Berman v. City of Norwalk
A court is not required to find that real estate appraisers are credible and can rely on its own evaluation to find the fair market value of a property. In 2002, the plaintiffs purchased property in Norwalk for $2.7 million. The municipal assessor found that the fair market value of the property was $3.43 million as of Oct. 1, 2008. The plaintiffs appealed, and the board of assessment appeals reduced the valuation to $2.92 million. The plaintiffs appealed to Superior Court and argued that the property was overassessed. The .3-acre property, which is adjacent to South Beach, has a summer cottage that was built in 1925. It has four bedrooms and one bath. The property has no driveway and there is no on-street parking. One of the plaintiffs testified that in 2011 part of the property was washed away during a storm. The plaintiffs' appraiser, Michael Gold, opined that the fair market value was $2.25 million. The city's appraiser, Michael Fazio, opined that the fair market value was $2.92 million. The court found that the appraisers experienced difficulty locating properties that were comparable to the subject property. "Gold's sales are so far removed from being comparable to the subject site," wrote the court, "that they are not helpful." Michael Fazio, added the court, "similarly used sales that lacked such comparability." The court credited Fazio's conclusion that the cottage's fair market value, separate from the land, was $88,807. The court valued the land at $2.6 million and the cottage at $88,807 and concluded that the fair market value was $2.68 million, as of Oct. 1, 2008.