Commentary May 31, 2012

Westchester Homes Should be Assessed at Full Market Value

My home is assessed for $32,000.
Last week, we closed on a listing where the buyer paid $364,000. The home’s assessed value was $11,400.
I have a listing in Croton on the market for $599,000 with an assessed value of $10,350.

All over Westchester County, municipalities have their properties assessed at numbers reflective of market values from decades ago.

These numbers are often less than 1/20 the real value. It makes zero sense.

In order to translate that number to market value, you need a conversion formula or you have to call your assessor’s office.  The result is confusing for consumers and can be deceptive for homeowners who don’t know they are over assessed, sometimes grossly so. We often get calls from consumers who see the property taxes are $12,000 on a home but the “assessment” is $18,000. Which do they pay? What does the $18,000 mean? And we have to explain something to these folks that does not really help them get any closer to finding a home.

I am sure I’m not the only one whose time is wasted. I am sure staff at the assessor’s office have to translate these assessed values more times than they care to count.

The answer is simple. The towns and cities should assess homes at full market value and end the practice of using numbers that make no sense. It all speaks to the inertia of the transparent government we deserve but do not get. People should not need a phone call or a scientific calculator to know what their assessed value is. There is nothing remotely forthright or transparent about a $500,000 house being assessed for $25,000.

Would converting to full market value assessment cost money and time? Yes, they say it would. Why? I don’t know. It seems to me that a college sophomore could create a program that would do the job in 3 hours. But a common sense solution like that has never taken hold.
You’d need a committee.
And a task force.
And commission.
And a study.
You’d have to open it up to bidders.

Why? The process has to be transparent.

The mind boggles.