Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Like the square root of negative one

(Note Wednesday January 11: If this is your first time here and are only interested in Allegheny County property assessments, before you look at the maps, you probably want to look at this earlier post where I go through explicitly the tax neutrality calculation. Otherwise, welcome.)

So again, assuming that tax rates are reset as they must by law and that the revenue neutral rate is calculated based on the 58% increase in real estate values that has been reported in the news.  I have shown my calculation that it means 65% of parcels will see a tax decrease in the city of Pittsburgh and that fewer than 25% will see a tax increase of 10% or more. 

But numbers are boring.  So here is what I am calculating for a map all of the residential parcels in the city of Pittsburgh that will see a tax increase of 10% or more.  Each dot is a single parcel and only those with an estimated tax bill increasing under the new assessment by 10% or more are shown.  Is the equivalent of a nominal assessment increase of 74% or more.

(note January 13: As some have noted, there are some points not plotting on the maps. I'm refining the maps and will be reposting and adding more.  Maybe some neighborhood by neighborhood comparisons soon. It does not affect any of the distribution tabulations, i.e. the calculation of 65% looking at a tax decrease, etc.)

Tax bills increasing by 10% or more with new assessment numbers.

Lots to be taken from that map.  Does anyone really disagree with dramatic price appreciation over a full decade in the places with the most concentrated potential assessment increases.  South Side Flats, Lawrenceville, the edges of Highland Park and East Liberty, Mexican War streets.  Kind of writes the story of redevelopment in the city of Pittsburgh we almost universally shout out as a positive story, except now when it comes to taxation.  Funny that.

The alternative version of that map, one showing each parcel that can expect a tax decrease by 10% or more. That is the equivalent of a nominal increase in assessed value of 42% or less.

Tax bills decreasing by 10% or more with new assessment numbers.

So those maps surprised me even and I checked a couple times, spot checked and rechecked and it sure checks out for me. Remember a green dot is a nominal assessment increase of 74% or greater for the first map, and everything including what may seem dramatic increases up to 42% are the red dots in the 2nd map.  I've talked to innumerable homeowners in the city at this point, virtually all livid or scared. Yet in 90+% of the cases I have talked one on one about, when I learn their assessment increases it is for jumps well below 58%, most well under and likely to get a tax cut out of this, yet they just can't believe that.

Of course, it would be good if the county did this on their own so there would be no doubt.  One thing going on is that the micro regions where taxes might increase are more concentrated than they appear and the density of those dots stack upon each other quite a bit, whereas the properties that will likely see a decrease are virtually everywhere, including within the areas where some properties will see increases. 

Also for those still staring at the maps.  The dots are probably too big in a sense and there are an awful lot of parcels in the city to squeeze in there. Earlier I showed that the ratio of parcels with taxes likely to go up vs those going down was 1:2.  Realize here I am ignoring for the moments everything in the middle, with tax changes plus or minus 10 percent.  The ratio of properties at the extremes here, greater than 10% change is more lopsided.  So the number on the negative really outweigh the number on the positive extreme which mostly reflects just how low valued so many city parcels remain even after appreciation in some select neighborhoods.  Put another way.. takes 10 $40K homes with 10% tax decreases to offset the revenue change from one $400K home (yes they exist in the city) with a 10% increase. 

If you are still incredulous.  Here is a factoid.  With the base year 2002 assessments.  86% of all residential parcels in the city of Pittsburgh were valued under $100K.  So if you are disagreeing because you are taking a personal sample of say 10 properties and they are all valued at over $100K, the probability that you have a random draw of residential parcels in the city of Pittsburgh is way too small to even be measured in nano-mills so you just can't extrapolate to anything city-wide.

You know.. I think I'm going to run those maps through a Fourier filter of some kind.  I'm not sure anyone has studied gentrification that way..  well, Im sure someone has.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post Chris. Thanks. One thing though. In the first map, I'm seeing large green dots and a roughly equivalent number of smaller yellow ones. It's not my eyes, but it could be my computer/monitor I guess. Can you explain?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 9:15:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

my eyes too must be getting weaker. I'll have to fix it later today. I had some scales in there for the middle range which I through I took out.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 9:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Chris. One other thing--if we're still using the old assessments as per Rich's directive, why have they been removed from the real estate website? Only 2011 figures are up now, so can't compare old with new numbers.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 9:33:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

You've got it backward. They scrubbed the new numbers from the website. The 2011 figures up are the old ones.

