Tax Appeal Deadlines

We received a question today that was posted to our Ask PAB! page.  The question was a simple one but very important if you are considering to appeal your tax assessment.

“How strict are the deadlines for county tax assessment appeals?”

Simply put, they are very important.  If you miss the filing deadline you miss your opportunity to reduce your assessment for another year.  No excuses, no second chances.  In fact, not filing on time could cost a property owner thousands of dollars in unnecessary taxes.

The deadlines for the counties in the Philadelphia region are as follows:

  • Berks County, August 15, 2011
  • Bucks County, August 1, 2011
  • Chester County, August 1, 2011
  • Delaware County, August 1, 2011
  • Lehigh County, August 1, 2011
  • Montgomery County, September 1, 2011
  • Philadelphia County, October 6, 2011

If you are filing an appeal this year, we strongly recommend filing in person at the county assessor’s office.  When delivering your documents be sure to request a receipt from the clerk.  This creates a paper trail that shows when you filed and who took receipt of your documents.   If you are mailing your documents send them certified mail, so that there is a record of them being received.  The counties receive thousands of appeals each year and sometimes things fall through the cracks.

When filing be prepared to pay any necessary filing fees.  The fees will vary from county to county.  For any fees that pertain to your specific county we recommend visiting the Assessor’s website or calling their office.

You should also note that if the filing deadline falls on a weekend the assessor’s office may move the deadline to the following business day.  Again, this is something you should verify with your county’s assessor’s office. 

The appeal filing must be completed with appropriate documentation and fees no later than the end of business on the deadline date.  However, that does’t mean that you can’t file days or weeks prior to the deadline.

If you have any questions about tax assessment appeals please contact our office.  We will be glad to assist you.


Land to Value Ratios

The Coyle Group - Land - Philadelphia Appraisers

We received this question from a local Realtor concerning land to value ratios as they relate to the appraisal process.

“I remember hearing percentages thrown around with regard to land value vs house value in appraisals for conventional financing.  Is it true that the land can only be worth a percentage of the total price being paid and if so, what is a good percentage/number to be working with as a rule of thumb?”

Great question, thanks for submitting it.

As for the land to value ratio, there really is no number set in stone by appraisers or the appraisal profession.  From an appraisal point of view the land value will be based on comparable sales and the Highest & Best Use of the land.  In some cases, the land value will comprise a large part of the overall value of a piece of property.  This will depend on location, permitted usage, etc.  An example of this would be down the Shore where the land value makes up the majority of the of the total improved value a given property.

From what I understand, the idea of a percentage is something that created by loan underwriters and evolved out of the Great Depression.  At that time, the old home loan organizations lost millions making loans on vacant parcels.  Now, when the market goes south, the last thing a bank wants to have in it’s portfolio are loans on vacant land.  Vacant land is the one of the hardest things to get off the books in a down economy.  Hence the 30% rule grew as an arbitrary benchmark.  If the site value was more than 30% of the total value of an improved property, the property was considered to have too much land.  This is also why many lenders will not touch unimproved land for lending.

That being said, generally speaking, most loan underwriters are looking for a land to value ratio of 30% or less.

The Coyle Group, LLC is one of the most well-respected and sought after appraisal firms in the greater Philadelphia area specializing in residential and commercial appraisals for divorce, bankruptcy, estate, date of death, tax appeals, pre-listings, and more. For more info contact us at 215-836-5500,, or email us at



Mount Airy Trends

Being located in Erdenheim, just outside the city limits, we are frequently asked to appraise properties in northwestern Philadelphia, especially Chestnut Hill, Mount Airy, Roxborough and Manayunk. 

The other day we received our first question for the Ask PAB! section of the site.  It was submitted by a local agent who works primarily in the northwest section of Philly.  She typically deals with entry level and first time buyers.  For that segment of the market, Mount Airy offers a great selection of housing options for her clientele, in a wide range of price points and design styles.   It has very appealing housing stock, access to transportation, shopping, proximity to Center City and the suburbs and very unique community atmosphere.  Her question was simply:

 “How have Mt. Airy twins and rows been performing over the past couple of years?”

Below is a chart of the sales of 3-4 bedroom twins and rowhomes in Mt. Airy from January 2008 through December 2010.  Click on the chart to enlarge.

The blue dots indicate the sales of 3 bedroom homes; the red dots represent the 4 bedroom sales.  Our sample produced 341 sales of 3 bedrooms and 105 sales of 4 Bedroom homes, in Mt. Airy, during that time period.  The green and yellow lines depict the linear sale price trends for 3 and 4 bedroom houses, respectively.

The trend lines indicate that both 3 and 4 bedroom homes are moving downward.  However, it appears as though the 4 bedroom properties are experiencing a deeper shift that the 3 bedrooms, which are riding a flatter trend.  This is likely due to the fact that there are fewer 4 bedrooms homes and, as a result, fewer 4 bedroom sales.  With a smaller sample, it is easier for a few sales to influence the trend.  Conversely, with a greater number of samples it is less likely that a handful of sales to move the trend so dramatically.

If you have a question about real estate markets and trends in the Philadelphia region, please visit our Ask PAB! page to submit your inquiry.


Price vs Value

I was invited to speak at the monthly meeting of local Caldwell Banker Agents and Brokers. I was there to discuss the appraisal process, recent market trends and how the HVCC is affecting agents and their clients.

After speaking, I opened up the floor to questions. One of the first questions was a great one. The agent asked me to explain the difference between Price and Value. I’ve been thinking about it and have come up with the following explanation.

When viewed against the backdrop of recent marketplaces shifts both locally and nationally over the past few years, the difference between Price and Value has become more and more important to understand. In fact, I feel that most Agents and their clients are using the terms incorrectly.

When discussing a property most Agents and their clients are thinking in terms of price. “What is the price of the house”, “will they come down in price”, “that price is high/low” and my favorite “did the appraisal come in at the selling price?” The fundamental problem in these scenarios is that it is not about price, it’s about value. The focus should be on what the value of the home is, not the price. Value takes into consideration today’s market and underlying market conditions. Price often does not.

Price is a marketing tool. By setting a price, the Seller is actually choosing a segment buyers who will hopefully see the price as being the value of the property. The closer the Seller positions the price to the true value of the property, the larger the pool of potential Buyers the house will appeal to. Just the opposite is true, as well. The further the price is placed from the actual value of a property, the smaller the pool of buyers who will see that value.

An example of this was this property in Gladwyne. This property was listed in 2009 for $19,500,000. It was eventually withdrawn from the market. In 2010, it was re-listed for $17,900,000. All totaled, the house sat on the market for more that 660 days.

This is a situation where the Seller priced the house so far above the perceived value placed on it by the market, that they effectively diminished the pool of potential buyers to zero. This market did not support the price that was being asked

Remember value is guided by the market. Price is guided by the individual Selling the property. If the price is not supported by the market, no sale will occur.

Common perception is that price and value are interchangable. They are not. Value relates to what something is really worth.  That is, what could one expect to receive in terms of money in the free market?  It doesn’t matter what the value was last year, last month, or even last week. Value is determined by the conditions and influences of the current marketplace. Too often, sellers get hung up on that fact when the marketplace moves in the other direction. They don’t want to acknowledge the fact that their home was worth $800,000 a year ago and, based on supply and demand, is only worth $700,000 in today’s market. Value is determined by the scarcity of something and the ease of replacement with similar, equal, or better products or service (i.e. The Principle of Substitution).  In its most basic form, this is a simple function of supply and demand.