STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|Complainant,||)||Appeal No. 21-10076|
|)||Parcel No. 21J620013|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR,||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
Rosario Turallo (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 $297,000. Complainant alleges overvaluation and proposed that the TVM as of that date was $264,000. The BOE decision is affirmed. The TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2021, was $297,000.
The evidentiary hearing was held on March 31, 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 2269 Blendon Pl., Maplewood, Missouri. The subject property consists of multi-family apartment building of four units, with each unit containing one bedroom and one bathroom. Complainant testified that he purchased the subject property over 30 years ago.
- Assessment and Valuation. The BOE determined the TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $297,000. The BOE decision indicates this value represents a reduction from Respondent’s appraised value of $330,200.
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant introduced Exhibits A through E which were all admitted into evidence without objection. Complainant’s exhibits are described as follows:
|A||Aerial view of the subject property from Google Maps.|
|B||Pictures of the exterior front of the subject property and pictures of the kitchen and bathroom of one of the units of the subject property.|
|C||Pictures of the living room and bedroom of one of the units in the subject property.|
|D||Pictures of the used car lot and vacant small houses across the street from the subject property.|
|E||Partially executed copy of a Special Sale Contract Dated from March 2021 offering $250,000 for the subject property.|
Complainant testified that he believes that the BOE overvalued the subject property because it is not attractive to renters due to its location. The property is located on the dividing line between the cities of Maplewood and St. Louis. Complainant stated that there is a used car lot across the street from the subject property, that the street it is located on is a highly congested thoroughfare, and that it is hard to find parking on the street.
Complainant asserted that in his opinion the area the subject property is located in does not compare to other rental units in the district such as Richmond Heights and other parts of Maplewood. Complainant admitted that he is not a licensed appraiser and has no professional training or experience making market-based adjustments to comparable properties.
Complainant also testified that the subject property is dated as it is an old building with no central air conditioning, and the kitchens do not include garbage disposals or dishwashers. Complainant did not testify as to the amount of rent he is receiving on the subject property but did state that he has a problem finding new tenants when someone leaves, at times taking three to four months to fill a vacancy. Complainant has not listed the subject property for sale on the open market.
Complainant received an offer to purchase the subject property for $250,000 in March of 2021. (Complainant’s Exhibit E) Complainant believes that this offer as well as the condition issues and especially the location shows that the BOE overvalued his property. Complainant proposes a value of $264,000.
Complainant presented his claims about the location and all of the condition issues to the BOE.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent introduced the following Exhibits which were all admitted into evidence:
|1||A copy of the BOE decision letter determining the subject appraised value as of January 1, 2021, was $297,000.|
|2||Market Analysis for the subject property prepared by Steven Zahner.|
|3||Photographs of the comparable properties used by Mr. Zahner in the Market Analysis. (Respondent’s Exhibit 2)|
Steven Zahner, a Senior Residential Appraiser for St. Louis County with 41 years of total appraisal experience, testified on behalf of Respondent. Mr. Zahner has worked for the County for the last four years.
In preparation for the hearing, Mr. Zahner prepared a Market Analysis for the subject property. (Respondent’s Exhibit 2) Mr. Zahner testified that the Market Analysis gives an idea of the market conditions for a particular property using the sale prices and values of similar properties in the subject property’s area. In the Market Analysis, Mr. Zahner found six comparable sales in the subject property’s school district with similar characteristics to that of the subject property. The sales occurred between January 1, 2019, and June 30, 2021. Mr. Zahner asserted that while in his opinion the last sale in the Market Analysis for $470,000 was an outlier because it contained many more bedrooms than other multi-unit buildings, the first five comparable sales in the Market Analysis that sold for between $300,000 and $360,000 were representative of the value of a property like the subject property.
Mr. Zahner also stated that in his professional opinion, Complainant’s Exhibit E is not a good indicator of the subject property’s value because it is a special sales contract typically used by investors and not a typical sale on the open market.
- Value. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $297,000.
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.
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 $264,000 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).
Complainant did not offer any comparable sales. Rather, Complainant stated that his opinion of value is primarily based on his general claim that in his observations as a landlord, the location of the property is not desirable to tenants. However, other than his own testimony regarding the used car lot across the street, limited parking space on the street, etc., Complainant offered no exhibit or other evidence to substantiate this claim and quantify his opinion of value.
Complainant also testified that the issues with the subject property due to its dated condition, such the lack of modern amenities for the units such as central air and dishwashers and garbage disposals in the kitchens should be taken into account when determining its market value. However, Complainant neither demonstrates that the BOE’s valuation fails to take into account these and other conditions nor the specific monetary impact that such conditions have 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 $264,000 as of January 1, 2021. Complainant does not produce a mathematical calculation of how he arrived at his $164,000 opinion of value.
Last, Complainant asserts that the offer he received to purchase the subject property for $250,000 (Complainant’s Exhibit E) is indicative of value. However, there is no evidence showing Complainant actively marketed the property, or that the potential buyer in the special sales contract was a typically motivated seller within the St. Louis County real estate market.
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).
Respondent, although not required to, presented persuasive evidence in support of the BOE’s valuation. In his Market Analysis, Mr. Zahner found six comparable sales in the subject property’s school district with similar characteristics to that of the subject property. The sales of these properties, relatively recent and close in time to the January 1, 2021, valuation date, show that properties similar to the subject property sold for between $300,000 and $360,000 around the valuation date.
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 $297,000.
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 July 15, 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 July 15, 2022, to: Complainant(s) and/or Counsel for Complainant(s), the County Assessor and/or Counsel for Respondent and County Collector.
Amy S. Westermann
 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.