Condo’s assessment too high for today’s market, board rules

OVERVALUED BY THE TOWN — The assessed values of the other 30 or so units that are part of the Moose Pond Condominium project on Pleasant Mountain may be in question, now that the Cumberland County Board of Assessment Review has ruled that one of the units was over-assessed by the Town of Bridgton.

OVERVALUED BY THE TOWN — The assessed values of the other 30 or so units that are part of the Moose Pond Condominium project on Pleasant Mountain may be in question, now that the Cumberland County Board of Assessment Review has ruled that one of the units was over-assessed by the Town of Bridgton.

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

In what may prove to be a precedent-setting ruling, the Cumberland County Board of Assessment Review voted unanimously Feb. 7 in favor of a Bridgton taxpayer who argued that the assessed value of his Pleasant Mountain condo was inconsistent with its current market value.

“The taxpayer proved that the assessed valuation of the property was manifestly wrong,” wrote Board Chairman Robert Konczal in the written ruling included in the selectmen’s packet for Tuesday’s meeting.

It was the first abatement approved this year by the county board, which decides taxpayer appeals of local property assessments. The Bridgton Board of Selectmen had previously denied the $93,954 abatement request, made by Aleksander Milosavljevic-Cook of Falmouth on a luxury condominium he owns in the 32-unit Pleasant Mountain Condominium project on Pleasant Mountain.

In its ruling, the county board granted Milosavljevic-Cook an abatement of $58,954 on the assessed value of $263,954 for condo unit #16 at Pleasant Mountain Condominium, which he purchased in December 2011 for $181,000. The abatement reflects a $773 savings on Milosavljevic-Cook’s 2012 tax bill of around $3,500.

Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz said Tuesday the ruling “raised the interesting specter of precedent,” which is “always the concern of a watershed decision” that might trigger other abatement requests of seasonal properties, particularly from other condo owners in the development. But he said the window for appeal has closed for this year, at least, because the law requires such requests to be made within 185 days of the date when taxes are committed. The next tax commitment date is July 13.

“My concern is that we’ll have a lot of people knocking on our door,” said Board Chairman Paul Hoyt. Berkowitz said the town is preparing for another revaluation in 2015, and its 105% sales assessment ratio is still five percentage points within the state’s upper limit that would require a revaluation. “As we speak, there are pockets of the market that are improving,” Berkowitz said.

In 2006 and 2007, when the condo units were first built, town assessment records show that they were selling for just under $300,000, with several going for prices as high as $360,000 to $375,000, depending on their size and amenities such as the view overlooking Moose Pond.

Milosavljevic-Cook had requested an abatement of $93,954, which would have dropped his assessed value to $170,000. But the county board reduced his request by $35,000, giving him a new assessed value of $205,000 — the same amount as the appraisal done by Jordan Bay Appraisal that Milosavljevic-Cook submitted in support of his request.

Selectman Woody Woodward said he was surprised that the county board was willing to use a bank appraisal as an estimate of fair market value. Berkowitz said the town could appeal the county assessment ruling in Superior Court, but only on procedure, not on the determination of assessed value.

The assessment board cited in its ruling not only Milosavljevic-Cook’s purchase price of $181,000, but also one comparable sale of $152,000. They also reviewed a market analysis performed by realtor Cheryl Willey, estimating the value of the unit at $170,000.

Town assessments records show that two of the project’s condo units — assessed at $253,281 and $250,457 — sold for $165,000 to the same buyer in March of 2011.

In addition to the purchase price and comparables, the board was also persuaded by evidence submitted by Robert Gaudreau, a principle and property owner in the Pleasant Mountain Condominium development.

Gaudreau testified in Milosavljevic-Cook’s behalf, saying he has had his own property on the market at well under the assessed value and has no buyers. Gaudreau told the board the project has six units that have been for sale for a long time for $182,000 with furnishings, “with no offers received,” the ruling stated. Gaudreau also said his bank told him the units are worth $195,000 to $205,000.

The board was not convinced by the arguments made by Bridgton Assessing Agent Dennis Berube, who argued that the $205,000 appraisal done by Jordan Bay was flawed because the appraiser was aware of the contract price and the appraisal was tied to a loan application. Berube had also maintained that a lack of comparable sales made it difficult to calculate a realistic market value.

Reached by telephone, Gaudreau said Milosavljevic-Cook’s appeal prevailed because “it may have had the advantage of information that was not available to other parties” making similar appeals. He said most of the appeals the county board hears are based on the same argument — that the assessed value is higher than the market value. But not everyone who makes that argument can back it up in as persuasively as Milosavljevic-Cook did, he said.

“The market is going through some interesting times,” Gaudreau said.

At a previous selectmen’s meeting, resident Barry Denofrio had publicly questioned the board whether some of the town’s assessments, performed at a time when real estate values were approaching record highs, were overvalued and should be reconsidered in light of the market’s 2008 collapse. But Berkowitz has defended the assessments given in the 2005 revaluation, saying the market alone isn’t the only factor that’s used in the state formula for determining a property’s value.

 

Please follow and like us: