The Swartz Report: What does Elton John have to do with Property Tax Valuations?

Elton John and Property Tax ValuationsFor the past several years, around this time, I’ve been writing about road trips to take my kids back to college. Many memorable excursions indeed, but I thought my travels to Syracuse may be over and my college campus visits would be limited to my alma mater. 😊 Well, there is always the exception as the family congregated in Syracuse (with our other friends) to see Elton John’s Farewell Tour.

As my son professed after the concert, he has never heard the crowd at “the dome” so loud for a football or basketball game as compared to the concert goers. Elton did not disappoint, especially the last 45 minutes! At 75, he can still command an audience. While his theatrics have calmed down over the years, the video board and close ups of his piano playing were all I needed for an entertaining evening. If you have a chance, I would recommend making the effort to see the Farewell Tour – Good Bye Yellow Brick Road before he closes in Los Angeles.

So, what does this have to do with property tax valuations for railcars, equipment and commercial industrial buildings?

Elton John and Property Tax ValuationsAbsolutely nothing… unless we look at the importance of experience, knowledge and command of a situation.

While not a seasoned entertainer of 50 years, I will be completing my 36th year of appealing property tax valuations. Over that amount of time, you meet people of all personalities; see all types of properties; attend hearings ranging from the local, one-on-one meetings to cases before the State Supreme Court.  Additionally, we’ve endured challenging economic times – the Dotcom bust of the early 2000s, the market collapse of 2008-09 and more recently, the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.

These experiences, while challenging at that particular moment, help define who I am as an individual and who we are as a company. I would like to believe these situations have made our company stronger and better able to serve our clients today and more importantly, into the future.

Catering to our Audience

Elton John and Property Tax ValuationsLike Elton John, we should be able to cater to our audience, perform to (and exceed) expectations and know we have given our best efforts to get maximum results. After all, patrons of a concert are really clients of the performer.

Thank you, Sir Elton John, for your excellence of music. And thank you to our audience for allowing us to provide our excellence in the property tax world. By the way, any thoughts on the valuation of a yellow, brick road? Replacement cost, less depreciation… any functional or economic obsolescence???

As always, you may reach me with your thoughts or questions – dswartz@swartzaai.com or dswartz@indurantetax.com.

The Swartz Report: Conferences, Entrepreneurs Organizations and Property Taxes

Conferences, Entrepreneurs Organizations and Property TaxesBy Donald Swartz, President

Last month, I had the opportunity to attend the Wichita Property Tax Conference (formerly the Appraisal for Ad Valorem Taxation Conference). This is an annual conference attended by State Assessors, members of respective State Departments of Revenue, consultants in the property tax area and businesses with property tax liabilities valued by the state (properties such as rail, pipeline, telecommunications, energy, etc.)

This year was the 50th anniversary of the conference, and the first in person meeting since 2019.

I initially attended the conference in 2017 during my early conversations with Pete Indurante and the prospects of acquiring his company.

At the time of the 2018 meeting, we had not quite finalized the transaction, so I again attended as an interested consultant. Unfortunately, I missed the 2019 conference due to my accident and the in-person conference was not held in 2020-21 due to the pandemic. I was anxiously (and excitedly) awaiting the 2022 conference as this would be my first conference as owner of Indurante & Associates, Inc. (Indurante)

Indurante is a member of the influential Railway Supply Institute and as part of the RSI Tax Committee, we annually share in hosting a hospitality suite during the conference.

To say my expectations were met would be a complete understatement.

Members of the committee were warm and engaging; excited to learn about me and the technology we have implemented within Indurante.  Mark Phillips (Manager) and Noelle Giacomino (Director) attended the conference with me and to see them interact with various governmental officials, our clients and other RSI committee members was a true pleasure for me to witness.

I attended the educational breakout sessions and speakers, but my true focus this year was to show my face as the “face” of Indurante. Very exciting and very fulfilling!  I am already looking forward to the 2023 conference.