Also, I actually got my letter from Fitzgerald about using the old numbers. I assumed they never would have gotten to the post office. How could there have been enough time to print and send all those letters unless Fitzgerald had them all ready to go before he said anything about them?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 9:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


The exact same thought occurred to me over the weekend.

The time it takes to individually print 577,000 notices and stuff, fold, insert into individually-labeled envelopes isn't the sort of thing one can do in mere hours.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 11:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Chris from Squirrel Hill said...

While I appreciate your number crunching, I have yet to encounter anyone who has not seen an increase. My family member in Brighton Heights is seeing a nominal increase of about $8,000. However, my home in Squirrel Hill will go from $139,000 to $232,000 and many of my neighbors (all with similar homes are jumping from below $100,000 to nearly $200,000. Even more baffling is the fact that these 12 homes are located on a terrace with the same parking and access issues, the same floor plan and varying degrees of updates. My neighbor several doors down with a beautifully renovated home and every possible update is still accessed nearly $40,000 less than my fixer-upper under the scheme. The system requires fixing and soon!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 1:44:00 PM  
Blogger JRoth said...

I can see my house from here!

I'd like to know what the different size dots are, though. I see one large and one small dot in my micro-neighborhood, and I know for a fact that my house and another have seen assessment jumps (far) above the +74% increase (again, I'm +298%). I still haven't checked with the rest of the neighbors, but I doubt that we two went from under $80k to above $200k, but everyone else formerly assessed at $100k and under is reassessed at $174k or less.

IOW, sampling errors or whatever, I'm pretty sure that your dots are, somehow, wrong. To be specific, there should be a half dozen or more at the East Liberty side of the East Lib/Friendship border. Or else the reassess ors really hate just us 2.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 2:11:00 PM  
Blogger polishhilltom said...

You have now Chris; my assessment decreased.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 2:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My assessment went up almost
300%. Based on the 2012 numbers I now have the most valuable house on my block. That is certainly not the case. I hardly think my taxes will be decreased. I'm all for a modest increase but truth be told, my house is not in very good shape.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 2:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a Brighton Heights resident and my assessment raised the taxable value on my house from 62,000 to 88,000. It is ridiculous and unless my market value went up, which it didn't, this is an extreme jump!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 2:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Making news again. Hope it doesn't crash the site

Funny that they characterized a Null Space blog post as a "Pitt study". Does your department chair know?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 2:25:00 PM  
Anonymous DCW said...

I think the general idea is that most Pittsburghers will get a decrease because the relative increases in certain neighbors far exceeds the increases in others, which makes sense in light of the anti-windfall provision (we need an anti-windbag provision, too). A rise in your assessment does not necessarily result in a rise in your taxes- it depends on how big the rise in your assessment is.

Individuals still may see incongruous assessments, so an appeal is still a good idea if, as one commenter said, you suddenly have the most valuable home on the block.

Councilman Bill Peduto is hosting an informational event at West Penn Hospital tonight at 6:30 that is free and open to the public.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 2:29:00 PM  
Blogger Nick Thompson said...

Where/how did you get the data for this? Is there a way to import the numbers in bulk, as opposed to property by property which would be incredibly laborious? Especially since Fitzgerald took the 2012 numbers down fast. Just curious. Note, my raw assessment went down.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 2:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Howard Roark said...

The only problem I have with the South Side numbers is that it does not properly distinguish the older properties not updated and the older properties gutted and renovated. There is no way the gentrified older properties warrant 200 to 300 % increases.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 2:43:00 PM  
Blogger BigmacInPittsburgh said...

I'm wondering as to why taxes in parts of Homewood have decreased,dispite the high degree of sepulation going on there.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 2:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your "green dot" map is clearly not entirely accurate.

I had a 100% increase in my assessed value and there is no green dot anywhere near my residence.

I live in the "Golden Triangle"

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 2:57:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Yes, some condos, or things with block and lot numbers like condos may be missing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 3:10:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I'll add that most of the condos Downtown I looked at per a previous post had big value decreases Downtown.. and I mean nominal decreases ot just adjusted for the tax rate. Granite building had big big depreciation. Some big new condos had some of the biggest price drops in the entire city. SO you will see I am missing those red dots as well.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 3:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


