The Swartz Report: The Value of a Second Opinion

Last week, my wife and I had the unfortunate experience of having our sewer back up into our half bathroom in the basement and into a portion of our finished basement. While insurance will cover most of the damage and inconvenience of being out of the home for multiple days, it is the follow up work and proactive measures for preventative maintenance that I found quite alarming.

Our usual service providers could not get to us over the weekend so we contracted with a large, local service who regularly advertises on television and in print.

PlumbingAfter completion of the task at hand, the technician wanted to inspect the line from the house to the street to insure there was a clear pathway. As an expert in property tax valuations and not plumbing, I watched the screen as the technician propelled his camera through the 4 inch line to the street.

During this time, he pointed out several potential issues, including a possible crack in the clay piping, roots growing where seals had eroded and probable failure of the line in the not too distant future. The two options provided; tear up the driveway and front yard to replace the entire 90 feet of sewer line (at a cost north of $30,000) or create an epoxy liner within the current line that would create a “pipe within pipe”.  This would take place internally and would not cause any (or minimal damage) to the property. The estimate for this was significantly less but still into the five digits.

“We are available to start this in 3 days. Here are options for payment – let’s get started.”

Hmmmm, not so fast, as my wife and I needed to discuss the options. How could we invest this type of money without getting a second opinion? Consumers compare prices for cars, get second opinions for surgery and physical therapy, and if you are regular readers of my blog, multiple comparisons and review of colleges. Why not plumbing?

We have engaged two additional plumbing companies to review our sewer line and offer estimates. Bottom line –  the sewer line appears to be fine but an epoxy liner may not be a bad idea as a longer term solution. Regular annual cleaning (at a cost of $100) should keep things clear for years to come.


Counting MoneyGood question, and if you are an owner of commercial property, the idea of a second opinion should be top of mind.

If you feel your valuation is fair but are unsure, why not get a second opinion? Additionally, if you have a property that has not been challenged in several years, maybe it is time to have a fresh set of eyes on the property. Over the years, we have lost a few clients only for the sake of change. Luckily, we have increased our client base significantly over the years by offering our review, approaching a valuation with a different perspective.

For those owners of property in Iowa, Missouri and Colorado, this year is a revaluation year.

We have already seen double digit percent increases in Platte and Clay Counties (Jackson County has not issued values as of this writing). Polk County (Des Moines) has increased commercial values in excess of 7% in most areas and we’ll see what Colorado looks like when they issue their valuation in the next two weeks.

The concept of ad-valorem taxation is taxing a property “at value” and generally implies the “value in exchange” or “fair market value”. Taxpayers should pay their fair share, nothing more. Second opinions are the best way to insure you are paying your fair share.

As always, thank you for reading and sharing my blog.  I appreciate your responses and am available if you have any questions.  .

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