Alert “06880” reader Peter Flatow writes:
Last week I read a news story about the upcoming revaluation of real estate. When I learned that appraisers would enter my home, my reaction was negative. (Not about the revaluation. I agree it needs to be done – periodically).
I told Dan I’d like to research the topic for “06880.” Here’s what I found.
First, I would like to thank the RTM members who responded to my email or spoke with me in person. Also thanks to town assessor Paul Friia for his thoughtful and prompt responses to my questions.
I learned that no one must grant access to their home. It is voluntary. So much for my concern.
Paul reports, “the 2005 revaluation resulted in interior inspections of just under 60% of the properties in Westport.” Reading the enabling legislation (which is almost unreadable) and state reports on the internet, I found what’s required: a statistical assessment every 5 years, and a physical assessment every 10.
What is unclear (at least to me) is the rationale to include a voluntary internal inspection as part of the physical inspection. Fairness is inferred: The more data, the more accurate the assessment.
As anyone who analyzes data will tell you, accuracy (and fairness) diminish when samples are not equally drawn and consistent. Assessments are to some degree subjective because no two homes are exactly alike, so adding the variable of some homes having both internal and external assessments, and some not, would in my opinion make them less alike (less fair). While this all started as a feeling of invasion of privacy, it has turned into a question about whether our elected officials question what they are being asked to approve. Are they in a “maintain the status quo” mentality?
I asked Paul if, when the reappraisal RFP went out, he asked for the cost of just an exterior reassessment.
He said he did not, “because that wasn’t part of the scope of services that we were looking for. I have always been under the opinion that the better the data that we have, the better chance we have at being fair and accurate.” I totally agree with the last sentence.
This is not critical of Paul. He is doing what has been done, and he is expected to do. But what if we began to question the status quo? What if we ask, “does this still make sense?” What would the town save if only an external (all that is required by law) “physical inspection” were conducted?
Every corporation I have ever worked with continually looks for ways to save money (improve profits) by changing or stopping unnecessary practices. What if all levels of government did the same thing?