Speaking of conferences, in September, I will be attending the Entrepreneurs Organization’s EO XCentric in Cincinnati.  As a member of EO Kansas City and Board Member of the Kansas City Chapter, this is an event dedicated to the US Central Region of EO Chapters. I have not previously attended this event, but if it is anything compared to the EO Global Leadership Conference earlier this year, I am very interested to meet fellow business owners, entrepreneurs and the learn from engaging speakers spanning a full spectrum of topics.

If you are a business owner and would like to learn more about EO, I strongly encourage you to click on the following link – Entrepreneurs’ Organization Home (eonetwork.org) or contact me directly (email below) as I would be thrilled to let you know more about my involvement and what EO membership provides for me.

It is hard to believe the summer is coming to an end, but the fall looks exciting as we begin to ramp up for reassessments in Iowa, Colorado and Missouri in 2023. We are also looking at the relaxing of sales in the residential and commercial markets and will be interested to see how the counties respond with their valuations next year.

Thank you for your continued interest in Swartz & Associates and Indurante.

As always, please reach me directly at either of the following addresses as I would love to hear from you and what issues would be of interest to you. dswartz@swartzaai.com or dswartz@indurantetax.com.

The Swartz Report: How do you define success?

How do you define success?By Donald Swartz, President

How do you define success? Since I started working 36+ years ago in the business world, the question seemed fairly obvious to me… “it’s all about revenue.” And success is defined by how much that revenue exceeds expenses. While this may be a result of success, does it define success? Are there more components making up a successful model than purely the financial component?

The readership of this monthly blog appears to be increasing. By definition, this should be considered a success as my reach is growing month over month and year over year. But what if the message is stale or there’s no reaction/interaction? (Comments positive or negative, responses of similar or shared experiences, etc.) Is this still a successful and worthy component of the business?

What measurements do you consider when determining success?

KPIsYour feedback is of great interest to me – what measurements do you consider when determining success? Is it purely financial or are there emotional consideration as well? How do you factor in quality-of-life issues, the retention of employees and their “happiness” at the work place? What would you consider your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to be in your respective industries?

As we begin to prepare for the 2023 tax year, these are aspects we need to keep in mind. If we don’t tend to the little things, we will never accomplish the big things and I am curious how others view success.

On another note…

I read my blog from July of 2021 (if you’re interested in reading it as well, please click here.) And while there were no road trips with my daughter these past 30 days, I was able to create a trip with my son as he begins his professional journey.

Similar to last year, we started our trek to Syracuse, albeit not as direct as previously executed. This included a quick stop in Walcott, IA, home of the largest truck stop in the country. (Oh, and by the way, a current client! To learn more about Iowa 80 Group, please click here.)

After that, dinner in South Bend and overnight in East Lansing. A quick little drive around Spartyville and off to Ann Arbor for lunch before heading over to State College. Unfortunately, significant traffic delays along Interstate 80 forced us to scrap dinner plans at Penn State, so we hustled straight to Syracuse.

Being a Big 10 guy, I enjoyed seeing the other campuses and with all the conference realignments occurring, maybe ND will join the best conference some day! I will take Iowa City over all of them, except when walking across the Iowa River in January and February. 😊

Enjoy the rest of the summer – stay safe, stay cool, be considerate of others and as always, thank you for your confidence in our companies.  Please share any comments or suggestions by replying to the blog or email directly at dswartz@swartzaai.com or dswartz@indurantetax.com.

The Swartz Report: Are you ready??? Change is coming.

Change is ComingThis morning on my way to the office, I made the decision to stop for fuel as the needle on the gas gauge illuminated a bright yellow warning, “Don, let’s not be stupid about things…” So, I casually filled the tank until I decided $50.00 was my limit. Well, that did not quite get us to the “F” but close enough for the weekend. Just under $5.00/gallon currently, which I know doesn’t seem too bad if you are reading this from either coast or living in a bigger city, but for Kansas Citians, this is a BIG DEAL.

Watching the Dow drop 1,000 points this week; the Federal Reserve increasing rates an additional 75 basis points; utility costs rising and the overall cost of living on the rise, I am concerned when the real estate market, both residential and commercial, will be negatively impacted. Not IF, but WHEN…

In the property tax world, valuations continually lag what is transacting in the current markets. 

