July 26, 1995
Board of Tax Appeals
910 5th Ave. SE
P.O. Box 40915
Olympia, WA 98504-0915
Subject:- Docket No. 46741
We take the statement in your May 31 letter, "This Board considers evidence which estimates a market value for the subject property based on analysis of comparable sales (when available) to be most persuasive", quite literally and will attempt to illustrate our position with relevant data.
The 3 comparables used by the Assessor's office have significant differences from the our property, and in fact are not representative at all - since two key elements that are particular to our property have been ignored:
- - - - flood damage
- - - - well contamination
None of the 'comparables' have either condition. Since each of these sold after the 'big' flood of 1990, none of them needed to disclose, as we must (if we ever sell), that we have suffered flood damage.
In April 1993, after all comparables sold, we participated in a voluntary well testing program. Tests performed at Heidelberg College (Tiffin, Ohio) revealed the presence of Triazine in our well water. In October, 1993 the manufacturer of atrazine (Ciba-Geigy Corp.) and Washington Department of Agriculture retested. Over a year later, December of 1994, we were notified that no traces were found above the detection level. We have since requested a retesting, which took place in June of 1995. Based on previous performance on the part of the test takers it might be July of 1996 before we know the results. One has to assume, and currently has to report on disclosure forms, knowledge of well contamination.
The comparables only similarity to our property is their location on State Highway 12.
Comparable #1 is in Thurston County, in the Rochester school district (please see the page on Population and Residential Home Sales). The market in Thurston County is so different as to simply prove there is no market for even unflooded, uncontaminated homes in Grays Harbor County.
This home was never flooded. It is the site of a large commercial truck operation and has a commercial value in addition to a home value. Large buildings, extra electrical power, large amounts of concrete parking area - all point to a significantly different transaction.
It is interesting to note, that the Assessor's Comparable's worksheet puts the value of that land and outbuildings at a lower value than ours, even though they are bigger, have a different siding and construction, and serve an entirely different purpose. That adjustment was $69,150 and our comparable one would be $77,005. Those buildings and their improvements are worth significantly more than 2 metal barns with dirt floors. Since that deduction raises or lowers the per square foot calculation, this makes a difference!
Comparable #2 is here on the list simply because it sold. This is a single story, shake roofed home, close to Highway 12 and exposed to the intersection to Anderson Road. The previous owners had multiple break-ins, one owner installed wrought iron bars over the windows (later removed to aid in selling) and another owner installed a chain link fence for protection and sold it again. The outbuildings are entirely different and serve a different purpose.
The Assessor's Comparable's worksheet, based on the data given us last year, has the wrong total for land and outbuildings. It shows only $34,730 and our figures add up to $38,730.
We have a letter from the previous owners stating that the home was never flooded. That letter is in your packet already.
Comparable #3 totally mystifies us. Not only is it significantly smaller (by 800 sq ft), detached garage - and no out buildings, and the Assessor's calculated price per square foot, of over $108.00, is a red flag. The rumor is the purchaser 'bought' the timber. The reality is it appears that a multiple family, detached structure is constructed on the lot. Since this home is close to the new Chehalis Casino, the multiple family dwelling, though perhaps not permitted, seems logical.
The comparable's workshee t, which we had not seen before this week , throws us for a curve. Any errors, or seller-buyer deals included in the purchase price - serve to exaggerate the ensuing calculations. Two of the comparables have more than 'traditional real estate' as part of the sales price. Using that data simply increases per square foot figures and allows a higher indicated 'adjusted' market value.
Our attachment of Aug 4, 1994 used a similar, but simpler approach. Deduct the other improvements and land from the sales price and divide by the square footage. The result is the apparent sales price or market value per square foot. The results, restated are:
- Comp 1- $41.65 - No flooding or flood damage, not in the flood plain
- Comp 2- $38.78- In the 100 yr flood plain, no flooding
- Comp 3- $38.42- In the 100 yr flood plain, no flooding
- Ours- - $55.97- In the 100 yr flood plain, flooding, flood damage and contaminated well
Errata - The Assessor's flood plain map places our home close to Highway 12, when in fact, it is adjacent to the Black River at the far northern end of the property. The house is 30 feet from the river, not anywhere close to the highway. We are in Flood Zone A - 100 year events.
The location for Comparable #1 is east of the spot shown on the copy sent us. The home site is roughly located where the word 'STUDY' appears, far removed from flood zone A, it is securely placed in Flood Zone B! Flood zone B is 100 - 500 year events.
We've already pointed out some value errors in the Land and Outbuilding figures for the first 2 comparable parcels. Other than the outrageously high per square foot value for #3, the timber value certainly had to be more than the $3,000 allowed in the $40,500 deduction - since the land and improvements total $ 37,000
Summary: We have covered a lot of material, most in response to the documents recently submitted by the Assessor's office.
To respond specifically to the assessor's claim of August 30, 1994, which triggered this entire process: "Flooding conditions are accounted for in market study. There is no basis for a conclusion of well contamination" .
We have done hours of research . We cannot find a sale anywhere of flood damaged homes. We cannot find sales of comparable homes within our own school district. We can find evidence of dozens of home sales just across the county line in Thurston County .
Perhaps there is just not a real estate market in Oakville school district in Grays Harbor County!! The material presented on Population and Residential Home Sales illustrates the lack of comparable sales information, not just information, but sales period. Home sales aren't happening in Oakville. It is not a seller's market. It is a buyers market if you can find a buyer. There is nothing that we have discovered which justifies the 38% increase in market value that the assessor claims, especially after our local Board of Equalization decided it was unjustified.
People seem very willing to buy homes, build homes, and move into the Rochester School district. Their enrollment increase by 368 students in 4 years, while in this county our school district enrollment dropped by 72 students. We do not know of any market study which takes into consideration sales of homes in a flood plain, while people are basically moving out of the area!! In fact there have been no new sales of homes over 2,000 sq ft in this district since the last time we fought this increase.
The atrazine contamination report for our well is attached. If the Assessor's office wants to join us in testing our well, and the wells of our neighbors, we will be happy to call the County Health Department, the Department of Agriculture and invite them in to test the wells in eastern Grays Harbor County. Since atrazine is a chemical used on tree farms, corn and peas, we are really interested in finding out what the size of the problem is. The East Chehalis Aquifer is already contaminated and has been documented by a study produced by Washington Department of Ecology. A copy of portions of that report was included in our earlier appeal. The potential impact on property values is rightly a concern for everyone. Neither buyers or sellers want to face the issue of a contaminated well. We fully understand that situation!
The bottom line to all of this is: "What are you willing to pay for a home which is in a 100 year flood plain, it has had flood waters in it, there have been 5 flood events recently, and the well water is contaminated?" Believe us, we wouldn't be fighting this appeal process, if we had known what we know now!
Ellen Palmer- - - - - Dave Palmer
cc: Grays Harbor Assessor
attachment:- Well test report
- - Population and Residential Home Sales information
P.S. You might have noticed the "Business" comment on the picture the assessor submitted. Glad he reminded us, as we might have overlooked that. We are happy to report that our gross farm income was $4287. That's about $350/mo. Not quite enough to support two people very well, certainly not in these days of theoretical 38% increases....
This page created and maintained by Dave Palmer
Dave and Ellen Palmer 7475 State Route 12 Oakville, Washington 98568 360/273-8117