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Property Tax: New Information from State Assessor’s Office

The Story Real Estate team had a conference call with the State Assessor’s office this morning and from it we gathered some important information to pass along to home owners, home buyers and Realtors. Here’s what we learned:

Anything that is unequal, excessive or improper is grounds for appeal, according to the State Assessor’s office. For example, we’re hearing from some clients that the values provided for natural gas have not been uniformly applied – that is a ground for appeal.

The burden of proof sits with you the property owner. That means that it’s up to you prove that the Borough erred in its assessment. How do you do that?

The Borough Assessment office owes you, the property owner, an explanation of how their land valuation model works and full disclosure of all they amounts attributed. So your first step is to call the assessors office and find out how the assessor arrived at the figure they did. If you can resolve the issue right there on the spot, do it. However, we’re hearing that the office is inundated with calls and getting through is an issue.

If that’s the case, and you can’t get through, just appeal and get your forms into the Borough before the March 31st deadline. You’ll find the documents online at the KPB Assessor’s office page, or you can go to the assessor’s office here in Homer and pick up a packet. You do pay a fee to appeal your assessment but so long as you participate in the process, you get that fee back.

Gather the information about the valuation process and the values assigned to your property as soon as you can and then get to work on it.

We’re hearing reports that people are being discouraged from appealing by the Kenai Assessors office. One client said that even if she were to appeal, the assessors office told her that nothing will change. Another client said that the assessors threatened that a tour of her house might lead to an increase in her assessment. Again, you have a right to appeal and a right to hear from the assessors what information they used to arrive at your assessment. Gather that data, then get to work and let the numbers speak.

Your next step is to start gathering information. The tricky part is that Alaska is a non-disclosure State so calling up a local Realtor and asking what your neighbour’s house or the lot down the street sold for won’t get you far. But asking the neighbours is legit. Remember, you can find names and addresses of property owners and information on different properties on the Borough’s Parcel Viewer. It’s a handy tool.

Kirk Olsen, the local appraiser, has some amazing market data and I’ll ask him if I can share. (If anyone sees Kirk in line for coffee, buy him a cup, he’s been working hard at this on everyone’s behalf.)

Your Realtor can help. Call them up and ask if they can provide you with a market analysis of you property. While that won’t be the be all and end all of your case with the Borough, it will carry some weight. If you’ve had your property recently assessed, provide those documents. The Borough will be looking for any reasonable market data that you can provide.

Important Note for Realtors & Property Buyers

If you feel you’re property’s been unfairly assessed, file your appeal and file it right away. March 31 is the deadline but don’t delay. It’s important to note that a property seller can appoint a buyer as an agent authorized to file an appeal on their behalf. So if you’ve purchased a home or piece of land with an assessment that you feel should be appealed, ask the current owner of the property for a letter giving the buyer permission to file the appeal. Then file the appeal. It can be a formal letter or simply an e-mail but get it in writing and get it fast.

As part of its regular business, the State Assessors office is conducting an audit of the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s assessment department. While the State has no power to intercede with our assessments, they can declare a major error but only those who’ve filed an appeal will reap any benefits of a remedy.  So appeal.

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