When my husband received his property tax statement last winter on the building we own in Royal Oak, he decided to fight the increase in taxes.
I’ve filed objections over tax increases before with regard to our home. This was before the housing bubble burst and home prices were still on the rise. Sensible minds like mine knew that a small house built on an out-lot adjacent to Woodward Avenue couldn’t possibly be worth a half a million dollars. Woodward Avenue, otherwise known as the M-1, is the major artery out of Detroit. It’s a busy four-lane highway where pedestrians and bicyclists are routinely run over by speeding drivers who think it’s the GM test track, and no one wants to live near it, especially during Dream Cruise weekend.
Fighting a tax assessment on a home is relatively easy. It’s not hard to pull up comparisons on similar houses that have recently sold in your area. Taking photos of your own hovel helps. You make an appointment with the tax board and county assessor and plead your case.
I found it interesting at my last fight that the assessor thought a small rodent ridden porch was part of the house. Let’s see, there’s no heat, no electricity, it's full of mice and you can’t live in it – yes! that qualifies as living space. The county mistakenly counted the basement square footage as part of the house even though there was no access to the outside and no windows.
Her exact words to me were “Well, you should be happy your house is assessed at $482,000.”
My reply was “Would you buy this place for that much? Do you know anyone who would? Because I’ll sell it in a heartbeat if you can get me that kind of money.” I could see the two real estate agent/residents who were on the review board snickering behind her back.
They lowered the value to $400K, and after a year on the market we sold it for $100K less than that. That’s because it wasn’t worth what the county said it was worth.
Commercial property is an entirely different animal. For one thing, you can’t get comps from anyone. Believe me, I’ve tried. A run-down building in Detroit may have sold for $100,000 and a similar one two blocks away might have fetched a million. There’s no rhyme or reason to why anyone would pay anything for commercial property.