Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Realtor: Homes may have been assessed unfairly

WASHINGTON, Conn. — There have been too many inconsistencies in the revaluation process and many properties are not being assessed fairly, a real estate agent said Tuesday.
Realtor Ken Cornet posed many questions regarding the job being done by Total Valuation Services, a Waterbury-based assessment firm. Washington is one of 31 communities currently contracted to conduct the full physical revaluation, necessary every five years.
Cornett said he has heard and dealt with situations were homes were being assessed at figures far different than expected.
Cornet’s examples include a ranch house on East Street with five acres of land being valued around $500,000. A house down the road from him, the same size, with one acre was recently assessed at $517,440, he said.
On the other side of the spectrum was an opulent house with land being assessed for $3 million, but being worth only $2 million. The misguided process warrants “no reason” for why certain homes come out higher than others regardless of land or house size, he said.
“I think from what I have seen, a minimum of one-third of their evaluation is completely faulty,” Cornet said.
When asked if he has contacted the company, Cornet said he has tried but received no answer.
The whole process in which the company conducts a full physical revaluation seems questionable, he said. Cornet recounted examples of residents he has met who claim they have never been visited.
Leo DiNicola, spokesman for Total Valuation, said the contracted data collectors who conduct the full physical revaluation only work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and that they do not set up appointments. If no one is home when the data collectors arrive, they will do a walk-around inspection to examine the exterior and verify outside dimensions.
If a resident is home, then they will politely ask to do an inspection to verify room count and additions to the interior, he said. If the person is not home after two attempts, the company sends a letter to the resident asking to set up an appointment.
The data entry process can be subjective, DiNicola said, because after assessing the property the data will be recorded preliminarily as “fair,” “good,” or “excellent.” After the determination of the house’s value, the early assessment will be recorded on a data field card, which is kept in a separate database than the final result.
If the current revaluation is not accepted, then the company may revert to the original, preliminary evaluation.
The next step in the process involves the supervisor driving around with the tax assessor of the town to do a final stage assessment, he said.
Cornet argued that the subjective process did not seem to warrant an accurate depiction of the house’s true value.
“They’re calling it poor, fair, good, excellent,” he said. “These don’t seem to have any meaning whatsoever.”
The process, overall, is not perfect, DiNicola said.
“Things do slip through the cracks,” he said. “Each taxpayer has the opportunity to hold a hearing.”
In Torrington, hearings have been extended until Feb. 23 at City Hall.
Ronald DeRosa can be reached by e-mail at torrington


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