Assessors must value property on a particular lien date, in many cases January 1. When the pandemic initially hit in March of 2020, the pushback from most counties came in the form of, ”As of January 1, we were not in a Pandemic”, and even more challenging, several states assess properties every other year, so the valuation date may have been January 1, 2019.

Interest rates remained historically low during 2020 and 2021, creating opportunities to purchase/invest in real estate and take advantage of the low interest rates being offered. Investors were willing to accept lower yields on their investments as the cost to borrow was so inexpensive.

We have now witnessed in the past 2-3 months how quickly things can change.

How will all of these real estate acquisitions which have transacted over the past 24 months affect the value of real estate from a property tax perspective? Will jurisdictions push to keep values high based upon sales the past two years? Will they factor in rent concessions which took place in 2020/21 in order to keep existing tenants in place? Will residential, multi-family, warehouse and distribution type properties continue to soar in value, or will we see a softening in the market place over the next 6 months? What about the sectors that have been slower to recover? Hospitality, retail, office, sit down restaurants, theaters… Certainly reasonable questions, but the answers may be a little more challenging.

Approaching my 37th year in the property tax world, I have witnessed and participated in the highs and lows of the real estate market. I can assure you we will be ready to assist owners and property managers with their valuation needs. We anticipate the 2023 – 2026 could be bumpy ride for owners of commercial, industrial and residential real estate. Let us help make the ride a little smoother.

As always, I am appreciative of my clients and my always growing readership. I would welcome feedback to either email – dswartz@swartzaai.com or dswartz@indurantetax.com as well as posting in the comments below.

The Swartz Report: Congratulations and Well Done to 2022 Graduates

If you are a regular reader of my monthly blogging, you know that I try to provide you with a little personal insight by sharing family events that have taken place since I first started contributing in 2014. While I try to mix in a little “work tonic”, this month’s blog is all personal!

Syracuse UniversityPreviously, I have regaled about fantastic road adventures with my daughter, commencing the start of another year of college. Well, the college portion of my writing will soon be coming to an end as we celebrated the graduation of my son, earning a double major in communications and business from the Newhouse and Whitman Schools at Syracuse. Throw in a side of a Master’s in Pubic Affairs from the Maxwell School (also from Syracuse) for my daughter and I’m practically bleeding Orange!

2022 Graduates 2022 Graduates

As parents, we could not be more proud of the accomplishments our children have achieved at this juncture of their lives. The educations they have received; the friends they have met and stay connected with and the lasting bonds of deep friendships they’re sure to experience in future years – truly a wild wave of emotions for all.

Our kids may be saddened to say good-bye to all of their friends they’ve met at school. But we, as parents, are also experiencing an emotional swing as well. Reminiscing about our first days of “college drop off”; becoming empty nesters; respective parent’s weekends; holiday breaks; summer vacations and now, seeing them cross the podium – Whew, I have to admit, it was hard to see clearly with the tears blocking my view.😊 However, it’s comforting to know there are graduates all across the country who are compelled to make this world a better place. I’m energized, knowing we will be in good hands with the next generation.

To Aaron, Miriam and to all recent graduates, I say, “Congratulations and Well Done!” You’ve earned the right and opportunity to make your voices heard and to put your talents to good use. I cannot wait to share the next chapter of your lives with you.

2022 Graduates 2022 Graduates 2022 Graduates

The Swartz Report: Finding the balance between doing the work and prospecting.

By Donald Swartz, President

Donald SwartzIn our weekly Monday morning meeting, my challenge to the group for 2022 is to spend more time discussing contacts we have made, marketing efforts, events to attend and other concepts to promote brand awareness. Over the past several years, we’ve used our Monday meetings to discuss current caseload, property tax hearings on the horizon and general bantering about our pipeline of property tax cases. I have found when we focus too much on the appeals and work we do, we can lose sight of the potential opportunities in front of us.

The Balance

The challenge of balancing the work in place and seeking opportunities to expand your customer base is a fine line when operating as a small business. There are certainly tools available to assist in the organization and follow up (CRM software, database development, and in person events.) But ultimately, the burden falls on your team members to make things happen; to initiate conversations; to attend various events…. Sometimes that can be overwhelming and hiding behind a desk and working on the projects in front of you allows people to stay in their comfort zone. While this can create work efficiencies, it’s important to get out of the comfort zone and create interactions.

