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Old 12-04-2020, 01:25 PM   #1
Cal-to-NH
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Default Challenge of an over-assessed property

Hi folks:

So I will try to make a long story short. A year ago I got a love note on my door that the town was re-assessing my part of town and to call them for a property evaluation. So I called them and the assessor came in with a tape measure and a mission! i found out later that you are in no way obligated to let them in, and it's a shame that the "Demand" looking letter they leave does not inform you of your true rights. Anyway, lesson number 1 is that you don't need to let them in (who knows, maybe I am the only person on earth who didn't know!).

Be that as it may, given my error on Lesson number 1 and there being nothing to do about it, I read on the town site the steps needed to challenge an over-assessment. IT ways to call the Assessor and get information on the "how". I got the assessor and basically got three answers - (1) The answer that is so evasive that it doesn't answer your question at all, (2) the answer that is a half-answer, with caveats that are in what you read but not what is said, and (3) answers to a question, but not the question you asked.

So at this time I am thinking my only option is to look into law firms that will do this for you. I already have 7 "comparable" homes that convince me that my house is over-assessed, but the process of a challenge is very regimented with a lot of requirements and procedural trip-ups, and without help from the Assessor that is going to be "on the other side" of the argument, I am clearly not getting enough info to feel comfortable doing this myself. I know they take a proceed of the benefit they get - but I think it's just for the first year savings, and I am willing to pay this to get it done the first time and get it done right.

So now, does anyone have the name of a firm or "single-shingle" lawyer that does this work????

And before you ask, I am not interested in identification of the town, the assessor, etc... I don't want to bad-mouth anyone, I just want to get a fair-value assessment on my home so I can afford to say here!!!!!
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Old 12-05-2020, 08:29 AM   #2
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The process is more simple than you would think.

Many years ago I appealed my assessment in Gilford. From looking at the assessors site and stopping into the office I found 3 properties on my street with better lots that were assessed for less than my lot so I filed an appeal. The town agreed with my points and reduced the assessed value.

However, before you do this be aware that they will look at everything. They came to my property and found a legal dock that was not on the tax card. They added that in but the net result was still a lower tax bill.

Good luck!
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Old 12-05-2020, 08:49 AM   #3
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Hi folks
So now, does anyone have the name of a firm or "single-shingle" lawyer that does this work????
You want to investigate Atty Paul C Bourdeau, Laconia NH for a totally excellent, local lawyer, to work on your Moultonborough property tax.
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Old 12-05-2020, 10:01 AM   #4
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i also live in Moultonborough. A few years back i went for a hearing which included the firm doing assessment and the assessors office. i came away not satisfied as they made me feel like i had a bargain and maybe i should have been higher. This past year when they had increased all waterfront land by double digits I went again . this time only the new company was present. I told the woman that there were vacant lands for sale much less than my assessment. To my surprised they dropped my assessment for land. So one out of two. I would never go on the house as they are based on similar sales. that is capes, raised ranches etc anywhere in town and have a lot of back up.
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Old 12-05-2020, 11:36 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cal-to-NH View Post
Hi folks:

So I will try to make a long story short. A year ago I got a love note on my door that the town was re-assessing my part of town and to call them for a property evaluation. So I called them and the assessor came in with a tape measure and a mission! i found out later that you are in no way obligated to let them in, and it's a shame that the "Demand" looking letter they leave does not inform you of your true rights. Anyway, lesson number 1 is that you don't need to let them in (who knows, maybe I am the only person on earth who didn't know!).

Be that as it may, given my error on Lesson number 1 and there being nothing to do about it, I read on the town site the steps needed to challenge an over-assessment. IT ways to call the Assessor and get information on the "how". I got the assessor and basically got three answers - (1) The answer that is so evasive that it doesn't answer your question at all, (2) the answer that is a half-answer, with caveats that are in what you read but not what is said, and (3) answers to a question, but not the question you asked.

So at this time I am thinking my only option is to look into law firms that will do this for you. I already have 7 "comparable" homes that convince me that my house is over-assessed, but the process of a challenge is very regimented with a lot of requirements and procedural trip-ups, and without help from the Assessor that is going to be "on the other side" of the argument, I am clearly not getting enough info to feel comfortable doing this myself. I know they take a proceed of the benefit they get - but I think it's just for the first year savings, and I am willing to pay this to get it done the first time and get it done right.

