I'm finding some puzzling things in the October, 2007 Stamford assessment database, and wonder how they might be explained.
I'll show the value in the assessment database, and then the "100% value," obtained by dividing that figure by .7.
1. There are properties whose assessments should be more similar to each other:
Case 1: Bulls Head -- two adjacent properties:
- 1.39 acres, assessed at $2,299,400 ($3,285,000)
- 1.50 acres, assessed at $4,142,020 ($5,917,171 -- pretty close to the July 2006 transaction price of $5.6 million)
(That's BankAmerica's drive-in branch and the site of the new CVS store. They are among the properties listed as 0 Long Ridge Road.)
Not far away is a 15 acre corporate property, assessed at $10,208,800 ($14,584,000). That's quite a low valuation for the last 13.5 acres! And I can't find the valuation for the 12.4 acre Lord & Taylor property for comparison's sake. (An address or an owner name would be a help. I've searched on many variations.)
And directly across Long Ridge Road is a 0.96 acre property, whose land is assessed at $2,585,090 ($3,693,000)
Case 2: Two adjacent properties on Havemeyer Lane have amazingly different valuations
- 77 Havemeyer Lane - 19.69 acres, assessed at $21,994,950 ($31,421,357) sold 2/07 for $34,000,000
- 122 Palmers Hill Rd - 21.88 acres, assessed at $11,125,560 ($15,893,657) [10/06, it was assessed at $14,428,720; how could it have lost value?? That land sold for $9.3 million in 1997! Could it only have appreciated that little?]
Case 3: Two adjacent properties on Bedford Street have amazingly different valuations:
- 1425 Bedford St., 2.41 acres, $7,763,670 ($11,090,957)
- 1435 Bedford St., 2.24 acres $5,772,620 ($8,246,600)
2. The condominiums at 631 Long Ridge Road are assessed far below the prices at which they've been selling. Why?
- unit 3A - sold 2/07 for $2,166,891; assessed at $1,267,770 ($1,811,100)
- unit 22A - sold 3/07 for $1,872,057; assessed at $1,147,320 ($1,639,614)
- unit 34A - sold 7/07 for $2,048,839; assessed at $1,282,310 ($1,831,871)
- unit 37D - sold 10/06 for $2,132,899; assessed at $1,180,600 ($1,686,571)
- unit 49A - sold 2/07 for $2,304,871; assessed at $1,296,340 ($1,851,914)
- unit 32C - sold 2/08 [after the reval date] for $1,451,550; assessed at $688,730 ($983,900)
Even more interesting are the phased-in values on which they are paying this year's property taxes:
- 3A - $712,306
- 22A - $117,798
- 34A - $115,940
- 37D - $259,027
- 49A - $194,362
- 32C - $ 48,202
I hope we won't be hearing screaming about rising taxes when the phase-in ends ... if it ever does. Protecting the condo owners was one of the reasons we did the phase-in, as I understand it! I think they've been welcomed very graciously by the rest of us!
3. We have some remarkably valuable parking garages in Stamford (these are the 70% values)
- 1351 Washington Blvd $10,380,000
- 21 Broad Street $11,178,570
- 201 Tresser Blvd $19,043,470
- 500 Bedford St $ 5,831,750
- 100 Summer St $ 355,720
- 275 Summer St $2,228,720
- 2701 Summer St $3,643,970
- 3001 Summer St $6,402,840
- 26 Mill River St $ 961,040
- 695 East Main $17,890,990
- 300 Atlantic St $20,343,920
- 677 Washington Blvd $25,709430 and $17,543,290
I'm sure I've missed many more interesting ones.
4. We aren't accounting for teardowns very well yet
- 2382 Washington Blvd sold for $800,000 3/06. Valued at $335,850 for its .37 acres; $193,520 for the structure; total $534,850 ($764,071)
- 2397 Washington Blvd sold for $500,000 3/06. Valued at $253,760 for its .21 acres; $65,290 for the structure; total $320,980 ($458,543).
Both have had demolition signs on their fronts for many months.
There have been five teardowns out of 17 homes on Doolittle Road. Most are 1-acre lots, which the assessor values at $324,580 ($463,686). Here are the years and prices for which the properties sold before the existing houses were torn down:
- #22: $590,000 - March, 2005
- #25: $550,000 - September, 2003
- #74: $620,000 - January, 2004
- #118: $415,000 - August, 2001
The buyers incurred further cost to remove the existing buildings. It seems to me that the land value there should be about $600,000 per acre (an assessed value, at 70%, of about $425,000) -- about 31% higher than the 10/07 reval figure.
