Category Archives: Property Values

How to Dispute a Property Assessment in the State of New York

If you own property in New York State you may want to take note of an approaching day.  The Fourth Tuesday in May is Property Assessment Grievance Day in New York (some municipalities may choose to schedule it on a different day but it is always in May).  This year Grievance Day in the Towns of Webb, Forestport and Inlet falls on the 27th.  The Town of Webb requests that you have your documents submitted by May 19th this year.  The Town of Inlet would like you to schedule an informal meeting ahead of time.  Please keep in mind that your Assessor does not have any control over how much you pay in Taxes, they only have a say in the value assigned to your property.  Generally, if your full market value assessment reflects roughly the amount for which you could sell your property, then your assessment is relatively fair.

The process of challenging your assessment is the same throughout the state of New York, details can be found on the New York State Department Tax and Finance website (click here).  The same form is used in every municipality.  The form, RP–524, can be found by clicking here.  In addition to RP-524, you will need to have your own estimate of the market value of your property and supporting documentation.  There are four arguments you can use to dispute the assessed value of your property:

  1. UNEQUAL ASSESSMENT (in comparison to other similar properties)
  2. EXCESSIVE ASSESSMENT (The market value assigned to your property is  higher than what you could sell your home for in the current market)
  3. UNLAWFUL ASSESSMENT
  4. MISCLASSIFICATION

I imagine that most property owners that file a grievance do so under the claim of an Excessive Assessment.   If you recently purchased a property or if you are purchasing a property (for the less than the assessed value of the property) your contract is all the supporting documentation you need.  If you currently have your property listed with an agent (for less than your assessed market value) then your listing agreement will serve as the supporting documentation.  If you have recently had your property appraised, your appraisal can also serve as supporting documentation.

In most municipalities you can fax or mail your documents to the assessor.  I strongly advise you to confirm receipt of all of your documents several business days before the 27th.  If you have questions please call your assessor.

Town of Forestport Assessor      Phone 315-392-5547      Fax 315-392-4607

Town Of Webb Assessor            Phone 315-369-6880      Fax 315-369-3021

Town of Inlet Assessor               Phone 315-357-5726      Fax 315-357-3570

Never Trust a Zestimate.

If you spend much time on-line looking at properties you have probably stumbled across a real estate website called Zillow.  There are abundant real estate websites out there, the three biggest are Realtor.com, Trulia and Zillow.   All three sites have their merits.  I’m partial to Trulia myself as I find the site to be user friendly.  There are a few companies in the area that do not have listings onthe Adirondack MLS or Realtor.com which makes these collaborative websites a bit of a life saver.

I am often amazed by how well informed my Buyers and Sellers are as a result of the internet.  I appreciate working with well informed clients but it makes me a little sad when someone mentions a property’s “Zestimate” (Zillow’s opinion of the property’s value).   I understand that Zestimates aren’t meant to be misleading and in some markets they are even in the ball park of being accurate.  Unfortunately, the Zestimates for Adirondack Park properties can be downright comical.  It is not uncommon to find a custom waterfront home directly across the street from a seasonal hunting camp here.  Obviously the two properties can not be compared.  Zillow doesn’t understand the difference and averages the sales prices together creating a messy mathematical algorithm that is truly worthless.  Over the years I have read quite a bit of criticism of Zestimates on Realtor Forums and I was relieved to hear that Zillow has finally “Manned Up” and released their Zestimate Accuracy Data.  For Herkimer County, Zillow has a 16% median of error and over 59% of their Zestimates are 20+% higher or lower than the actual market value.  For Oneida County, Zillow has a 14.3% median of error and over 58% of their Zestimates are 20+% off the correct market value.  (Click this link to see the results for yourself).  

If you are interested in finding property data your best sources online are the Town of Webb Assessor’s Real Property Database or the Town of Forestport Assessor’s Real Property Database.  Please keep in mind that there is usually a healthy gap between the assessed property value and the true market value of a property.  Often the data used to arrive at the assessed value can be several years old.  

What is Selling in the Adirondacks?

Surprisingly enough we actually had a pretty busy Summer and Fall in Adirondack real estate.  EVERYONE is looking for a deal in this market!  Unfortunately, deals are few and far between and often receive multiple offers.  While our market has and is still adjusting, I would hardly say we are having the “fire sale” that some Buyers have been hoping for!  The idea that this may be the lowest market the Adirondacks will see in the foreseeable future has increased demand in several segments of our market; namely year-round waterfront and mid-range year-round lake rights properties.  In my personal opinion we are at the “low” for waterfront real estate.  Going forward, the sale prices fetched by those properties currently under contract will have a large effect on the asking prices of new inventory for the next year or so.  It is possible there will still be some adjustment necessary for off water properties.

The properties that are selling rather quickly are year-round waterfront properties (on motorized lakes) in the $350,000 – $500,000 range; if there were more of these available I would have several very pleased clients!  There is also a high demand for properties with lake rights (on motorized lakes) in the $200,000 to $275,000 range.  I have had quite a few calls from individuals looking for off water properties with deeded dock space.  The first four lakes of the Fulton Chain Lakes and White Lake receive more inquiries than the Old Forge Pond, Otter Lake or Sixth and Seven Lake.  Raquette Lake lakefront properties sell rather quickly, however they are rarely available.  Waterfront properties on non-motorized lakes and rivers do sell for quite a bit less than those on more navigable waterways.  I usually ask Buyers a little bit about their hobbies; sometimes a non-motorized lake or river suits their needs and may have been overlooked.  If you are into paddle sports and enjoy peace and quiet then a non-motorized lake might be a budget friendly alternative to the popular motorized lakes.

Seasonal property sales are very slow.  The rising popularity of snowmobiling has changed the demand for Seasonal properties; many Buyers will not even consider them.  For year-round properties, I have noticed a high preference for those with garages and/or convenient trailer parking.  Quite a few investors are interested in properties that can be rented one season and used as a personal vacation home in the other.  My concern is that this possible increase in rentals will flood the rental market, perhaps lowering revenues for those properties currently offered as rentals.

In regard to purchase prices, several years ago low offers were often completely rejected; in this economy Sellers have entertained/countered offers 15-20% below asking.  We advise our Sellers to at least counter an undesirable offer.  When the opportunity to sell presents itself versus continued maintenance and tax bills, sales prices can be rather surprising.  If you would like to purchase Adirondack Real Estate don’t wait for the bottom or you may miss it.