Miami-Dade property tax appeal flood turns into a trickle — for now
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
Where's that long-anticipated flood of tax appeals?
Following mailing of tax notices Monday, more property owners than expected seem content with their assessments, tax appeal professionals say.
In fact, as of Tuesday, Miami-Dade County's Value Adjustment Board received only about 50 appeals, a county official says.
But more had already been filed. The count doesn't include appeals filed last week, when tax notices were first posted online. Those haven't been tallied, said Robert Alfaro, the board's manager.
For some property owners, says Tom Dixon, president of Dixon Commercial Real Estate, "assessments have dropped so much the people feel there is no need to file an appeal." Taxable value countywide fell 9.5%.
Phil Spool, special magistrate for the Value Adjustment Board, says he's also getting good reviews on the notices.
"I am getting feedback from people that are more pleased with the result of the assessment than what they anticipated to be in terms of reductions," he said.
With property values on notices falling, Mr. Alfaro agreed, "We hope we get fewer appeals this year."
But he said it's too early to tell, because the bulk of appeals are typically filed closer to deadline — Sept. 18 this year.
And overbuilt areas with a lack of sales such as Homestead, Brickell and Doral, says Mr. Dixon, an ex-appraiser who specializes in tax assessment appeals and brokerage, could see a flood of appeals seeking "dramatic reductions in assessment."
In cities that raise the millage, some property owners can expect a tax hike because taxes are calculated by multiplying the millage by the property's assessed value, he said.
Mr. Spool agrees that property owners in areas hard-hit by foreclosures and short sales are likely to appeal. When County Appraiser Pedro Garcia evaluated properties this year, he didn't take into account foreclosures. Doing so would have cut many assessments further.
But as a magistrate, Mr. Spool said, he would consider foreclosures in an appeal, depending on the condition of the foreclosed property. "Many are not in the same condition as the property being considered."
As for commercial properties, Mr. Dixon forecasts more appeals this year because commercial assessments were not significantly lowered.
Overall, Mr. Spool expects fewer homeowners to go before the adjustment board this year seeking appeals because "they're going to be more satisfied with their assessments."
Starting Friday, property owners can appeal online, the board's Mr. Alfaro said. But he said they should first consider an informal conference with the Property Appraiser's Office.
This year's tax appeals won't be heard until the adjustment board finishes hearing 2008 tax appeals, he said, which it hopes to do by December.
For those planning to appeal, Mr. Dixon warns, "hardship is not a basis to appeal."
He said it's important to show sale prices of properties sold around Jan. 1, the date the value was set, to verify that the property's data is accurate, and to not feel intimidated by the appeals process.
"It's explaining to someone why you think the property is over assessed."