STATE TAX COMMISSION OF MISSOURI
|Complainant(s),||)||Appeal No. 21-10130|
|)||Parcel No. 28M340320|
|JAKE ZIMMERMAN, ASSESSOR,||)|
|ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI,||)|
DECISION AND ORDER
Tania Rakel (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 $966,600. Complainant alleges overvaluation and proposed at the evidentiary hearing that the TVM of the subject as of that date was $862,450. The BOE decision is affirmed. The TVM of the subject property on January 1, 2021, was $966,600.
The evidentiary hearing was held on May 4, 2022, via Webex. Mr. Chris Rakel, husband of Complainant and co-owner of the subject property, appeared pro se. Respondent 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 12101 Sutton Place Ct., St. Louis, Missouri. Complainant purchased the property in 2018 for $780,000. The subject property consists of a one and a half story home that was built in 1992 on a lot that Complainant estimated to be a little over an acre. The home has 5,628 feet square feet of living space, including three bedrooms, four and a half bathrooms, and a partially finished basement. The home features a swimming pool as well. The home’s exterior is mostly brick. In 2019 and 2020, Complainant remodeled the kitchen, including new granite countertops and cabinets. Complainant also renovated the master bathroom during that timeframe. Complainant has not listed the property for sale in the last three years, nor has Complainant had the property appraised by a licensed appraiser.
- Assessment and Valuation. Respondent determined the TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $966,600. The BOE decision also determined an appraised value of $966,600.
- Complainant’s Evidence. Complainant offered Exhibit A, a one-page document prepared by Complainant which describes his overall argument for overvaluation and calculation of proposed value. Exhibit A was admitted without objection. Exhibit A includes a list of comparable sales found by Complainant using the St. Louis County search database. Complainant estimated that all of these properties were within a two-mile radius of the subject property. A list of each property’s price per square foot is given based on the actual sales price of the property. The highlighted properties on Exhibit A were used by Respondent in his assessment of the subject.
Complainant’s opinion is that an increase of 25% since the last assessment period is unreasonable. Complainant testified that he believes a fair opinion of value for the subject as of January 1, 2021, is $862,450. Complainant reached this value based on a price per square foot of $153.25 using the average price per square foot of all of the comparables on Exhibit A.
Complainant testified that he is not a licensed appraiser in the state of Missouri, nor does he have professional experience or an educational background in making market-based adjustments to comparable properties to determine the TVM of a subject property.
- Respondent’s Evidence. Respondent introduced Respondent’s Exhibit 1, a copy of the BOE decision letter determining the subject appraised value as of January 1, 2021, was $966,600. Respondent’s Exhibit 1 was admitted without objection.
- Value. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $966,600.
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 Complainant’s $862,450 opinion of value and claim of overvaluation.
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).
While Complainant offered a list of comparable sales which Complainant believes are determinative of the value of the subject property, these sales are not persuasive evidence. No 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, nor was there any evidence offered concerning the conditions of the properties themselves as well. While Complainant argued that these properties were similar to the subject, he admitted on cross examination that some were ranch-style homes or otherwise featured different characteristics than the subject. Therefore, these sales are not persuasive evidence as no monetary adjustments are made to the actual sales prices 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 determine the TVM of a 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 was $862,450 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).
CONCLUSION AND ORDER
The BOE decision is affirmed. The TVM of the subject property as of January 1, 2021, was $966,600.
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.
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 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.