Comparable Sales From Neighboring Town Not Persuasive Evidence

by: Anthony F. Della Pelle
1 Apr 2014

A Tax Court judge affirmed a property owner’s assessment because the owner only provided comparable sales information from a neighboring municipality without demonstrating how the real estate markets in the two municipalities were either alike or different.  Specifically, the property owner presented four comparable sales from neighboring Ocean Township, which was “six steps” away from the Subject Property.  In fact, the homes across the street from the Subject were in Ocean Township.  Additionally, the property owner testified that he would not market his home as being in Ocean Township because his town had a better reputation.  When questioned why comparable sales were not used from Interlaken, the property owner testified that they were “not within [his] range” because they sold for an amount higher than he was seeking to prove.  The municipality moved to dismiss the case at the conclusion of the property owner’s proofs claiming that the evidence submitted did not overcome the presumption of correctness of the County Board judgment affirming the assessment.

The Tax Court judge held that the comparable sales from the neighboring municipality were not persuasive evidence of the subject property’s fair market value because there was no evidence that the real estate market for single family homes in the borough is the same or very similar to the market in Ocean, and further that the comparable sales were dissimilar from the subject property in age, lot size and quality of location.  The judge also rejected the property owner’s method of averaging the sales prices of the comparables to determine a fair market value and assessment for the Subject Property, so the assessment was affirmed.

An assessment can only be reduced after a property owner rebuts the presumption of correctness granted to the assessment.  To be successful, the property owner must present sufficient evidence to rebut the validity of the assessment, and then the burden is on the taxpayer to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the assessment is erroneous. Ford Motor Co. v. Twp. of Edison, 127 N.J. 290, 312-315 (1992).  The municipality is then afforded the opportunity to present its own evidence to support its value of the subject property before the judge weighs the evidence to decide which witness presents the more credible evidence and establish an assessment based on the information before the court.

A copy of the Tax Court’s unpublished opinion in Gentile v. Borough of Interlaken can be found here.

For more on how the presumption of correctness has been addressed by New Jersey’s courts, please see the following blog posts:

Taxpayer Fails to Overcome Presumption of Correctness
Appraiser’s Subjective Adjustments Rejected; Owner Loses Appeal
Taxpayer Clears One Hurdle But Trips on Another
Apartment Complex Wins Assessment Reductions at Trial