Finding the balance between doing the work and prospectingFace to face interaction is finally coming back – in person meetings are being scheduled; conferences and seminars are being attended and conversations are taking place. The conversations may be politics, issues in Ukraine, the cost of gasoline, the cost of groceries, rising interest rates and maybe even sports! For those who read my blog regularly, feel free to blast my non-sense about my Hawkeyes reaching the Final Four, while the J-Hawks are left watching on the sidelines. I guess I missed that prediction by… “just that much…” No betting sports app for me just yet!

Anyway, the fact that these conversations are occurring and opinions are being offered, provides an opportunity to listen and determine how this will affect our businesses. Will continual increase in interest rates slow down the hot residential and commercial real estate market? Will the rising costs of labor and materials slow down new construction demand? How is the remote working environment making its mark on office space?

I was on a conference call this afternoon and the discussion turned to a downtown Central Business District in a decent sized metropolitan area possibly reaching a potential 40% vacancy rate by mid 2023. That will have a significant impact, not only on the landlords, but the surrounding supporting businesses – restaurants, convenience stores, specialty retail, etc.

Counties have been aggressively raising property tax values in an effort to match the market.

We need to keep an eye on the summer and fall activity, but my hunch is that it will be time to put the brakes on rising property tax values. Whether this occurs in the fall of 2022 or summer of 2023, the conversations I hear tell me there is change in the wind.

As always, we will be here – ready to answer any questions and representing your property tax interests. Thank so much for your continued support.  If you have any questions about your commercial property taxes, please reach out to me at the following: dswartz@swartzaai.com or dswartz@indurantetax.com.

The Swartz Report: Machinery and Equipment Appraisals

AppraisalsYesterday, Gary Stone and I had lunch with good friend (and Advisory Board member of Swartz + Associates, Inc.) Laird Goldsborough and the managing partner of his company, Jason Roos. We wanted to discuss the necessary components, skills, ego (??) and any other attributes in growing a business or a sector of a business.

One of the takeaways from our meeting is the fact that it’s too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activities; to continue to be an analyst and not a marketer; to sit behind a desk and only work on the projects in front of you. Does this sound familiar?

My focus over the past several months has been placed primarily on the following:

  1. The increasing values of real estate.
  2. The software development and efficiencies we have created with the Indurante practice.
  3. Business personal property consulting and compliance filing for our clients.

Machinery and Equipment Appraisals

Rarely do I find myself presenting a niche practice within our business. This niche is appraising machinery and equipment for our client’s needs. Whether a bank needs a valuation on equipment for collateral purposes; an attorney needs a valuation on equipment as part of family trust; an accountant needs a machinery valuation as a carve out to a business valuation for a merger or acquisition or an owner is considering liquidating assets, this is a specialized area where Gary is the recognized expert.

ASA LogoAs an Accredited Senior Appraiser of the American Society of Appraisers, Gary earned the ASA designation in Machinery and Technical Specialties. In fact, he is only one of a handful of accredited appraisers for this specialty in the Midwest. This area is underserved and my goal is to promote this practice, create awareness and cement relationships with those who may need this service on a consistent basis.

So, consider this my initial effort to promote our equipment valuation practice. I promise to report updates throughout the year as we make this a concerted effort. Stay tuned!!

March Madness and St. Patrick’s Day

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention St. Patrick’s Day and the annual March Madness surrounding these next two weeks. I’ve reviewed my last few years of the March blog and at least I’m consistent!! The difference this year? Look for my Iowa Hawkeyes to be in the Final Four 😊 (This will disappoint my KU friends and associates as we could potentially meet in the Round of 16). It has been 42 years since we have graced the Final Four and who knows… and Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone!

Please reach out to us with any questions concerning equipment valuations, property values and railcar assessments. As described above, please reach out to Gary directly with questions concerning the appraisal of equipment. You may contact him at gstone@swartzaai.com.

– Don
Dswartz@swartzaai.com
Dswartz@indurantetax.com

The Swartz Report: The wild ride of property tax increases is in full force.