For me, your data and graph simply highlight that the assessment process is flawed. Assessments are too high for some and too low for many. I live in a property that has been assessed at almost a 400% increase ($160,000) even though no updates have occurred. As I look at random data, I notice many houses that sold for more than $150,000 are assessed at less than $90,000? It makes no sense!! Let's reward the new homeowner (or investor) and penalize the 16 year middle class, city resident homeowner!! New assessments will be used, let's just make them accurate and fair...not too high, not too low...JUST FAIR!!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 3:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris in Squirrel Hill is pointing to the issue that seems most disturbing. From what I briefly saw of the new assessments in my neighborhood, there were many blatant inconsistencies from one property to the next, with no apparent regard for recent sales values or the condition of the properties. If the purpose of the court-ordered reasssessment was to correct inequities, that seems to have failed. Or at least if is corrected some inequities, it seems to have introduced others. The issue is not how much some assessments rose, but rather the arbitrariness with which some rose much more than others.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 3:33:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

Or at least if is corrected some inequities, it seems to have introduced others.

The new inequities probably don't correlate as highly with race and wealth. It is legal for a government to be really bad at what it does but it isn’t legal to discriminate.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 4:00:00 PM  
Blogger illyrias said...

Agreed with "Anonymous". It's great that the average homeowner will see their taxes go down, but from random looks around my neighborhood, it seems like there are lots of people whose taxes *should* go up (reflecting their increase in value) but aren't, and lots of people whose taxes should go down (increase less than 74% in value), but they are in line to more than double (ridiculous increases of 400%+). There just seems to be no rhyme or reason for it, and it will result in inequities because us overvalued folks will be able to appeal lower, but the (equally plentiful) under-valued folks will stay even lower.

I would love to see a graph / map which just has the comparison of houses that have actually sold in the last 3-5 years (excluding $1 family sales) and their resultant tax increase and/or decrease.

Chris, where can the rest of us get at this data?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 4:07:00 PM  
Blogger illyrias said...

Actually, MH, I am very concerned that the inequities are related to wealth (and by correlation race).

From the Post-Gazette:
"The higher the price of home, they're always going to get the benefit" of the doubt from assessors, Mr. Uhler [a former assessment hearing officer for the county from 2002 through 2006] said.

"The lower the price of home, they're always going to get the shaft."

That's because, he said, assessors are shy about placing too high or too low of a value on a property, for fear that it will raise questions.

Read more:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 4:10:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Did I not put up the diagnostics of how actual sales values in 2010 compare to the assessment values (old and new).. that was on Monday. I think that is what you are asking.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 4:13:00 PM  
Anonymous gambino said...

And the political paradox of Democrats supporting a base year scheme is amazing. Only Robin Hoods evil twin would approve. You have unlocked the mystery of the 5th grade math involved. Nowwe need a Sesame Street episode for local elected officials to get it

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 4:23:00 PM  
Blogger illyrias said...

Yes, Chris, that's exactly what I was asking for. Thanks! There's been too much white noise in this whole assessment process!

I'm one of those sub-100K people who's house assessment has sky-rocketed (+400%).

I just wish that I and every other person who was unfairly assessed didn't have to take time off of work and/or hire a lawyer to prove it. I think it should be the county's job to at least tell me why they think my house is valued so high so I can disprove it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 4:30:00 PM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

I get the sense the P-G article is sending people here who aren't reading down the blog first before posting comments (which I don't really blame them for, but I do think that background would help).

In any event--just getting the public conversation moving in this data-driven direction is very helpful, so thanks Chris!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 5:01:00 PM  
Blogger richard john walters said...

I have two properties. One in Polish and the other in Garfield. Both assessments have doubled in value. I can't believe I am that lucky minority 10% of people this has happened to. I would think this has happened to a great many other people and the county and city would reap quite a windfall in the assessments run their course.

Richard J. Walters, Esquire
5005 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh PA 15224

or 469 30th street
Pittsburgh PA 15219

if you want to run the numbers yourself

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 6:01:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...


There was an increased premium for being located next to Kraynicks.

I apologize for being snarky. Your NEW assessment is $44K. I do not know how to couch this, but that remains one of the lowest values for a commercial property in Allegheny County. I understand it is more than the $13K you were paying tax on for the last decade, but still awfully low by any comparison within the region or beyond.

Your question raises a lot of much bigger questions. Still your main street property is valued at $44K. Are you arguing that efforts like the BGC's has not raised your value even to that level. I am not saying they have or not, but if you really think nothing has happened to increase your property's values even to $44K then it really should get folks thinking about CDC in the city.