So now, does anyone have the name of a firm or "single-shingle" lawyer that does this work????

And before you ask, I am not interested in identification of the town, the assessor, etc... I don't want to bad-mouth anyone, I just want to get a fair-value assessment on my home so I can afford to say here!!!!!

I don't think you need to hire a lawyer but what you do need is an appraisal done by a professional and that will hold some weight in making your argument to augment the research you have already done. What this comes down to and in case you didn't notice in the way your questions were answered - this is a matter of opinion and the opinion of whoever is coming up with these numbers for the town is right and how dare you question their numbers, methods or findings. The town of course will listen to you ramble on but doesn't really care about what you think and unless you are armed with sufficiently credible contradictory evidence you're wasting your time.


If you don't like what the town does you can always appeal it to the state as well, but their decision may or may not be favorable to you and the decision they make is final.

Good luck the towns make this process difficult for a reason... so people will just give up and pay. The sad reality is many do, or are in a financial position where they don't care.
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Old 12-05-2020, 12:44 PM   #6
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Default Town to Town

Most towns now hire a professional assessing company. The Town assessor is hired by the ton to handle day to day clerical duties. This person may be an expert in the laws and regulations about tracking, but may or may not be an assessor or real estate expert, the quality of the answers you get may vary accordingly.
While there is a "town assessor", the Board of Selectmen is usually the Board of Assessors. I recall an instance several years ago when the market tumbled on residential condominiums. The BOS/BOA voted to reduce the assessment on all residential condos by 30%. Point is you have some local control.
Appraisals and assessments are not the same although many use the words interchangeably. In any event they both rely on comparable properties. When you're assessing 100's of properties, there are bound to be mistakes. The assessor and an appraiser may choose different comps. If you can demonstrate why their choice was not the best, there may be a change. But you have to be able to demonstrate, not just say "My house would never sell for that"
Let's say an independent appraisal costs $500. If you hire an attorney, his/her first move is to say you need an independent appraisal, and charge $500 plus $100 for a staff member to call the appraisal company. If you hire a lawyer will the fee be more or lass than the tax savings, IF you win?
A Realtor friend may be able to help you find other comps if you think the assessor made incorrect choices. If you don't get satisfaction in town the NH Bureau (Board?) of Land Tax Appeals may be a last resort.
Let us know how things turn out, please.
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Old 12-05-2020, 01:01 PM   #7
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Moultonborough has numerous issues with their assessments that the BOS is not fixing. With the Assessor retiring, they are just letting things slide until someone new arrives. But there is no expectation that things will get fixed. Just one example....the town switched the assessing program to something called Avitar to make the town departments more efficient (but no cost saving I might add). When they changed the system, they introduced a new building depreciation table that is much more hurtful to property values across the board....causes building values to go UP !! Significantly lower depreciation percents than prior depreciation schedule in 2019. When challenged, the answer was "we are using a new system". No backup on how the tables were created, the source of the data, nothing at all....just a new system. That is not an answer. This is the tip of the iceberg.
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Old 12-05-2020, 01:42 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by fatlazyless View Post
You want to investigate Atty Paul C Bourdeau, Laconia NH for a totally excellent, local lawyer, to work on your Moultonborough property tax.






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Old 12-05-2020, 02:21 PM   #9
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https://www.facebook.com/brouillardlawfirm

Phil Brouillard offers a service where they will file the abatement for you with no legal fees. You will have to pay for an appraisal. If he's successful, his fee is 50% of the first year's tax savings. I've used him on several occasions, and he's saved me significant money.
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Old 12-05-2020, 08:32 PM   #10
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The first thing to do is get an independent assessment and review it in detail to make sure it is accurate, i.e. measurements, types of rooms, special features, etc. This is especially true with length of water frontage. I was fortunate that when I had to do a challenge, I had already gotten 2 appraisals for other purposes so I just used those. I corrected several inaccuracies like calling a porch "heated" when it was not. Another porch was called "finished" and it was bare 2x4s on the inside. I filed the paperwork for a review and they came and reviewed the property and I won the appeal.

To some extent it depends on who you are dealing with and how reasonable they are. If they are jerks, you may need a lawyer to show them you are serious.
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Old 12-10-2020, 08:27 AM   #11
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This is excellent. I can't thank you enough for all of your feedback. This information is pure GOLD.

I appreciate taking the time to help!
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Old 12-10-2020, 09:39 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Cal-to-NH View Post
This is excellent. I can't thank you enough for all of your feedback. This information is pure GOLD.

