Lack of Data Complicates Property Valuation

As municipalities reassess real estate within their jurisdictions, those counties and cities which are required to rely upon market value, as opposed to formulaic or historic cost based approaches, have a major problem.  The lack of transactions in the late 2007-late 2009 time frame means that appraisers’ jobs will be far more complicated. 

How to estimate market rent when there are a few tenants signing leases?  Is there a way to determine market-based capitalization rates when there are few sales from which rates can be derived?  How to calculate band of investment capitalization rates when mortgage financing is so difficult to come by?

When assessors ask themselves these sorts of questions, their reply usually sounds something like this: “I have a job to do. Even in the absence of data, I must determine market value as of my jurisdiction’s assessment date.  I will do the best job I can in the circumstances.”

This means that the ad valorem tax valuation of your commercial property today is difficult to calculate and is likely to be too high.

Take the time to review the accuracy of your assessment with competent appraisal and property tax counsel. If you are fortunate enough to own a trophy asset or a property in a major market, go to internet data sources for a preliminary analysis.

Consider market developments after the valuation date. Even though an appraiser or the assessor generally ignores after‑occurring transactions, an equalization board or court may find the information useful.

Look at the values of comparable properties with an eye to determining the equity of your assessment. Even if a valuation appeal isn’t possible, an equalization attack may be an option.

Most importantly, talk with brokers and lenders. They may hold valuable information about failed financing applications, busted transactions and lease negotiations which will be of great assistance in weighing the approximate accuracy of the assessor’s value.

Elliott B. Pollack is chair of the Property Valuation Department of the Connecticut law firm Pullman & Comley, LLC. The firm is the Connecticut member of American Property Tax Counsel, the national affiliation of property tax attorneys. He can be reached at