Taxpayers’ Reliance on MLS to Find Market Value Rejected
A real property trial was held in Reznick v. Twp. of Marlboro wherein plaintiffs challenged their residential property tax assessment. Plaintiffs had initially filed to the Monmouth County Board of Taxation which reduced the assessment from $909,000 down to $862,000. Plaintiff thereafter appealed to the Tax Court seeking a reduction of the assessment to $800,000.
At trial, plaintiffs did not present a real estate appraiser as an expert witness. Instead, plaintiffs relied upon their own research of five comparable sales using the County Board’s website (www.njactb.org), and the Multiple Listing Services (“MLS”). Plaintiffs made no market-based adjustments for the differences in amenities, size, or age. Although they had made exterior observations of few of the comparable sales, they did not personally inspect the interiors. Based on the average sale prices of all comparable sales, plaintiffs reached a value conclusion of $800,000.
At the end of plaintiff’s case in chief, the Township moved to dismiss the complaint for plaintiff’s failure to overcome the presumption of validity. The Tax Court agreed with the municipality and granted the motion. The Tax Court reasoned plaintiffs’ reliance on MLS property listings was problematic since “the information on this site is a realtor’s rendition of data based upon his or her inspection and opinion and can include information provided by unidentified and sometimes unsophisticated third parties and ca be erroneous or speculative.” Plaintiffs further failed to independently verify the details of any of the sales, and made no attempt to adjust for differences between the subject and the comparable sales.
This is certainly not the first case we have come across where pro se litigants attempt to determine the market value of their property by relying on their own research and judgment. As evidenced here and from prior decisions, achieving a reduction at trial without a credible appraiser is often difficult to accomplish.
A copy of the Tax Court’s opinion can be read here.