Started at the The Chronicle as a night police reporter in 2000, after moving to Augusta from Lynchburg, Va. The following year, joined the Special Projects team. In 2003, covered the invasion of Iraq as an embedded reporter with the Augusta-based 319th Transportation Company. Served as the Society of Professional Journalists' Georgia Sunshine Chair from 2007 to 2009. After Sylvia Cooper retired in 2008, spent a little over a year as the newspaper's city government reporter, writing The City Core both as a weekend print column and as an online blog. This year, joined the newly-formed Public Service team.
Posted September 18, 2009 11:17 pm - Updated September 19, 2009 08:29 am

Maybe nuances of home appraisal are beyond my grasp

I’ve always been under the impression that a property appraisal is supposed to be an estimation of what it would actually sell for on the open market. Silly me.
It seems there’s more to it, nuances and equations I don’t fully comprehend, as I learned in my misadventures with the Board of Equalization this week.
It all started Wednesday when I attended a hearing, as a reporter, to hear the owner of defunct Regency Mall argue that the Augusta Tax Assessor’s Office shouldn’t have raised the value from $4.2 million to $16 million, which would have raised the taxes from $51,223 last year to $193,543 this year.
Mark Axler, the property manager for New York-based Cardinal Entities, showed up, and there was some back-and-forth about how the appraiser calculated the value. He told the board that a deal to sell the mall fell through in 2008, when the market crashed and financing dried up, but it looks to be back on now.
I kept waiting for someone to address the elephant in the room, or the elephant I thought was in the room.
The question not asked: “Mr. Axler, you’ve said publicly that the mall is worth $50 million, which is why the city couldn’t buy it and demolish it in hopes of revitalizing that corridor. How can you say $16 million is too much?”
In the end, the board saw it his way. Citing a “lack of equity,” they reduced the value back down to $4.2 million. I talked to Mr. Axler in the hallway afterward, and he told me if the sale goes through, the buyer plans to do some type of mixed-use development. The price: $52.5 million.
After that, I felt pretty confident about my own hearing before the Board of Equalization the next day.
Despite the state of the housing market, my value got raised by about $8,400, which is irritating considering that when I tried to refinance earlier this year, the bank said my house had depreciated and cut off my line of credit.
I tried to impart that the notion of a house like mine increasing in value right now is patently absurd.
I showed photos of a hideous eyesore at the top of my street that any potential buyer has to drive past, a boarded-up house where the listed owner is long dead and his stepson keeps paying the taxes and doesn’t keep the yard up to code.
But I was badly outgunned.
Two appraisers told the board in detail how they had merely synchronized my land value with surrounding land values. What that has to do with someone actually buying it is beyond me.
I got the impression a few board members saw my point, but they still sided with the appraisers.
Sitting there dejected at the center of a conference table, I felt like General Zod inside the rotating rings at the beginning of Superman, judged by all those giant holographic heads.
The whole episode got me to thinking. That property up the street is killing my home value, yet I pay nearly twice in taxes. The assessor’s office says that’s because the other house has been deemed “unlivable.”
So the ones dragging the rest of us down – something city appraisers won’t acknowledge – get a discount. Something’s not right about that.

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or