You shouldn’t covet your neighbor’s tax reassessment, but then if it’s out there in black and white, you might not be able to help it. So if you’re the owner of 88 Undercliff Road in Montclair, whose assessed property value went down 24 percent in the latest reassessment, you might be a little envious of your neighbor at 126 Undercliff, whose assessment plummeted 34 percent.

All these numbers — and many, many more — are available online. Montclair Township has just released a link to Realty Appraisal’s website, which details the 2011 and the 2012 assessments of every property in town. You can find your area on the  assessment map included in the website.

Any citizen number crunchers who want to tell us which neighborhoods are the biggest beneficiaries of the reassessment, and which aren’t? It’s a ton of data. We’re all ears.


23 replies on “Thou Shalt Not Covet They Neighbor’s Reassessment”

  1. Did I miss something? All I could find was a large collection of PDF files, one per neighborhood. One would first have to do a lot of merging of files to even begin to do any town-wide analysis.

    [And that’s after a lot of downloading, which the agency has made unnecessarily difficult by obscuring things through a Flash application.]

    Is there a single spreadsheet with the information found in the many PDFs?


  2. With the help of three great people, I have been immersed in the Excel spreadsheet trying to make some sense of the numbers.

    Providing the Township with PDF files is ridiculous, but not surprising when the goal is to prevent the desemination of information and enable people to think for themselves.

    Did you also see the neighborhood PDF’s? Unreadable! So there’s no way to do a geographical analysis! I did some preliminary work by going to the assessors office and writing down neighborhoods that I thought corresponded to Wards. I asked for a copy of the map, but no dice.

    Nonetheless my initial analysis showed, SURPRISE!, that most all houses in the First Ward will be getting tax increases. Mind you, some will “only” by $1,000 or so, but some will be more!

    Likewise, I’ve tried to analyze the reassessment by assessed value in 2007. To no one’s surprise, of course, the very high end homes, over $1MM, will see an AVERAGE increase in taxes of “only $1,000.” But SURPRISE, average is not the statistic to look at because it hides increases and decreases that are, well, HUGE. Some of the expensive homes will see Decreases of say, $7,000 while others will see increases of $7,000 or more. Statically speaking, it’s the “tails” of the distribution that should be of interest. Mind you, everyone deserves fair treatment whether they have a home that is worth $350,000 or $3MM.

    Cary Africk
    2nd Ward Councilor

  3. Why am I not surprised to hear that house in the First Ward will see increases. Not any more than I am to hear the council wants affordable housing in the First Ward, now, with 2 homes on Wildwood, even though there are other properties in other Wards that would yield more affordable homes for much less of a financial sacrifice on the part of the town.

  4. handful of neighborhoods…trends, bias or anomaly…
    *land biggest decrease
    *post-1950 homes dropped greater than NBH avg.
    *pre-1950 homes dropped less than NBH avg.

  5. Firm gave a presentation tonight. Good grief. Formula involves square feet of land, plus a factor for the neighborhood. Also “depreciation.”

    I have tons of analysis. Will publish.

  6. Avg property value decline is 19%. New rate is estimated at 3.22%

    I’ve spent several hours analyzing the reassessment.
    Here is what I have gathered from it: Finally!!! We have a fair assessment. From most of the properties that I have seen, none of the assessments went up. All property values went down but they went down the least in upper Montclair. As you move towards downtown, the declines become more pronounced. Once you get to Southside though, a crash is an understatement with some assessments falling 50%!!! And knowing the ins and outs of some of the properties that have fallen so much 50% isnt nearly enough. But how can you explain a 70% drop in an assessment? To say the assessor/assessment from 5/6 years completely blew it would be an understatement. Not surprisingly a lot of properties that were way off on their assessments went into foreclosure. Its a tradgedy that an assessment was so bad on a property that the homeowner was paying 100% more than they should of. Well, the wealthy people in Montclair benefited a lot but things have finally leveled out. Everybody is paying their fair share now. That means if you live in upper Montclair, even though your assessments went down your tax bills are going up. BUT because you were paying on a lower assessment during the first half of 2012 your 2nd half bills are going to go up around 1/3 for Q3 & Q4.

    Based on calculations that I come up with, 3.22% is a good estimate for the new 2012 assessments.

    Advice for the council men and women. Invest in resources to bring property values up in southside. As a result of the property value crash in southside upper montclair is sharing more of the tax burden.

    It seems that distressed prices were used in the reassessment which was a bit surprising. HOWEVER, these types of sales were used citywide so nobody loses out.

    It also seems that a ton of properties were reassessed FAR LOWER than what they are worth. This is part of the wink wink business that Montclair wants. You can’t appeal when property values are assessed lower than what comps are. Thats the whole point of the reassessment….to stop all the appeals and lost money to the town. HOWEVER, nobody lost out as a result because the treatment was the same to everybody.

