Coleman realtor helps neighbors fight reassessment

Cathie Chesen, a real estate agent who lives on Karnes Boulevard in Coleman Highlands, is helping several dozen people appeal higher assessed values from the county.

At a corner in the Coleman Highlands neighborhood Sunday, dog walkers told of vast increases in Jackson County reassessments of home values.

Cathie Chesen sells real estate in Midtown, and Jackson County appraises that real estate – but they are far apart on what it is worth.

The county says her house is worth $367,000 – a 68 percent increase in value from last year.

The house next door to her is under contract to sell for $245,000, she noted.

If her higher value stands, Chesen said, her property taxes would increase from $3,700 to $5,598 a year.

“I’d have to sell two more houses a year to pay the taxes,” she said.

Lisa Thomsen said reassessment took she and her husband from $172,000 to $272,000.

“If people were actually paying those prices it would be good,” she said, “but they aren’t.”

Chris Upshaw said reassessment took him from $265,000 to $348,000.

Yet the inside of his house needs total renovation, he said, at least $150,000 worth of work.

His father in Olathe pays about a third less property taxes on a half million dollar house, he said.

The Kansas City School District is the main recipient of higher taxes that will come with the reassessments. Upshaw said of that,  “At least in Olathe your kid can get a great education.”

Chesen said she is helping about 18 neighbors prepare appeals and will help more.

“The market is adjusting and going up a little bit and we are getting houses sold at decent prices, but no where near what the county says they’re worth,” she said.

Curtis Koons, county assessment director, could not be reached for comment Friday. A county spokesman said Koons will make an announcement today on the issue of Midtown home values.

In a recent interview with Ed Stoll, Jackson County deputy chief administrative officer, Stoll said Midtown values went up partly because they have not been looked at closely in a long time. All county property gets reassessed every two years but each time the assessors actually walk to and look at only a third of the properties.

For this reassessment period, they looked at Midtown homes and added what they saw to the data on comparable sales, Stoll said.

You might be proud they like the outside of your house, but statistically, there are costs.

Of houses they looked at, 55 percent increased in value and the rest either stayed the same or went down, officials said. In the county overall, more than 80 percent of properties stayed the same or went down.

The overall value of Midtown residential property went up 9 percent compared to 2.9 percent countywide.

Chesen questioned whether looking at a house from the outside is a proper judge of value.

“This is almost as good as old England when they had a tax on windows so they could count them from the outside,” she said.

In setting values, the county also does not count foreclosure sales.  Chesen says that is a mistake because appraisers for banks making loans count them and real estate agents count them.

“That’s one of the reasons the market was depressed,” she said.

The too-high county values are especially a burden to old people or those of moderate means struggling to hold on their homes, she said.

Also, she quipped, if many could sell their houses for the inflated county values they would be moving away from Midtown in droves.

“Let’s just get a little two-bedroom condo and bank the rest,” she said they might think.

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