I appreciate taking the time to help!
My accountant told me one time, "the Government only knows what you tell them so tell them as little as possible". That goes for Federal, state, and local. This has served me well over time.
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Old 12-14-2020, 02:54 PM   #13
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So everyone has had some insight here. There are somethings that you need to consider before mounting the charge to dispute your claim that your property tax evaluation is to high.

1. and foremost, how much higher do you think the evaluation really is?
2. What is the main contributor to the evaluation of your property? (i.e. land value or building value)
3. Do you have a reasonable comparison for the land value?
4. Do you have a reasonable comparison for the building value?
5. If you can when the battle how much do you believe you can save per year?

I researched the idea of doing this a few years back, and gave it serious consideration. The outcome was that I didn't bother, because even if I had fought and won, I would really have only saved myself a few hundred dollars a year.

What was my argument? It was going to be that my land value was to high.... When I compared structures I found that my camp was comparable priced to others. And while the land was comparably priced as well, do to the shape of the lot, developing the property was not as easy, and thus my argument would have been that the lot shape and size restricted structure size. Thus my lot was not as valuable as the lots of my neighbors which where the same size.

Long story short after talking to a few people, what I found is that in some area's the size of a structure you can build doesn't mater, because you can always build up.

The point I am trying to make here, is you may have reasoning that make sense to you as to why your property is over valued. But other people may and will have counter arguments to that, in the end is it really going to be worth the hassle.
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Old 12-15-2020, 08:07 AM   #14
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What was my argument? It was going to be that my land value was to high.... When I compared structures I found that my camp was comparable priced to others. And while the land was comparably priced as well, do to the shape of the lot, developing the property was not as easy, and thus my argument would have been that the lot shape and size restricted structure size. Thus my lot was not as valuable as the lots of my neighbors which where the same size.

Long story short after talking to a few people, what I found is that in some area's the size of a structure you can build doesn't mater, because you can always build up.

The point I am trying to make here, is you may have reasoning that make sense to you as to why your property is over valued. But other people may and will have counter arguments to that, in the end is it really going to be worth the hassle.
I had pretty much that reason for the appeal I went through in Gilford years ago and was successful in having the land value lowered.

My lot is 50 feet wide at the street but 100 feet wide at the water. Gilford has a 25 foot setback requirement for building. My point was that a substantial portion of my lot was not buildable because the available area was a triangle that started 50 feet from the street. I pointed out other rectangle shaped lots of similar size that had much more buildable area but were valued the same as mine because of Sq. footage. They agreed and lowered the assessed value.
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Old 12-22-2020, 06:04 PM   #15
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Default Age of property used in valuation

One thing I didn't see mentioned in this Post was any reference to the
'Age of property' used in valuation ?

I am a Gilford resident and contacted the Assessor's office about my current assessment, and they said this was also a factor in determining valuation. When did this start ???

Their theory was that materials used to build a house today, under current
building regulations, are not the same as they were, 25-50-100 years ago.
Like 2x6 framing, versus 2x4 framing, quality of windows used, roofing, finished basements, etc.
They came up with a long laundry list of differences, which would affect value.

Seems to me they are throwing every possible factor into the house construction they can think of to boost the value, which would increase the taxes. And let's not forget the actual land where the house is built on: AKA 'view' tax', if your property has a view of the lake or mountains, make it more valuable, than a house just 'plunked' down on a vacant lot. And the folks who have waterfront property, OMG !

The old way of determining value by square footage, still applies, but not as much anymore,
many other factors !
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Old 12-22-2020, 06:18 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigdog View Post
One thing I didn't see mentioned in this Post was any reference to the
'Age of property' used in valuation ?

I am a Gilford resident and contacted the Assessor's office about my current assessment, and they said this was also a factor in determining valuation. When did this start ???

Their theory was that materials used to build a house today, under current
building regulations, are not the same as they were, 25-50-100 years ago.
Like 2x6 framing, versus 2x4 framing, quality of windows used, roofing, finished basements, etc.
They came up with a long laundry list of differences, which would affect value.

Seems to me they are throwing every possible factor into the house construction they can think of to boost the value, which would increase the taxes. And let's not forget the actual land where the house is built on: AKA 'view' tax', if your property has a view of the lake or mountains, make it more valuable, than a house just 'plunked' down on a vacant lot. And the folks who have waterfront property, OMG !

