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HELP PLEASE!!!!

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Gail M

Freshman Member
Joined
Jan 17, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Texas
I am appraising a property with numerous issues, and will try to make this as clear as possible. As per the tax records, the property was built in 1937 and is a one bedroom, one bath home, approximately 720 square feet. However as per the MLS, it is listed as a four bedroom, two bath home with 1652 square feet with a separate garage apartment. When I called the listing agent for clarification on the property, I was told the tax records reflected the garage apartment only. The garage apt was built some time in the 30's while the main house was built some time in the mid 50's. As it is not listed in the tax records, it does not appear a building permit was ever issued. This is in the Houston area, so zoning is not an issue. However, what if any are the legal ramifications of appraising a property the county has no record of. As a side note, it gets even better, the property has a basement. I have not yet inspected the property but according to the listing agent, the basement is the garage and utility area and is partially below grade. For those of you not from Texas, I have been appraising 18 years and have seen only one other property with a basement. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
I would forget the tax records and appraise what I see, I would make the report conditional on the legality of the construction of the improvements. As for the basement, if there is no market demand for basements than the subject has a super adequacy.
 

rtubbs

Junior Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Gail M, don't draw any conclusions about the assignment until you inspect the property and talk with the homeowner (if still occupied). The lack of being recorded on the property tax records may not be that big a deal. It's not our responsibility to ensure that a dwelling gets recorded on the tax rolls. I don't police for that. If necessary and important, comment on the fact in the appraisal.

Good luck.
 

Jo Ann Meyer Stratton

Elite Member
Joined
Jan 16, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Arizona
Gail:
When you say tax records--are you referring to the actual records on file in the appraisal district (I think that is what you have in Texas) or are you referring to a reporting service like Experian or DataQuick with their system of reporting info? Here in Arizona, DataQuick has a huge problem with their information that they report. An example would be exactly like you have. The county assessor would have two buildings reported on the parcel, the garage apartment as one improvement and the house as the another improvement. DataQuick reports only the garage apartment and none of the other buildings on the parcel; just like the information you have. The other problem in Arizona is regarding basements. The county assessor's in the larger counties total all areas in their computerized data base, basements, garage apartments, guest houses, etc. Then the reporting services, realtors, property owners use that total square footage in reporting sales and marketing the property. Which means if a fee appraiser in using that sale for a comparable there is no information available on the breakdown of how much is in the above grade area, how much is in the below grade or partially below grade area or in the garage apartment or guest house from anybody. Unless the fee appraiser measures both the outside and inside of each comparable, the information on the total square footage of the comparables will be the only thing available to report on the GLA line, which means the total GLA of the subject has to be reported on that GLA line also for comparable purposes. So again what information do you have available for your comparables after you have seen the subject property. What do you think your market's reaction will be to the garage apartment? To the basement? If it is a dank, smelly, damp basement that a typical home owner would use for storage or something, then adjust it out on the basement line, regardless of what info you have on the comparables. If one of your comparables have a one of a kind improvement like a detached workshop or hay barn or something, maybe put it either on the basement line or a different line with a similar adjustment or lack of adjustment.

And the most important thing is to explain, explain, explain so that a reader of your report will understand and agree with your procedure!

By the way just because the assessor/appraisal district never put the home on the tax roll does not necessarily mean a permit was never issued. Maybe building permits didn't exist in 1935 or 1955. Maybe the reassessment when buildings started to be measured and placed on a tax roll didn't start until after 1955. The assessor/appraisal district personnel could have just lost the info in the process and it never got posted. I have seen that happen numerious times in many areas. Assessment records are only a probable indication of ownerhsip and what actually exists--not a proof of either!

When I was in NM, that assessment office only picked up a structure when it was originally constructed, never went back, never checked building permits, etc so the actual size of a structure could be 2-4 times larger than what was in the tax records. They also hadn't been too through when initially picking up information any way, so that 50-70 year old homes had never been on the tax roll and still weren't being taxed. Oh well, the oil companys paid all the taxes in the area anyway and the local governments didn't care if a home owner escaped being taxed since they didn't need the money.
 

