Have you ever received an appraisal on your home, for refinancing or selling, only to be surprised that it does not hold the square footage or the value reported by your County Revenue Department?

A few years ago I ordered an appraisal for my home for a refinancing opportunity to reduce my existing mortgage payment.  At the time my house was listed as having 2408 square feet of heated living space and the value matched the square foot valuation.  My appraisal came back listing my house at about 2271 square feet of heated living space.  Concerned about the discrepancy, I called the County Tax Appraisers Office and explained what I had discovered.  I requested a reevaluation of the property.

About a week later a real estate appraiser, who worked for the County Tax Appraisers Office, showed up on my doorstep.  He related he had measurements to do outside the house and would notify me when he was finished.  A few minutes later he knocked on the door and said he was done.  I asked him if he wanted to come inside to take any measurements or see the condition of the house and he related he did not.  I asked him what the square footage was of the house and he related that instead of 2408 square feet it was actually 2415 square feet.  I related that it was impossible based on the current appraisal I had just received.  He informed me that appraisers works for the bank.  That being said, he related appraisers always low ball the actual square footage from 100 to 150 square feet.  He stated this ensures the value of the home is appraised less than it actually is because the bank needs some “breathing room” when lending mortgages.

So what is the actual square footage of my house?  My next question’s answer really made me question the entire process of valuation and who was right or wrong.  I asked the tax appraiser, so when I go to sell my house what do I list the square footage as and what do I base the selling price off?  He related that you can list either one and that you should also state where your information was taken from, i.e. 2415 square feet of heated living space – taken from last appraisal of County Revenue Department. Satisfied I went through with the refinance although, I still had this uneasy feeling about the true value of my home.

Forward to five years in the future, rates are at an all time low in over 50 years.  So I head down the path of another appraisal and again the hired appraiser states my house is 2271 square feet.  So now I believe my house is only 2271 square feet.  How can two different appraisers, and the builder, be wrong?  My concern is that I am paying taxes on a house that is 144 square feet bigger than it actually is and therefore, the value given is more which causes my taxes to be higher.  Based on the current appraisal I am paying taxes on $20,000 that I shouldn’t be.

This time I want to get to the bottom of it so I call the lenders appraiser office and tell him my story.

He asks me whether the county appraiser, five years ago, entered my house to look at the layout of the upstairs and I told him no.  Then he explains that our house is listed as a story and a half so when you just measure the outside of the house you get the total ground floor square feet which is 1616.  He related that when you do not go up stairs to see the layout you make an assumption that there is half of 1616 square feet in the half story and that is how he came up with the square footage of 2415.

I then say, so I need the county to come back out and do a more accurate appraisal of the square feet.  He then explains that they will not come in the house and therefore, will not get an accurate square footage.  I ask why?  He relates that they cannot possibly get inside every house they appraise so it would not be fair to do it for one and that this is the standard across the nation.  He related that many home owners have the same problem when they go to place their house on the market and find it is not worth what they have been told it is worth due to an inaccurate county or state appraisal.

He also informs me that I can submit the current appraisal to the county for appeal and get the value lowered which will lower my tax bill on the property.  But, wished me luck in getting the square feet changed and told me most likely they would not lower the square feet based on their principle of wrong for one wrong for all.

So, the dilemma is if I appeal based on the current value and actual square footage, but they only change the value, what will that look like?  Or I can leave it alone and feel good that as a home owner I know the true value of my home, but I will continue to pay the higher taxes.

For those of you buying houses, make sure you have an independent appraiser evaluate the square footage of any house you may buy.  Do not go off of the county valuation.

Has anyone else gone through this and what did you end up doing about the tax valuation?  Send me you thoughts.