The old way of determining value by square footage, still applies, but not as much anymore,
many other factors !
Agreed on most, but a couple of things to keep in mind:

The valuation of any specific house is only to determine the share of the town's total assessments. So the town does not come out ahead when it increases assessments based on age of materials.

The biggest driver in the region is the "view tax". A modest home on the water is worth $500K--$1MM. The same home a few hundred yards away is half that price. A mile from the water, cut it in half again. Among other things, this is a great way to shift the burden to...Massachusetts
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Old 12-22-2020, 06:21 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigdog View Post
One thing I didn't see mentioned in this Post was any reference to the
'Age of property' used in valuation ?

I am a Gilford resident and contacted the Assessor's office about my current assessment, and they said the was also a factor in determining valuation.

Their theory was that materials used to build a house today, under current
building regulations, are not the same as they were, 25-50-100 years ago.
Like 2x6 framing, versus 2x4 framing, quality of windows used, roofing.
They came up with a long list of differences, which would affect value.

Seems to me they are throwing every possible factor into the house construction they can think of to boost the value, which would increase the taxes. And let's not forget a 'view' tax', if your property has a view of the lake or mountains, make it more valuable, than a house just 'plunked' down on a vacant lot. And the folks who have waterfront property, OMG !

The old way of determining value by square footage, still applies, but not as much anymore.
A key thing to remember is that the valuation is supposed to reflect current market value, and like it or not, a house with a great view is more valuable. So is a house with 2x6 walls instead of 2x4s. And certainly a house by the water has higher value. It is not as easy to translate these types of value adds as it is something like more square footage, but they DO impact the value of the property. If I could likely sell my property for $800K tomorrow because the view is to die for vs. someone with the exact same land and house a half mile down the road valued at $400,000 because their view is lousy, then I should be paying property taxes based on an $800K valuation. Unfortunately, determining value is not an exact science and all of us would like to believe that paying $1 in property tax is a dollar too much.
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Old 12-22-2020, 06:57 PM   #18
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I would think that a big headache for any town's assessor department would be defending or be forced to adjust an assessment based on someone arguing some point or another. The fairest way to deal with this is to have a computerized system that weighs all the hard data associated with any particular property, assigning some kind of relative value to any aspect of that property as derived from data collected from many property sales, to come up with a total computer-generated valuation. If all properties are valued the same way, the valuation for any property is defensible. The owner would have to challenge the validity of the data describing the property in order to get a total assessment reduced. There should not be any "judgement" made by an assessor as to what a particular property ought to sell for.
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Old 12-22-2020, 07:14 PM   #19
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Unless there is something wrong, like they say you have a sandy beach but you don't, or they say you have 5 bathrooms and 6 bedrooms and you don't, or your neighbor has the exact same property as you do but yours is valued differently, it's pretty hard to get them to change your valuation. If you can compare like to like and yours is valued higher then they might change it. Or they just might change the one you compare it to and make theirs higher.
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Old 12-22-2020, 09:08 PM   #20
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Quote:
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I would think that a big headache for any town's assessor department would be defending or be forced to adjust an assessment based on someone arguing some point or another. The fairest way to deal with this is to have a computerized system that weighs all the hard data associated with any particular property, assigning some kind of relative value to any aspect of that property as derived from data collected from many property sales, to come up with a total computer-generated valuation. If all properties are valued the same way, the valuation for any property is defensible. The owner would have to challenge the validity of the data describing the property in order to get a total assessment reduced. There should not be any "judgement" made by an assessor as to what a particular property ought to sell for.
I agree that an assessor should not be deciding how much a property is worth. However, he might decide that a property has an excellent view and that "data" could be plugged into a computer program that evaluates how much a "view" is worth in comparative properties. That would be the same as observing there is a brick fireplace and the computer program then calculating the value of that feature. Or, noting the address of the property and that is classified as a desirable neighborhood that commands higher prices. I believe that most of the assessing services do exactly this, feeding the property information into a computer. However, at some point a program makes a comparison to other existing, recently sold properties and "judges" that your property is roughly equivalent considering this "feature". Just because the computer works the numbers it doesn't make it more precise. By the nature of the process, the evaluation has to have some "slop" in the calculations.
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Old 12-23-2020, 06:47 AM   #21
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You are exactly right, Jeff. It is all about comparison to other like properties.
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