Gail M

Freshman Member
Joined
Jan 17, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Texas
In answer to several of your questions. The information was obtained from the Harris county tax records. They have no record of the 2nd property and are assessing the property on the garage apartment only. Since Texas has no State Income Tax, various funds for Cities, Schools, ect are heavily dependent upon property taxes. In all my years as an Appraiser, I have never seen a property not listed in the county records, unless it was new or very recent construction. It is not always entirely accurate and sometimes may not include an addition or garage conversion, but this is usually because the owner did not pull a permit. However, I have never seen the tax records exclude an entire house. When I talked to the listing agent she knew some of the history of the property. The original owners built what is now the apartment, it is a separate property not connected to the main house. Some time in the 1950's they built what is now the main house, however there is no record of this structure. I actually want to see this property as the way the realtor described it, would be one of the oddest homes I've seen. The basement is partially below grade and according to the agent, it is actually underground parking. This property is less than 1/2 mile from the Houston Ship Channel and Galveston Bay and I cannot see how the basement would not flood every time it rains. :roll:
 

Restrain

Elite Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2002
Professional Status
Certified General Appraiser
State
Florida
All you can do is appraise what you find. You might consider the basement at 1/4 of living area or less. If the basement is actually dry and not an "indoor swimming pool", then you've got unfinished storage. From what you tell me, the home is actually elevated above ground level. You might also look at the basement like the first floor of a stilt house along the bay. The fact that it isn't assessed is of no matter except for the amount of taxes shown. I've found numerous properties not on the Appraisal District rolls. They don't have time to go back and check - lack of manpower. Also, when the Harris County appraisal district was created, they simply combined all available files, relying primarily on the County tax records. If the original records were wrong, then they remain wrong.
 
Joined
Jan 13, 2002
Professional Status
Retired Appraiser
State
Florida
This could be a silly question, but is the house built on the same parcel as the garage/apartment?
 

Terry Russell

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 24, 2002
Professional Status
Appraiser Trainee
State
Montana
Pertaining to the tax assessor’s records, check for two separate parcels, different addresses, etc.
I would make sure to note the absence of any improvement when comparing what you see with what is being assessed. As with most taxing authorities, if only a partial assessment is being/has been collected for many years, they could ask for the taxes not paid. I do not know of any statute of limitations on property tax. Harris County could very well own the property.

Just thinking, Terry
 

Jo Ann Meyer Stratton

Elite Member
Joined
Jan 16, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Arizona
Having started out in this profession as an ad valorem appraiser just as the current system in Arizona was being developed, I never believe any thing I find in reporting services and only the information in the assessor's office that is in my hand writing from 30 years ago! I dig through entire files in my small county and find out all sorts of interestings that never make to any print out by the assessor's office and definitely never make to any reporting service. When I can find the actual field notes by the original field appraiser for the assessor's office then I know I have the information--but still take it with a grain of salt because humans make mistakes. Both ATC and Pamela have some points. Maybe there are two different parcels, one for each improvement and they might be in two different ownership. For example the husband and first wife might be on the garage/apartment but the husband and second wife on the main house. Or one parcel was purchased as joint tenants and the other parcel under a warranty deed---just all sorts of possibilities of why there might be separate parcels. Or maybe the last name was misspelled on one deed. This might be an assignment where not only do you do a lot of note taking, photos, measurements, etc at the subject property but also digging into old county, city, appraisal district records. Sounds like fun--its like being on a treasure hunt some times to find and develop all the info to complete the assignment. There even could be a mistake that was made 50 years ago that has never been corrected.
 

Karl

Elite Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Professional Status
Licensed Appraiser
State
Arizona
Just to add to Jo Anns points it also may depend on IF U were a FRIEND or FOE of the Good Ole Boys in office at time U made improvements on land that U may have or may not have owned as to the amount of improvements that got recorded.
 
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