This section is from the book "Practical Real Estate Methods For Broker, Operator & Owner", by Thirty Experts. Also available from Amazon: Practical Real Estate Methods for Broker, Operator, Owner.
The next form of expert testimony is that of certiorari proceedings for the reduction of taxes. Up to the year 1903, it was a popular fallacy that property in the city of New York was assessed at two-thirds of its actual value. Assessors, commencing the first Monday of January, 1903, were supposed to assess property at its full value. Immediately afterwards a law was passed requiring, beginning in January, 1904, the assessor to divide his assessment between land and building. Then, indeed, did chaos reign in the tax office. Gradually since that time conditions have improved, but the assessors for the most part are not versed in values, nor do they have the proper time in which to do their work. The consequence has been that many actions have been brought to reduce the assessments, sometimes unjustly, the tendency of everyone being to feel himself overtaxed. It is the duty of the real estate expert employed in these cases first to ascertain the value of the property, and then to decide if the proceedings should be continued or not. This, while it entails a large amount of labor, is not necessarily difficult. But there often arises a question of inequality of taxation which is much more difficult to solve. I have examined and appraised something over one thousand pieces of property in the Borough of Manhattan, and from my appraisements of these properties, scattered throughout the borough, I am of the opinion that in the year 1903, property was assessed at 77.5% of its market value; in 1904, 73.8%; in 1905, 71.5%; in 1906, 74.4%. An unexpected corroboration of this fact occurred in the recent appraisement of the property of the Consolidated Gas Company, when I appraised seventeen hundred tax lots throughout the Borough of Manhattan. At the time of my appraisement of these properties, I did not look into the matter of their assessed valuation. It was a curious coincidence, therefore, that when, during my examination, the question arose, in an attempt to discredit my testimony, as to the ratio between my appraisal and the assessed valuation, it was found upon comparison that this ratio was about 75%. This was a direct substantiation of my statement that the properties were assessed at 744% of their valuation in the year 1904.