Wild Ride of Property Tax IncreasesHappy belated Valentine’s Day to everyone! I hope your Super Bowl weekend and lead in to the 14th was filled with sweet chocolates and parties for the Big Game. As a longtime Chiefs fan, I must admit to not having my “heart” in the game. Still reeling from the second half collapse against the Bengals, the game didn’t have much attraction for me and I feel like a… a… Patriots fan??? How did I become one of them so quickly? It was only a few years ago, we were at the bottom of the well, looking like we would never see the light of day. And now, a casual attitude to historically one of the more enjoyable weekends. But I digress…

Quantitative Easing

I recently watched an interview with Christopher Leonard, author of The Lords of Easy Money: How the Federal Reserve Broke the American Economy.  I found his comments extremely interesting about what sort of effect the concept of Quantitative Easing will have long term on the real estate market as well as the valuation of equipment owned by manufacturing companies.

Generally, the idea revolves around the Federal Reserve creating money to de-value the dollar; create cheaper debt and increase asset prices. As the author describes with so much money available, it becomes necessary for money to find a home to make more money, or in Leonard’s words, “Searching for Yield”. We’ve seen this as the residential real estate market continues to push upward; commercial development continues at a blistering pace and those with money to invest are turning to real estate opportunities.

Increasing Valuations

Certainly, the assessor’s offices around the country have been taking notice as valuations have increased in many jurisdictions by 30% and even higher. It’s a difficult argument when sales of commercial properties support these increases and lower capitalization rates drive the value of income producing properties upward.

As an example, if a typical investor were looking for an 8% yield on a property that is achieving net operating income (exclusive of debt service, depreciation and amortization) of $100,000, it is fair to assume the value of the property is around $1,250,000 ($100,000/.08). Suppose another investor looks at the same property, creating the same NOI but this investor is willing to achieve a 5.5% return on the investment. Nothing about the property has changed – the income generated and the expenses are the same, however the anticipated yield has dropped to 5.5%. This creates an increase in the value of the property to over $1,800,000 ($100,000/.055). The fundamentals of the income producing property are identical, but the lower yield creates a valuation increase of $550,000.

Important Questions

Can current owners raise their lease rates? Can they pass the tax increases along to their tenants? And if so, what are the prospects of a tenant remaining in place once their lease expires? The COVID-19 world has created a significant amount of available space in the commercial markets as the hybrid working environment may have a permanent place in society. What sort of long-term effect will this have in the commercial real estate world? All are good questions and subject to consideration as the new valuations on properties are being issued over the next 30-60 days.

Hold on to your hats – the wild ride of property tax increases is in full force. As always, you may reach me directly dswartz@swartzaai.com or dswartz@indurantetax.com to discuss your portfolio.

We welcome the opportunity to assist you!

The Swartz Report: Looking forward to navigating 2022 with you!

Navigating 2022 With YouHappy New Year to all! I trust everyone has had their share of holiday snacks and beverages; created their resolutions for this year (and have not broken too many of these yet 😊) and have a game plan for goals and priorities for 2022.

I certainly have had my share of the above. I may have partaken so much in the snacks and beverages they have literally materialized on my footwear! (Okay, a slight exaggeration, but take a look and you tell me!)

This leads directly into resolutions – less eating, less drinking, more exercising… Boring, boring, boring. If this forces my footwear to become nothing more than bland blue or black, NO THANK YOU! Bring on the pizzazz and more drinks for everyone!

Looking Forward to 2022

In all candor, I am very excited about the year in front of us and our abilities to assist owners of commercial real estate, tangible personal property and private railcars. As I have mentioned in previous postings, the pandemic has been a boon to certain aspects of the real estate market and a severely negative impact in others. How will the jurisdictions handle their valuations for the upcoming year?

Economic ForecastsCertainly, school districts continue to need more funding and as more than 70% of property taxes collected directly flow to the schools, there is pressure to maintain (or increase) valuations for this year. Reports indicate that although consumer spending has increased during the 2021 year, the numbers have not reach pre-pandemic levels. Various economic forecasts believe 2022 will be another challenging year and we may see numbers below pre-pandemic levels again. Factor in the Federal Reserve’s estimate of three interest rate increases, it is hard to imagine the real estate market continuing to soar as it has the past several years. Capitalization rates in many sectors will begin to increase, which may adversely affect real estate values. We have seen increases in idle capacity for machinery and equipment in the manufacturing sector and we continue to monitor the number of railcars in storage, due to a reduced demand for sand, coal and other goods.

