Property Assessments Explained

Davidson County Property Assessor Vivian Wilhoite and Chief Deputy of Operations Jimmy Clary in the Howard Office Building at 700 2nd Ave S Suite 210.

NASHVILLE, TN — The Davidson County Assessor’s office re-appraises Nashville properties every four years. We asked Nashville Property Assessor Vivian Wilhoite to explain why.

“Since the reappraisal in 2013, to date market values have changed but not uniformly across the county. Reappraisal restores equity in values. Without it, property owners in a “cold” or depressed market area pay more than their fair share of the tax burden,” Wilhoite said.

State law prescribes how this is done by which we are governed. Wilhoite said an assessment is related to the property’s appraisal, both impact your tax bill, due February 29, 2020. Basically payments are due each year by the last day in February to Trustee Parker Toler’s office. 

“We must have both. Here’s why: an appraisal is the value of the property. The assessment is a percentage of the value.  By State Constitution, Tennessee is a fractional assessment state. So, for residential, 25% of the value is the assessed value; for commercial, 40% of the value is the assessed value and for personal property, 30% of the value is the assessed value,” she said. 

A property’s value will rise in a hot real estate market. The average home price in Nashville has risen steadily prior and since the 2017 Reappraisal. Land values have increased, too. Some property owners are selling to developers where the small lots that their homes sit on are sometimes worth more than the house. They are usually torn-down replacing it with what many call “tall and skinnies.” 

A property’s value can increase when the homeowner makes some improvement like an addition or renovation.  And values can also decrease if there is substantial damage like foundation cracks, flooding or fire which reduces its worth.

Tax Relief Programs

The State of Tennessee has three programs that help seniors, disabled persons, and disabled veterans who are tax-burdened. Wilhoite said the property owner must live in the home. These programs are administered by the Trustee’s Office.

Tax Freeze—a program for those 65 and older with incomes below $42,620. It locks in the amount of your current tax bill.

Tax Relief—a program for those 65 and older with incomes below $29,860. Property owners will get a waiver to pay lower taxes.

Tax Deferral-–a program that defers payment of taxes until the property owner no longer qualifies for the program, the property is sold, or the owner dies. 

First-time applicants for any of these programs must sign-up in person. They need to bring documents to prove they meet the income and age restrictions, including 2018 tax returns or 2018 bank statements, a Drivers license, and Medicare card. Proof of residence is also needed such as a Voters’ Registration card or utility bill.

Homeowners can call 615-862-6330 to make sure they bring the right paperwork. The Metro Trustee’s office is open Monday through Friday from 8 am to 4 pm. It’s located at 700 2nd Ave. South on the second floor. The deadline to sign up for these programs is April 5, 2020.

Appeals

Property owners can appeal their assessments to three different agencies. The first is Wilhoite’s office.

“It does not cost any money to request my office to conduct an informal review.  As a matter of fact, a property owner can request an informal review right now.  The deadline is April 24, 2020 by 4 p.m.  We will provide the results of our informal review by mid-May 2020,” Wilhoite said. 

If the property owner is not satisfied with the decision by Wilhoite’s office, they can appeal to the Metropolitan Board of Equalization (MBOE).  MBOE, independent of the Assessor’s office, is composed of five members, 3 alternate members appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by majority vote from the Metropolitan Council. 

If the property owner doesn’t like MBOE’s decision, they can appeal to the State Board of Equalization (SBOE). At each stage, assessed values and appraised values could be decided to be adjusted or not be adjusted.  An administrative law judge conducts SBOE hearings. The Assessment Appeals Commission is a 5-member panel that acts like an appeals court. They can affirm or remand a case back to the judge.

In an assessment year, the SBOE gets swamped with appeals. Hundreds of 2017 appeals are still being adjudicated. Wilhoite said most of the Informal review requests to her office are from residential property owners. She said more commercial appeals were filed with MBOE. By state law, property owners can request an informal review or a formal appeal each year.

Many commercial property owners appealed directly to the SBOE. The Tribune looked at 1500 of the highest valued properties in Davidson County. Only a few were single- family homes. Most were commercial properties. We found an appeals rate of 10%. The first 25 owners who appealed their assessments from the list of the top 1500 properties saved a total of $1,553,783. Eight properties have zero savings because those appeals are still pending. (see chart)

Since 2016, Wilhoite’s office has conducted more than 150 community outreach and presentations to inform homeowners about what they do, the reappraisal process and property owners’s rights.  “We appreciate the opportunity to assist property owners and to hear from them regarding any concerns that they may have about their property,” Wilhoite said. 

If you have questions or to request a presentation to a group call 615-862-6080 or email [email protected]

NOTE: Opry Mills Mall was reduced from $334,435,012 to $300,000,000 for tax years 2017 & 2018 but was increased by appeal to $360,000,000 for tax years 2019 & 2020. Thanks to Davidson County Property Assessor’s office, SBOE, and Alex Coure for their assistance with this analysis.

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