Letter: The assessor is not wrong

Graphic by Lori Deaton

In response to the article written by Ben Williamson on July 20 regarding statements made by Mr. Joe Minicozzi of a local planning firm, I would like to respond that the assessor in most cases is not incorrect [“An Unfair Share? Reappraisal Committee to Bring Recommendations to Commissioners,” Xpress]. As a former assessor for 14 years and a special magistrate for tax appeals for 16 years, it has been my experience that there are very few times that the assessor is incorrect. In fact, in most cases, the assessor is conservative in his values. If he is wrong, that is what the appeals process is for, and it’s available to everybody.

The key factor is (and admittedly I am not familiar with North Carolina statutes) that the property should not be assessed over the market value. The computer does not care how many kids you have to send to college nor is it familiar with your financial status. It only recognizes the property characteristics; in this case, the single-family home. In mass appraisal, homes and home sales are divided into market areas and analyzed with a model.

Typically, the assessor is dealing with a bell curve, where in most likelihood the subject property is assessed somewhere between 75% and 95% of market value. If the assessor tries to move the curve via analysis to the high end of the curve, his lower-end properties are going to be over what their market value should be. Hence, the outliers are not given the same weight as the majority of properties.

Suppose for example, there are many more homes in, say, the $100,000 range than the $1 million range. If a lower-end property is increased $10,000, then there is a 10% increase. If a high-end property is increased $10,000, then it is only 1%. In reality, the higher-end properties do not increase at the same percentage rate because not only are there fewer of them, but there are also fewer buyers that can afford that price of home. Therefore, the high-end property may increase, for example, $50,000 to $80,000, or a 5%-8% value increase. There is some increase but certainly not at the same rate as the more abundant lower-range homes.

In order to do a proper analysis, Mr. Minicozzi should be using the same sales the assessor used, which for a Jan. 1, 2021, valuation would have been 2020 and perhaps some 2019 sales. To compare any older sales to current sales would be, at best, flawed analysis. In regard to the Cecil property being at 50%, just how many previous sales of $9.5 million homes were available to the assessor on Jan. 1, 2021? Since the date of sale of this property was substantially after the date of valuation, it is disingenuous to claim that the assessor’s model estimate was an absolute failure in estimating the value of that house. Keep in mind that, in my opinion, there was a tremendous increase in valuation after that date of assessment.

Also, in my opinion, some consideration should be given to what is currently called gentrification, where demand is to a point that buyers are moving to and buying well-located homes in what may be Black neighborhoods. This may be due to price, but it is usually the desirability of the location. You will probably see first extensive remodeling leading to total demolition with replacement by newer, larger homes.

Lastly, Mr. Minicozzi notes that assessments in Black neighborhoods went up 36.7% while a 99% white neighborhood went up 11.6%. Curiously, the neighborhood that was 89% white went up 16.6%, even though that neighborhood had fewer whites. This indicates that the assessor is doing his job by assessing based on neighborhood market sales and not on who answers the door.

As for me and my 2021 assessment, mine increased 57% for the 2021 assessment roll. I guess the computer didn’t care about me, either. And the assessor was not wrong!

— Joy Hearn
Maggie Valley



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2 thoughts on “Letter: The assessor is not wrong

  1. NIMBY

    Your analysis is much stronger than the Urban3 experts, simply because you pointed out clear gaps in their apples to oranges comparison. Thank you for helping them clarify, rather than commenting to people to go watch a video (Joe).

    I hope the elected officials will read this and understand it.

  2. Joe Minicozzi

    As a former magistrate, maybe you should read the state laws prior to commenting. The state law is that our assessed value should equal market value. Period. And the fact that the assessment for the Cecil Property was only 50% of market value should cause some questioning of “how was our assessment so far off?” And we should interrogate the process and correct the system that is causing this error. Heck, we could have just used inflation from the last time it was assessed (2017), and it would be better than what our assessment process did in 2021. That is a problem. A serious problem. Especially when we are over estimating the value of low wealth individuals and causing them an unfair burden. So when the wealthy houses come in consistently sold well over assessed, they should have an inflation of assessment the exact same way that you point out in your comment. We do that in the low wealth neighborhoods, but not the high wealth ones. That is what the data shows. Data doesn’t lie.

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