wtf? Hamilton County Auditor (2 Grandin Riverview Hyde Park)

wtf? was originally designed as a series of posts dedicated to holding a spotlight on the mysterious and un-explainable decisions of the Hamilton County Board of Revision – but it turns out that the entire valuation process is mysterious and un-explainable.  wtf? is now about any and all things property-tax-related that make no sense whatsoever.

Last week wtf? featured John F. Barrett’s house at 9300 Shawnee Run.  For a lot of people that was their first introduction to cincyopolis and a few readers thought I was being unfair in singling out Mr. Barrett.  Even though my biggest problem with the Auditor’s number was the total and absolute exclusion of any value at all for the second (guest) mansion on the parcel clearly identifiable from the Auditor’s own aerial photos, that apparently didn’t bother them and instead they focused on his legal right to use farm and timber classifications to lower his tax obligations under state law. Since I certainly don’t want to imply that Mr. Barrett is unique in his puzzling treatment by the Auditor’s office, lets go back to a part of town where farming is not a factor.

2 grandin riverviewThe owner of this home is Robert H. Castellini.  After the property was transferred into his name on December 1, 2008, the original house was demolished and replaced by a custom built home that takes full advantage of the beautiful views after which the street is named.  According to the Auditor’s report, the lot is 2.6152 acres.

6 years after the property was purchased, the land value is listed as $758,050.  Improvements are listed as $0.  Total value for tax purposes is therefore $758,050.

Since that seemed like an awfully long time for a construction project, I drove over to the neighborhood tucked behind Summitt Country Day School just to make sure everything was OK. Sure enough, the home is finished and drop dead gorgeous with quality materials that are obviously top-of-the-line and according to their neighbors the house has been occupied for quite some time.

The only other house on the street (owned by the Margaret Lafley Trust) is valued for more than $2.3 million.  But even this house experienced a mysterious drop of more than $400,000 after Mr. Castellini bought into the neighborhood.  It’s weird.   The owner never filed a complaint with the Board of Revision to get the valuation lowered.  It just happened.  Boom.  A 17% drop for no good reason.  This is not uncommon on properties that adjoin parcels receiving treatment that is hard to explain.

I had a house built once.  And I don’t remember getting any multi-year property tax break after the certificate of occupancy was filed.

15 thoughts on “wtf? Hamilton County Auditor (2 Grandin Riverview Hyde Park)

  1. miffiffippi

    The home was under construction for a long time. The original designs were taken and brought to a builder who began construction and then went under during the recession. The house sat in an unfinished state for a long time until the owners were able to work with an actual architect, and not a builder, to redesign and fix all the problems that arose by hiring an unqualified builder. Construction was finished a little over a year ago.

  2. executivedreamer Post author

    If it were LEED related you would see the value of construction in the improvements and CRA terms in the notes. We would also be able to check Council on Line and find the vote.

  3. aaron34714

    Kathy – you sound like someone with a personal grudge against the auditor. Not sure where you were in 2008, but the real estate market in most areas plummeted. Guessing that’s why the Lafley residence property value dropped and I’m guessing if you looked at some reports from Hamilton county, you’d see that 10’s of thousands of other homes values dropped as well. Im guessing if you did this same analysis all across the U.S. you’d see the same thing. I would imagine estimating the value on every persons house in the county every 3 years isn’t an easy task and some things may slip through the cracks, but by in large I would imagine the majority of the properties are pretty accurate. For someone that’s supposedly “a passionate believer in the people of Cincinnati”, why don’t you focus on something positive.

    1. executivedreamer Post author

      Dusty has been very vocal on Twitter and Facebook about these properties. He did give some details on the Castellini property that I need to check out – which I will – and update next week. It all seems to come down to when the certificate of occupancy was issued. Neighbors’ reports are somewhat different – but oh well, I’m just happy to see us talking about this. I’ve been asking these questions behind the scenes for months – and gotten nowhere. As to Barrett, Dusty focuses on the legality of the farm designation from the standpoint of state law. No matter how many times I ask, he stays stubbornly silent on the extra home on the property. Of course that entire parcel is all ridiculously undervalued.

      1. Richard Stewart

        I am curious what is being considered a farm? ORC is fairly clear on what a farm is, even if it is wide reaching. The county has been quite vigorous about pursuing those that claim farm/ag status. Prior to 2008 it was a fairly simple thing to place property into CAUV. Nowadays you better show income.

      2. executivedreamer Post author

        Hey – I’m no expert on this stuff – but lucky for us cincyopolis has lots of readers who are. According to one friend who has worked in real estate and has an MBA, it’s a minimum of 10 acres under culivation. Which doesn’t look like what’s happening on the property in question from photos on Google Earth and/or the Auditor’s own photos. Thanks for chiming in here. YOU are an expert as to taxes and farming.

  4. Harold

    Each county is required by the state to reassess property values every six years, but don’t they also do an update every 3 years? There should be updated values posted by the end of 2014. There are still a handful of open building permits shown on Cagis EZTrak, which means the building should still have work being done.

    1. Harold

      To follow up, it looks like the final inspection for the house itself was 5/5/2014 which should serve as a notification for the auditor to update the value based off of the size of the home as indicated on the approved plans. It should update whenever the auditor updates the website to reflect 2014 adjusted values. The open permits are for other work on the site, but the main house likely has a certificate of occupancy.

      1. executivedreamer Post author

        Hi, Harold. Thanks for your input. I can see I’ve got another public records site to master. This post deserves it’s own update and I will do that next week. Dusty gave quite a bit of information on my personal Facebook page. Since I’ve been trying to get a conversation started on this issue for 6 months, I’m just glad to see us giving it more attention.

  5. executivedreamer Post author

    No, Aaron, I have no personal grudge against the Auditor. Dusty took me out for lunch on my birthday, told me I was doing God’s work, and I not only voted for him – I wrote 2 very positive posts about his office and their cooperation with me. As far as the drop in real estate values, you are correct in that there was an average drop 3.3% on residential property in Cincinnati. This one is out of line. — It is possible for a citizen to have legitimate questions about process and results without having a vendetta or personal grudge. There are very real concerns about the fairness of the current system.

  6. Richard Stewart

    And meanwhile…we pay more taxes on our farm property in the floodway because Hamilton County purchased the 75 acres next to it along Lawrenceburg Rd., for more per acre than historic pricing for undeveloped floodway property in that area.


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