    In conclusion, the company that did this reassessment did an A+ job!!! Although some property owners may be paying more taxes in the coming year their assessment is fair. People that have been overpaying their property taxes finally got a much needed break in life. An assessment is only relevant when comparing to other assessments and it was a balanced and in relation to their neighbor’s properties, an accurate assessment.

    Most of the council men and women are doing good to very well off financially. I wonder as a result of the new assessments if they will be more responsible when it comes to managing the town’s budget?

  7. Let’s assume your 3.22 rate is accurate and also assume a 4.5% tax increase in the 2012 budget. T/f, an average Upper Montclair property owner can expect to see a 10% increase in taxes and pay another $1,500 (or $750/quarter) later this year. Does this seem right?

  8. “Everybody is paying their fair share now. ”

    How is that being measured? If the assessment dropped for some properties more than others, then how are you determining that both the greater and lessor values are the “fair” amounts?

    I’m skeptical of a gradient from north to south that ignores the east/west factor. That is, there are larger and more expensive homes to the west of town whether we’re speaking of above or below Watchung. Wouldn’t that be significant?

    Separately: If the average decline was 19%, does this mean that – if school, town and county took in the same revenue as last year – a property with a decrease of 19% would see no change in property tax paid from last year?


  9. This company’s site sucks.

    Files in PDF? Is this a joke?

    A reasonable person would like to believe that the numbers they arrived at make sense. There is enough evidence to support them. But even reasonable people will get suspicious and react unfavorably to what appears to be a conscious effort to obfuscate and deceive.

    Remember how Mayor Fried and his associates ran on a platform of transparency? This should have been an easy case of them making the relevant information available AND accessible. Instead, it is just one more example of their cynical and inept betrayal of their public trust.

    Just when I thought I could not be more disgusted with this crew…

  10. “Everybody is paying their fair share now. ”

    I think most people in Upper Montclair who will see an increase while their neighbors to the south see a decrease will probably disagree with that statement.

  11. dchnj,

    I have a different opinion of the recent assessment. Will it stem the flow of appeals? Absolutely, as nearly any reassessment should. Was it an A+ job? The verdict is still out on this one. From the cursory analysis I performed, there are lots of unexplainable anomalies. If they used non-usable sales to determine assessments as you claim, then they might be in for a redo.

  12. Frank, not enough info to answer your question. But let me give you an example: Just randomly picked an expensive property in upper Montclair. The old assessment was 1,192,200. Using the old rate of 2.561% your old taxes were 30,532. The new assessment fell to 1,113,300. A decrease of 6.61%. As I was reading it looks as if the total tax montclair property fell 17.8% vs. what was originally reported of 19%. 19% gave you a rate of 3.22. Using 17.8% decline and a 2% annual increase, the new rate would be 3.179%. So back to the example. The new tax on the new assessment of our example is 35,391 an increase of 15.9%. The Q1 & Q2 taxes billed (on old assessment) should be about 7633 each (30,532/4). To get to the Q3 & Q4 payments you take the new tax of 35,391 and subtract 7633 & 7633 payments to get to 20,125 and finally divide by 2 = 10,062.
    Here is a sale of one of those million dollar properties. Less than 2 blocks away there is a property for sale:

    Maybe this will help you with your own property taxes. Just use your property’s assessment in the example above.

    Side Note:,9310
    although the total value of Montclair properties fell 17.8%, that has no effect on the total city/county/state expense budget. So you are basically have 82.2% of the property value. So you take 1/.822 which gives you about 1.2165. Multiply by the old rate of 2.561% to get a comparable rate of 3.116%. That just gets us to the old budget needed using new property values. I use an assumption of a 2% budget increase. So 3.116 x 102% = 3.179%

    This was an example using assumptions so its subject to change.

  13. Everybody is paying their fair share. Well I am saying that because for the first time in 6 years the assessments for most properties in the town are accurate based on what the properties are worth. For the past 6 years a lot of properties were massively over assessed. However, a lot of properties were within a reasonable range of their old assessment. There was a big distortion of property assessments in middle to lower priced properties.

    Lets take for example. 34 Grant St. Even though at the peak of the bubble it sold for 400k, the old assessed value was 609,000!! The new assessed value is about 300k. A drop of 50%!!! But even at 180k its not selling.
    The owner of this property is still getting robbed. Oh wait its a foreclosure.

    The value of a house depends on many factors including property taxes. All else being the same, if property taxes go down, the value goes up. If the property taxes go down the value goes up. I’m not sure everybody understands that. So i think the assessment will in its own way fix some of the problems in Montclair. Some of the lower priced properties will emerge out of the dumps as a result of the reassessment. 🙂 Now is the time to buy the lower priced properties and sell the higher priced properties.

    Based on my example above maybe I will take off the + and give them an A. But as an owner of a property you have several chances to get your assessment right. You could of called the number on the letter. If you didn’t you can still appeal.

