System of property assessment is flawed

For 2017, we were hit with a large property assessment increase. We challenged and discovered that the assessor made an $84,000 mistake. The challenge took time and energy. How does one go about such a challenge?

To prepare, I researched 16 adjacent properties on our street, expecting an average 15 percent increase in value. However, I discovered a roller-coaster assessment — from a 33 percent value decrease to a 220 percent value increase for 2017.

The deeper I dug, the more I became convinced that our difficulties are not an isolated problem but are dwarfed by the system’s systemic assessment problems. Its method is too arbitrary, too obscure, open to interpretation, and not applied math-friendly.

Since there had been no sales in our neighborhood, our property assessment was based on three “similar or comparable” properties — twice the value of our property and located miles from where we live.

Such an absurd assessment method is different from standard real estate business practices, where a property is valued by size, quality and location. The price we paid in 1987 was based on existing values in this particular neighborhood.

I suggested that the assessor value properties in accordance with established real estate practices. Use the worth of the next-door property. The assessor wrote to me: “We cannot use your neighbor’s value as a comparison to yours.” Why not? We compare prices with anything we buy with “similar or comparable” products.

During my research, I discovered that our neighbor’s land to the north, a 15 percent larger carbon copy of our land, was assessed $105,000 lower than our smaller unstable land that experienced a 1997 mudslide.

My neighbor to the south was assessed $154,000 per acre for his land, five times larger than ours, while we were assessed $528,000 per acre.

I discovered that a one-acre high-quality parcel was assessed $123,000 higher than the next door neighbor’s three-acre land of the same high quality.

Do these figures make any sense?

It seems the system is deeply flawed and uses arbitrary values having little to do with quality, size or location.

James Behrend

Bainbridge Island