 1, a negative $5,000 adjustment for a one car detached garage is included; for comparable 4, a negative $1,500 adjustment for a one car carport is included; and for comparables 1 and 3, negative $15,000 and $25,000 adjustments, respectively, are included for differences in condition.
 Missouri operates on a two-year reassessment cycle for valuing real property. See Section 137.115.1. Absent new construction or improvements to a parcel of real property, the assessed value as of January 1 of the odd year remains the assessed value as of January 1 of the following even year. Id.