As a lifelong resident within a half mile of the location. I would say that your previous values likely represented a true nadir in Garfield's valuation. $13K is just not a normal price for a main street (rented even.. though looks for your own uses) property in a part of the city that an awful lot of development effort has been focused on.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 6:32:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I apologize again for the moment of snark. I do love Kraynicks. One of those places that benefits the whole city and beyond.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 6:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are many problems with attempting to argue from anecodotes or limited experience, neither of which give us a picture of what is really going on, but one thing that we can say, for certain, is that few properties, today, have the same value that they did in 2002.

Which means to say that some people are paying MORE than their share and some people are paying LESS. This is not only unfair, when the resources of the County Executive, who has sworn to uphold the laws of the Commonwealth, are used to perpetuate this unfairness, it is immoral!

Furthermore, what a property is worth is not what the owner thinks that it is worth. Assessments are based upon many things but not emotions.

Because the economy has stabilized in Pittsburgh (ahead of much of the rest of the country albeit at a lower overall percent of GDP), housing prices are more stable here than in, say, Detroit or Las Vegas. This will lead to a lessening of the loss of value of the property over the past decade.

The development of city properties such as the South Side Works and the Waterfront coupled with the developments in Oakland has made surrounding properties more valuable. We have already started to see migration from the suburbs back into the city reversing a decades old trend.

Finally, all of us have the right to appeal our assessments. This is the manner by which assessments are corrected, not by throwing out the system.

Roddey, Honor-not-oh and Fitzgerald have all tried to punt the football on this one and, as a result, worsened the pain for everyone.

But it needs to be done and, as I said, it is immoral to do otherwise.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 6:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Don said...

Hi Chris,
thanks for shedding some actual light on the situation, as opposed to the completely irresponsible heat and lies that our elected officials have been spewing.
Sure there are problem cases (like the parking space in Mt Wash) but overall the new values are tremendously more fair than the old ones. And fairness is the objective. Scaring residents with false tales of tax increases seems to be our largest cottage industry.
Congrats on lending data as opposed to noise to the debate.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 8:37:00 PM  
Blogger JRoth said...

One thing I want to note: every structure that you look at, by definition, is 11 years older than at the last assessment. Structures have finite lives. Allegheny County is blessed with separate land and building values. Ceteris paribus, aging structures should fall in value (relative to inflation) while land rises.

IOW, while a 95-y.o. house of a given size in a given location may have gone up in value over 11 years due to scarcity, a 95-y.o. house should be worth more than a 106-y.o. house. Therefore, for an existing building to appreciate above the inflation rate, it either must be rigorously maintained or else building values must skyrocket.

Houses in East Liberty may be more desirable than they were 11 years ago, but 11 years haven't magically replaced a roof installed in 1962, nor rebuilt 3 chimneys ready to collapse, nor repainted a lot of weather-worn wood. Needless to say, the clowns who fleeced the County with their half-assed reassessment judged that my house and land appreciated to the exact same extent. This is prima facie evidence of gross professional incompetence.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 9:37:00 PM  
Blogger JRoth said...

And I should add, to Don and anyone else who wants to represent the situation as people complaining blindly: A reassessment at 200% of the old evaluation, even 250%, would have left me silent on the subject.

I'm an architect. If I do my job poorly, I'm legally liable. It appears that the incompetents who did the reassessment are going to laugh all the way to the bank. That bothers me, a lot. If it doesn't bother you, I'm not sure what standards you think should pertain.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 9:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, by this logic, the Parthenon or the Colliseum should be worth nothing?

As an architect, JRoth, you should know that the situation is more complicated than this. Certainly modern building materials have made newer buildings more efficient, more maintainable and (possibly), more desirable. But there are an awful lot of old, beautiful, buildings who, because of materials and design, are essentially priceless.

And even in Greenfield and Lawrenceville, older buildings are desirable because people want to live close to their place of employment/school/etc. If I still worked at Pitt or UPMC and was of the right disposition, either of those locations would be ideal for me (unless I was expecting a steal).

And all of this is beside the real point, namely, that the only FAIR way to do assessments is to do them annually so that you can adjust for the changes in demand for real estate and buildings. Freezing values at decade old levels is fair to no one.

And it is a mischaracterization to state that the situation has been described as "people complaining blindly." The reality is that few of us has paid according to the real value of our property for some time so that politicians could continue to get themselves elected. If you want to be mad, be made at the spinelessness of our leaders, not the system.

Personally, I hate property taxes. It seems totally unfair to me that you should have to pay an ongoing tax on the value of an asset when you will have to pay a tax on the appreciation of that value when you sell it.

I'd rather see property taxes eliminated in favor of value added, sales and income taxes.