Of course, the flipside could be true as well. The Omicron variant may peek very soon and subside as quickly as it ascended. If workers stay diligent and vaccinations increase, the economy will benefit and manufacturing, retail and other markets will see a significant benefit. The one constant? Taxes. And in my case, property taxes.

Owners will continue to be resourceful in ways to minimize operating expenses and an annual review of their property tax valuations is (and should be) a part of the annual business game plan.

As always, we are here to help.  If you would like to address your property tax needs, please reach out to me directly at dswartz@swartzaai.com or dswartz@indurantetax.com. Both companies are here to help and we look forward to another year together!

The Swartz Report: Year End Review and Happy Holidays!

2021 Year End Review and Happy Holidays!As we conclude 2021, I’m amazed at how quickly the year passed by. It was just yesterday we were contemplating what 2021 would look like from a virtual perspective. Could we really continue to operate in 2021 like we had in 2020? What changes would be necessary in the work environment? How would our relationships with our clients and the county/state jurisdictions survive? How would owners of private railcars continue to survive and thrive and what will be the state of commercial real estate, particularly in the hospitality and entertainment venues?

After months of no travel, I began attending conferences, client meetings and visits to Las Vegas office in June. Previously, blogs suggested traveling was… different.  I contend this continues to be the “new normal” and with variants of COVID continuing to rear their ugly heads, I anticipate more of the “new normal” throughout much of 2022.

So, what does this mean in the world of property taxes?

Good question, and we’re definitely looking for clues to guide us. The Federal Reserve recently announced plans to potentially increase interest rates three times in 2022. How will this affect the ability to borrow money or finance commercial/industrial real estate? Will money market rates increase to a level so investors may consider this option over speculative real estate? I don’t believe so, but there could be a slight “cooling off” of real estate transactions heading our way.

Closer to home, Missouri completed the bi-annual reassessment of real estate values. Particularly, the greater Northland area of Kansas City saw tremendous increases in property valuations. Owners of property located in Clay County witnessed valuation increases between 20%-150%. Many appealed the increased values to the local Board of Equalization, but many more didn’t meet the deadline in June to appeal their valuations and were in for quite a surprise when they received their tax bills in late November.

Please remember, taxpayers will have the right to again appeal their valuations in 2022 and at least have the opportunity to achieve a fair assessment for the 2022 tax year before undergoing the re-assessment cycle in 2023. The same theory holds true in the States of Iowa and Colorado. Please contact me if you have any questions concerning these states and what rights you have as owners of property.

Looking Ahead

RestaurantWhile certain sectors are thriving (industrial/commercial warehousing; multi-family and residential), other properties continue to suffer and will to seek ways to create value. High-end hospitality, office space and segments of the commercial retail space are not coming back to the pre-pandemic levels and it will be interesting to see if they’re permanently affected.

Restaurants, theatres and live entertainment venues are re-imagining what necessary steps must be taken to drive individuals to their businesses. All of these factors must be considered when looking at valuations for property taxes. The majority of the states must value property at its true market value on a “fee simple” basis. While jurisdictions love to look at contract rent (or the “leased-fee” aspect), fee simple valuations require these jurisdictions to review the market rents, not encumbered by lengthy, long-term leases.

On the rail car side, owners are excited to see goods on the move.

Rail CarWe filed a significant number of railcars this year with an “idle capacity” or “placed in storage” as many cars were not in service at the valuation date of January 1, 2021. We expect the numbers of cars in service to be much greater as of January 2022 and will be gathering the data over the next 30-60 days.

All in all, a very busy and challenging year. As I embark on my 37th season in the industry (Really???) I’m just as passionate about our clients and their needs as I’ve been in the past. Hop on, it’s going to be an interesting ride over the next 3-5 years.

Happy holidays to everyone and here’s to ringing in a great 2022!