    Everybody is paying their fair share because the reassessment got most of the properties a lot closer to their true market value and less distortion exists. As we know the housing crisis started as a result of the subprime loans. ANYBODY was able to get some kind of house. More likely than not the subprime borrowers were able to get lower to mid priced properties. This pumped up the low end of Montclair properties. I doubt there were a lot of subprime borrowers buying high end Montclair properties. So as a result of subprime borrowers pumping up the low to mid priced property the higher priced properties got a nice ride off of them. The last reassessment was done at the absolute peak. Property values were not at this peak for very long but their tax assessment was. Thankfully the reassessment was finally done because people needed it. It will make a difference for a lot of homeowners across Montclair and I am happy for their relief.

  14. I think its hilarious that people get mad as heck when looking up their property on the website. lol. Although it is a lot more complex than it needs to be. A trillion PDF files…..ha ha ha ha Maybe this is a conspiracy for them to make it impossible to compare properties. lol

    The most likely reason being a trillion pdfs rather than 1 is the file size for uploading/downloading and website limitations for file size. What they could have done was just use a pivot table on the montclair locator but maybe they don’t know how. 🙁

  15. Andrew,

    If your property fell 17.8% (new guesstimate) which is inline with the total property decline of 17.8% I would think that excluding the 2012 budget increase which is to be determined yes it would stay the same. I make an assumption that the 2012 increase will be 2%. Use my example above to help.

    The most important thing for determining fair is not necessarily the assessment but the amount of distortion which is the difference in one’s assessed value/market value compared to the difference between other properties assessed value/market value. I’m not sure when the assessment was done prior to 2006/2007….maybe 95? But I guarantee if they dusted off that assessment it was FAR MORE accurate than the garbage assessment of 2006/2007.

  16. My goodness! Everyone is so worked up about what I can assure you is nothing (new)! I have lived in Montclair for over 20 years. In that time there have been different assessments and different tax rates. And you know what the only constant has been? Property taxes ALWAYS go up! WAY Up!

    Just take your old assessed value and rate and compare it to your new assessed value and rate (3.22). In most cases you will simply end up owing roughly the same (crazy high) property taxes. Then, next year, no matter what your new asseseed value is … your taxes will go up again.

    Now just try selling your house for what you think it’s actually worth when the Township has done you this “huge favor” of lowering your home’s assessed value … while leaving you with property taxes that are still unrealistically high and ultimately unsustainable.

    It’s always the same!

  17. thinkaboutit: You are incorrect. Although some people will have taxes go up, taxes WILL go WAY down for a lot of people for 2012. As much as 39%!!

  18. OK. Good Luck with that! For those lucky FEW that you think will have their taxes lowered for THIS year … I hope those fine folks don’t expect that their current “good fortune” will last. My prediction is that within 2 years (or less) those “lucky few” will end up paying exactly the same as before this most recent reassessment – and that their taxes will continue to go up from there. It’s like the Ace of Base song … “Always have – always will”! Our Township is literally addicted to the high property taxes they extort from us (with less and less services and less quality of services) … and, I don’t ever expect that this will change.

  19. I think it only seems like that because of the current and previous town council. The(now lame duck) mayor claims that we have done well during his term and that “we are well along the path to our future economic sustainability”. How he can say that is beyond me.
    If we elect another mayor and town council members that have the same philosophy, then it will continue. We will see significant tax increases as you say.
    I am optimistic that the Montclair townspeople will finally realize the ramifications of doing this in the past, and elect a mayor and council members that are financially capable in May.

  20. thinkaobutit: Again you are wrong. Probably more than 50% of homeowners will see tax decreases! More of the allocation is going to commercial and apartment buildings. Just look at the screenshot above. Most properties in the screenshot went down more than 17.8%.

  21. After learning more about property taxes, budgets and how taxes are allocated maybe we shouldn’t put quite as much blame on the current mayor and council men/women.

    About 28% of your property tax bill is made up of the Montclair budget. 28%!

    Montclair actually has lower property taxes than other immediately surrounding Essex county cities. Its not just Montclair that is high, its all of New Jersey. The state doesn’t contribute as much towards education as most other states. As a result more of the education has to come from property taxes. At the county level, Montclair pays for a bigger share in Essex county because of Newark, Irvington, & East Orange. Because their property values are lower more of the property tax burden is paid for by nicer areas instead of being evenly distributed like other counties. I’m sorry but the state funding and the bad areas of Essex county are out of Montclair’s control. 🙁

    Although I do question the town’s choice of how they use discretionary funds and the view that it is necessary to spend up to the cap, some of the items like pre K comprise of a very small portion of you your property tax bill.
    Last year if I can remember 66% of the municipal increase came from higher insurance costs. I can’t imagine there not being solutions and alternatives to such a high increase. Big ticket items of the budget is where focus should be if any as more than 70% of your property taxes goes towards items that are out of the council men/women’s hands. I’m not saying our leaders can’t make changes/cuts but don’t get too worked up over them.

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