And as for the "incompetents" who did the reassessment, they (like every other assessors), used comparables based upon sales. And in a depressed market, where sales are few, so are comparables. And in a market which is experiencing gentrification, in which a few speculators are buying up opportunities, you are going to see spikes.

But, again, the assessments are based upon what people are paying, not what you think your asset is worth (almost anyone will think that there property is worth less if they know that their taxes are based on their assessment).

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 10:01:00 PM  
Blogger Caesar said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 10:22:00 PM  
Blogger Caesar said...

Caesar said...
Chris from Squirrel Hill and others who are complaining about the assessors failure to take into account the lack of upgrades on one house as compared to another:

The county does not know what condition your roof is in or what material your countertops are. That level of detail would require a professional APPRAISAL for each property. The cost of such an endeavor would not be the $11M that this assessment has cost us but would be in the hundreds of millions. The solution is to appeal your assessment. It is an imperfect system but its the best we can do if we wish to have a property tax. I am particularly concerned that it is the less affluent residents of the county who will be less likely to appeal their assessments for various reasons.

That being said, I would not be the least bit surprised to learn that the County did a sloppy job on purpose in order to drum up opposition to the assessment process. Fitzgerald and Onorato are quite content to continue using base year numbers which result, generally, in poor residents paying too much and wealthier residents not paying their fair share.

At least I can be proud of the fact that I wrote in my own name for county executive this past May. Can all of the readers of this blog please remember this debacle when Rich is up for reelection in 4 years? I would also like the rest of the "leaders" who stood behind Rich during that farcical press conference to please justify themselves. Mike Lamb, Bill Peduto, Patrick Dowd... I was especially abhorred to see you guys among that crowd of hacks.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 10:25:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

And even in Greenfield and Lawrenceville

Oh, snap.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 11:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MH: I'm sure that your point is intended to be pithy. But how about some substance instead of chatter.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 11:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, I should mention that Greenfield, strategically, is one of the most significant opportunities in Pittsburgh.

Anyone who would complain about Greenfield property values rising is either ignorant of Greenfield's strategic opportunity to be one of the most desirable locations in the 'burg, or simply trying to game the market for themselves.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 11:44:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

I took it to be the sort of vaguely insulting compliment Greenfield gets frequently despite the fact that the Giant Eagle now has an electric car charging station.

I don't know if Greenfield is strategic or not, but I suspect the property valuations were mostly accurate in the areas that had seen the most appreciation.

Thursday, January 12, 2012 12:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You were my second choice Caesar, after Dolney. We need to get you on the committee. Talk to you soon - The other Chris from Squirrel Hill

Thursday, January 12, 2012 9:02:00 AM  
OpenID foodmeonce said...

Thanks for sharing the maps - it amazes me that county government either doesn't have the wherewithal in their GIS department to produce similar maps to easily explain the overall impact of the reassessment values on the city, or if they do, the politicians don't realize the value of explaining the reassessment system so people don't panic. I'm in the section of Highland Park that has seen some increases, and my reassessed value was almost exactly the price I paid for it three years ago, so as far as I can see the system is working correctly. Then again, when the county reassessed my house when I purchased it (the previous owners had been there for 54 years so was grossly underassessed), my research and comps came up with a value of almost $20K than the comps the county came up with. Which goes back to my concern about the county's overall competence. It's not an easy issue for sure, but it's helpful to have some clarity on the subject from your posts.

Thursday, January 12, 2012 10:05:00 AM  
OpenID foodmeonce said...

value of almost $20K *higher*, sorry. Now my sentence makes sense.

Thursday, January 12, 2012 10:06:00 AM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

As we have discussed a bit before, the County is deliberately keeping information and analysis like this from the public because it would severely undermine the political strategies of the County's top elected officials. In other words, those officials actively WANT confusion and panic, and very much do not want everyone figuring out what a reassessment would really mean in terms of taxes paid by various property owners.

Thursday, January 12, 2012 10:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The County doesn't do the assessments, itself, it hires an outside firm which uses standard methods. Whether those methods can be appropriately applied to all properties in Allegheny County is arguable which is why there is an appeals process.

No measure will please all of the people all of the time.

As BrianTH said, County officials have known all along that reassessments would benefit lower income and working class residents and result in higher taxes on the highest income residents. One only has to look at home sales figures in Sewickley and compare the most recent purchase price to the assessed value to see how unfair the system is (a house which was purchased 2 years ago for $500k is currently assessed at $189k).

What I have never figured out is how they can have the nerve to call themselves Democrats when their policies are so regressive but, apparently, most of the electorate is willing to be duped.

