What Strategies do you Recommend Prior to Filing a Property Tax Appeal?
There are several strategies that I recommend my clients pursue before filing a property tax appeal.
One of the things that I strongly recommend is to have an attorney inspect the property before anyone suggests a tax appeal. There is a huge amount of information that can be gleaned by having a trained expert inspect a property, all of which can inform the decision about whether or not to file a tax appeal.
I will give you a recent situation to illustrate this point. I was inspecting a client’s warehouse and there were several issues that I found. Two of the main issues concerned access and visibility. These are two essential and important areas where the warehouse fell short as a property, which I believed would negatively influence (or reduce) the value of the property. I also found that in comparison to today’s building standards, the ceiling heights of the warehouse were not high enough for the market. A lot of the newer products that are being warehoused, sold, and distributed from these properties have extremely high ceiling heights for storage purposes. Since the property I was looking at had shorter ceiling heights, it became clear that the building would not receive a premium in the market if it were to be sold or if it were to be reassessed.
I believe that there is really no substitute for having someone inspect a property—specifically, someone that understands what makes a property work. Had I not gone to the property knowing what I know about access, visibility, and ceiling heights, I would not have known to move forward with a tax appeal. In our work, we go to the site, inspect it, and talk to the building manager or property manager. This helps us get a better sense of both the positive and negative attributes of the property, both of which can impact the decision to file a property tax appeal.
Another thing that I recommend before suggesting a tax appeal is to have an attorney survey the market to get a sense of what is currently happening with similar property sales. Any experienced attorney should have access to market data. I like to look at our own internal database as well as the databases we subscribed to in order to get a comprehensive picture of the market. I can use that information to advise whether or not a client should file a tax appeal.
I want to reiterate here how important it is for an attorney in this field to have a good sense of the market. Some might argue that this isn’t the attorney’s job, and that it is actually the job of the appraiser. Ultimately, yes, an appraiser’s technical job—and one that will become necessary if we do file for tax appeal—is to appraise the property for value in comparison to market value. However, tax appeals are usually remedied through negotiation, and any knowledgeable attorney is going to make sure they are informed about the market in preparation for that negotiation.
The best way for an attorney to stay informed is to get out of the office and do some groundwork by physically visiting the property and doing an in-person inspection. That may involve a lot of extra work, but it’s worth it to do the job properly. In the past day and a half, I have driven over 600 miles to examine properties and get a better sense of the market, which was necessary to more completely advise my client about the viability of their tax appeal.
Doing this legwork is also essential for an attorney’s ability to negotiate with and speak with authority to the other side—that is, to the assessor and the attorney for the taxing jurisdiction. An attorney must actually know what they are talking about, both generally and in each specific case. If they do not, it is very easy for the actual experts on the other side to spot, and will lead to them essentially dismissing the appeal. To prevent this, we get informed and come to the table prepared.
Do Most Other Attorneys Take This Sort of Hands-On Approach?
I don’t know what other attorneys do or don’t do. I only know what I do to make me feel like I am providing the best service possible. I know that in order to represent my clients to the best of my ability I have to put in the hands-on work.
For more information on Strategies prior To Filing Tax Appeals, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (973) 869-5550 today.