Ever since the new assessments were released by the Philadelphia Office of Property Assessment (OPA) last month, our phones have been ringing off the hook with property owners wanting to engage our services. Believe me, I’m not complaining. It’s a great problem to have.
However, more times than not, especially with residential callers, I suggest a “wait and see” approach. The fact of the matter is that the OPA is trying something completely new this year…the First Level Review (FLR). The FLR was established as a way for property owners to dispute the assessment without having to go through the appeal process. In the FLR, the property owner can file documents (including photos and recent appraisals) that state why they feel their property is improperly assessed. That will initiate an informal review by the Office of Property Assessment (OPA).
Here’s where the confusion sets in. Most homeowners that call us are under the impression that the FLR is an appeal, which it is not. As stated above, it is an informal review conducted by an OPA Evaluator that could result in the assessment being lowered, increased or remaining the same.
The most important part of initiating a First Level Review (along with any photos, additional documentation and appraisals) is to do so by March 31, 2013 or 30 days from when you received the Assessment Change Notice. So, it is very important that you check your Notice and know when it was received. That being said, it is not always necessary to submit an appraisal along with your FLR . It may help your case, however, your case may be strong enough on its own merits without having to incur the expense of an appraisal.
The ”Wait and See” Approach: Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like to turn away work. But, what I suggest to property owners is that they file the FLR citing their reasons and rationales, and then “wait and see” what the results are. If they get a reduction, great! They did so without having to put out $350-450 for an appraisal. If they didn’t get a reduction or maybe got an increase, then they can file for a formal appeal with the Board of Revision of Taxes. This is when having a full appraisal of the property completed will be best investment. Now, if a property owner is insistent upon having an appraisal to file along with their FLR paperwork, I’m more than happy to oblige.
So be sure to get your First Level Review paperwork in by the deadline. If you are not sure of your particular deadline, check your Notice or call the OPA at 215.686.9200.
As a side note, if you decide to move ahead and get an appraisal to submit along with your FLR or appeal, I strongly recommend having a full appraisal with interior and exterior inspections. The main reason is that with a full inspection, the appraiser instantly has more accurate information about the subject property than the assessor, who rarely has the opportunity or time to inspect the interior of a property. Right off the bat, the appraiser has a superior understanding of the subject’s interior condition, actual size and knows if there is any damage. Why wouldn’t you want to have better information than your opponent (the assessor)? In my opinion, Drive-by appraisals or BPOs don’t cut it when appealing your tax assessment. You may save some money but, you get what you pay for. If your appraiser and the assessor appear at the appeal hearing with the same information based on an exterior inspeciton and public record data, guess who’s going to lose? Hint, not the assessor.
If you have any questions about your Assessment Notice or if you need an Residential or Commercial Appraisal to submit along with your Assessment Appeal, please feel free to contact The Coyle Group at 215.836.5500 or firstname.lastname@example.org