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Tax Tumult: Reassessing 30,000 Greenburgh Properties in a Riotous Real Estate Year

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June 25, 2024

By Sue Treiman–

Greenburgh Township wrapped up the initial phase of its tax reassessment process last week with an average 10 percent increase in property value, more than 1,000 petitions for rate review, and lots of confusion.

Hastings-on-Hudson and Tarrytown, among the hottest destinations for home buyers, faced the greatest hikes in assessed value. Westchester County in general, and the rivertowns in particular, are riding a real estate wave marked by bidding wars, on-the-spot cash deals and above-listing-price offers. The current seller’s marketplace has made it tough to separate genuine market trends (although clearly on the upswing) from buyer desperation.

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“We’re seeing homes that list at a million dollars sell, and quickly, for $1.4 million, which raises the question of whether these are artificially inflated values,” says Michel Bryant, a tax grievance lawyer and former Irvington resident. He warns that “you can’t rely on these bid war prices any more than you can rely on a short sale or foreclosure to determine market value.”

New York State mandates the recalibration of home values each year to ensure they accurately reflect the open market. On top of that, Greenburgh must complete a more in-depth review of all local properties every five years. The current cycle draws to a close this year, which means all 30,000 properties throughout the township must be examined and valued before the end of this calendar year.

The township’s properties are spread throughout Ardsley, Dobbs Ferry, Elmsford, Hastings-on-Hudson, Irvington, and Tarrytown. Roughly 18,000 of the them are one, two, and three-family homes. The remainder are condominiums, cooperative apartments, and other properties.

Residents were notified of the current assessment decisions during the first week of June. A request for a review – almost always, seeking a reduced assessment – had to be submitted by the close of business on June 18th. Predictably, last week’s deadline brought hundreds of property owners to the township offices, where long lines and lengthy waits were the rule.

Although Greenburgh Township Assessor Edye McCarthy considers the current 10 percent average increase “on par” with previous years, she sees this as an unusual time for residential real estate. “I’ve been around for 35 years, and I haven’t seen conditions like these since the late 1980s and early 1990s,” McCarthy says.

The petitions filed last week will be examined by a citizen’s board of assessors during the summer, and findings will be issued on or before September 15th. Property owners seeking further relief can request a Small Claims Assessment Review (SCAR) or a New York State Supreme Court hearing.

Assessment spreads the burden for taxes equitably among all property owners; it determines the size of the monetary slice of local budgets each property owner is responsible for. To arrive at an assessment value, examiners look at property improvements and building permits, nearby property sales, and overall market trends. The resulting valuation can range from the 10 percent norm to an increase of 30, 40, or 50 percent beyond the previous amount in the most desirable neighborhoods.

Valuations themselves affect taxes due to be paid in April 2025. But Bryant believes the individual tax bills will depend more on local government budgets than on home values. “If budgets hold the line and the assessments don’t increase much beyond 10 percent, an individual’s taxes are unlikely to be affected,” he says.

Still, with some homes assessed at vastly higher rates and other dipping below their previous assessed value, some locals were left scratching their heads. “This year, my office saw a tremendous increase in the volume of inquiries about these assessments,” says Richard O’Donnell, a former local assessor and co-founder of Scarsdale’s O’Donnell & Cullen property tax consultants.

Some local officials blame the inconsistences on a wild-and-crazy real estate market, while others, including Hastings-on-Hudson Mayor Nikki Armacost, fear ‘disorganization’ may be the cause. “Many, many people, including some on fixed incomes, called me to say their tax assessment went up by 30, 40, 50 percent or more and that makes me wonder if there’s something wrong with the system,” says Armacost.

The mayor found that some of her older constituents, who may feel trapped in “golden handcuff” homeownership, found the reassessment process anxiety-provoking, especially since the burden of proof for winning a rate revision rested on them.

In addition, says Armacost, “because some of the initial assessment letters didn’t reach people until the second week of June, these homeowners had very little time to gather their documents, make appointments, and go to the Greenburgh office.”

Greenburgh Township Supervisor Paul Feiner, too, would like to create a longer window between notification and the review deadline. “I’d like to see the state provide at 30 days between notification and filing, because I understand that a lot of people don’t open their mail immediately and may miss deadlines,” says Feiner.

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