Similarly, there have been several teardowns in one section of Newfield Avenue. An acre there is valued at $313,770 ($448,243) Here are the years and prices for which some properties sold before the houses were torn down to make way for new construction:
- #943 $425,000 - June, 2002
- #957: $555,000 - November, 2000
- #971: $350,000 - January, 2001
- #982: $703,000 - July, 2004
- #1000: $615,000 - April, 2004
- #1603: $685,000 - July, 2004
5. One of the best ways to judge a revaluation (subject to major directional changes in the market) is by how well the properties that change hands in the few months following the revaluation match the valuation.
- 57 Broad Street - 0.34 acres, valued at $2,885,980 ($4,122,829 -- of which land represented only 42%, despite the age and low height of the building!)
6. The center of town has moved. One of the highest valued lots, on a per-acre basis, appears to be the property at 21 Broad Street -- the 0.56 acre site on which the slab/needle is being built, is assessed at $9,292,500 ($13,275,000 -- or $23,705,307 per acre.
Remarkably, this land will disappear from the assessment database as soon as the building is finished, because, according to our assessor, Condominium land has no value!!! This is just plain wrong, according to my sources, and according to logic. (See also 631 Long Ridge Road, above! -- 19 acres, but the database can't tell you that!)
7. Our downtown land is valued at $12 million per acre (that's the 100% figure, not the 70% -- sorry to have shifted gears on you!) "Downtown" includes the area from I-95 north on both sides of Washington Boulevard to Broad Street, east to Canterbury Green, where it falls a bit (General Re is $11 million per acre). Down to North State Street, and over to Washington Boulevard. Exempt from these values, though, seem to be a lot of small properties. (Interestingly, outside the downtown area, small properties are assessed more per acre than neighboring properties of an acre or more.)
And even the land under the new Marriott Courtyard at Summer and Broad -- 0.41 acre -- is valued at only $4.5 million -- less than half of the value of surrounding lots. Go figure. Nice deal for them! We are so welcoming! And that's just 2 blocks from the 0.56 acre lot where the Trump Needle is being built, which is valued at twice as much.
8. Ridgeway SC is valued at only $4.5 million per acre, and the Sheraton hotel at only $2.2 million per acre. But at Bulls Head, the valuations tend to be in the $3.7 million range.
9. Despite the huge increases in the assessments of some commercial property, our downtown land is probably still underassessed, and its buildings underassessed. When the October 2007 revaluation was done, land values rose some, but so did building values, and I don't buy the figures! Most of the increase, with a few exceptions, perhaps, should have been in land value. The Stamford Advocate "building" for instance, was expected to sell for a value that had NOTHING to do with the current building on the site, and everything to do with its location and its size.
- 500 Bedford Street sold for $5.1 million in April, 2000. The 2007 valuation says it is only 3,980,240 ($5,686,057) now. Quite a number of buildings were on that 1.54 acres, which needed to be torn down and removed before the current building could be constructed.
- 1455 Washington Blvd sold for $6.2 million in 1998 (3.24 acres). The land is now valued at $7,677,880 ($10,968,400).
Why does this matter? Vacant land gets by with lower taxes than it should, encouraging the landholders to continue to wait for someone to pay them their asking price, rather than putting that land to use promptly. I hope that the revaluation will help nudge the owners of the HOLE IN THE GROUND and our other vacant or underused lots to either put them to use NOW or sell them NOW to someone who will. In the meantime, make them pay their share.
Good land assessments are easy to defend, and few landholders will challenge them, even the deep-pocketed corporations that assessors tend to fear and whose property often gets undervalued as a result. [Greenwich's assessor successfully defended lawsuits from several oil companies a few years ago about the valuations on gas stations.] The corporations know why they are in Stamford: because it is a good place for them to be (a pool of talented employees, suppliers, customers; access to NYC, airports, Amtrak, etc, etc.). And that shows up in their land value.
I found something interesting front and center on the city's website ... the forms on which commercial property owners report their income and expenses. Think about what people report on their income taxes. Now think of a form with a lot more data to report, and no threat of an audit if there is something peculiar about the data reported. OUR COMMERCIAL VALUATIONS ARE BASED ON THIS SELF-REPORTED DATA, NOT PRIMARILY ON ACTUAL LAND VALUES AND DEPRECIATED BUILDINGS. And vacant land doesn't produce an income. It merely represents land speculation, which doesn't do any of the rest of us any good.
If we want to invigorate our local economy, we need to get our assessments right, and simultaneously seek from the legislature the ability to impose a higher millage rate on land and a lower millage rate on buildings than we do today. This can turn Stamford into A CITY THAT WORKS FOR EVERYONE (with the possible exception of land speculators, whose interests I'm not particularly concerned with).