Thursday, January 12, 2012 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger Caesar said...

Oh right, Chris (other Chris), I actually votes for Dolney too

Thursday, January 12, 2012 11:32:00 AM  
Anonymous BoB said...

The purchasing power of the dollar has decreased 25% from 2002 to 2011. So for every $1 spent in 2002 it now costs $1.25. If a property's true value has remained constant over the period of 2002-2011. the representation of the value in 2002 would be Y dollars(2002 dollars)...the same value represented in 2011 would be 1.25Y dollars(2011 dollars)..So when someone states my assessment went up/down..The only way to compare the values is in the same year dollars..apples to apples not apples(2002 dollars) to oranges(2011 dollars).

Thursday, January 12, 2012 12:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Chris from Squirrel Hill said...

I guess one additional point that has not been made is "why Allegheny County?" My in-laws live in the Northeast corner of Butler County. He said the last time their property was reassessed was 1969 - how is that fair?

Thursday, January 12, 2012 2:08:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

It may or may not be fair depending on relatively changes in value across Butler county. That is, it may or may not be unfair to various people in Butler County, and if it is, they should consider filing suit. However, it certainly has nothing to do with making things fair among the property owners of Allegheny County.

The comments of Fitzgerald and other officials on this point are absurd.

Thursday, January 12, 2012 2:20:00 PM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

I'd agree that's unfair--to Butler County.

That's always been the logical flaw in this argument, particularly in the legal context: more accurate assessments in Allegheny County is not unfair to Allegheny County, even if it may be unfair to other nearby counties. For good or ill, though, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has held this issue must be addressed county by county by the courts, although the state legislature could do something comprehensive.

Thursday, January 12, 2012 2:24:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

And I try not to agree with Brian.

Thursday, January 12, 2012 2:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris from Squirrel Hill:

It isn't fair. The only fair way to do assessments is to do a County-wide assessment, once, adjust with appeals, and then use yearly sales data to make corrections for changes in the market.

Butler County officials are probably facing the same issue as Allegheny County. Lower tax rates and property values coupled with our "investment" in highways has made it more attractive for people who work in Allegheny County to live in a surrounding county.

I suspect that were these properties (once farmlands) to be reassessed at 2012 levels there would be a huge increase in the assesseed value.

Thursday, January 12, 2012 4:29:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

and then use yearly sales data to make corrections for changes in the market.

I don't understand what that means. How is adjusting for changes in the market different from assessing again?

Thursday, January 12, 2012 4:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand what that means. How is adjusting for changes in the market different from assessing again?

Different places do it different ways, however, the initial (baseline) assessment looks at every property in detail (which is why it costs so much) and serves to create the comparables (cohort group) to which your property will be assigned.

In subsequent years, those assessments are adjusted via a formula which takes into account such things as the changes in value for properties in your cohort group, economic development which could affect the value of your property independent of any changes that you make, yourself, the Consumer Price Index, etc.

It would be practically and fiscally impossible to do the same assessment each year that was done in the base year so, instead, property values for all cohorts change by the same percentage.

Your cohort group doesn't change unless you appeal, make significant changes to your property that are recorded, somewhere or another baseline assessment is completed.

Thursday, January 12, 2012 6:14:00 PM  
Blogger illyrias said...

Chris, Thanks for attempting to put all this data out there.

Given all your data, I'm now coming around to the possibility that the worst-assessed areas are in the border areas. Quesitonable areas that border nice rising neighborhoods. I'm definitely agreed that South Side Flats and Lawrenceville have very justified price increases over the last decade, but it seems to me that on the border of Allentown and the South Side Slopes (as a particular instance), there is some seriously out-of-whack stuff. I'd try to investigate my theory further but the county rescinded all the data...

Overall, I wish all the #s erred on the side of too high, rather than too low. No one will ever appeal an assessment that's too low.

And I have many local anecdotes of folks that were assessed at values 100K or more below what they paid in the last 5 years.

Just 2 egregious examples:

815 Arlington Ave -
2012 Total Market Value $107,300
Purchased 12/5/2008 $340,000

809 Arlington Ave -
2012 Total Market Value $99,500
Purchased 5/20/2008 $246,000

I (and many others) would be happy if there could be a follow-up review of all the cases like that and to see if the drop is justified.

While the new assessment may be fairer, that doesn't make it fair. I agree we shouldn't throw out the baby with the bathwater, but that doesn't mean we should all pretend everything is perfect with the new assessment.

Friday, January 13, 2012 2:07:00 PM  

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