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Valuing Land and Improvements in Thin Markets

Does the Frequency of Sales Cause Property Tax Inequities?

Rachel N. Weber and Daniel P. McMillen

May 2006, English

Few studies have attempted to explain the well-documented tendency for lower-priced properties to receive higher assessment. We argue that the absence of market information and the assessor’s desire to avoid appeals may decrease assessment uniformity for both high- and low-valued properties in areas with few sales. Using data on assessments and sales prices for Chicago from 2001 through 2003, we construct an instrument for sales price that allows us to avoid the misspecification problems that may have led prior studies to overstate the presence of regressivity. Moreover, a novel multinomial logit analysis reveals that assessment ratios are more closely clustered near the middle of the distribution in areas where accuracy is easier to achieve and the probability of appeals is greater. We conclude that thin markets suffer from a higher degree of assessment variability where both extremely high and extremely low assessments are more common.


Assessment, Local Government, Property Taxation, Taxation, Valuation, Value-Based Taxes