Recession Ends In DeKalb. Unicorns for Everyone!

You know what they say about real estate: “Location, location, location.” And in case you didn’t know, Briarmoor Road in DeKalb County Georgia is THE bestest location in the whole wide world! And not just because I live there.  In a County where the value of the property tax digest has declined by 25% over the last 3 years and 6% in the last year alone, houses on my street have increased in value by an average of 75% just this month. “How can that be?” you ask. “The real estate market is in the crapper, mortgage companies are foreclosing instead of refinancing because of federal subsidies, nobody’s buying any houses and home values in DeKalb County and metro Atlanta are down more than anywhere else in the nation! What’s the secret?”

Apparently the DeKalb County Board of tax assessors has discovered the oil reserves, platinum mines and unicorn farm my neighbors and I have been secretly running all these

Princess Sparklepony cavorts happily in DeKalb County.


Goodness knows how much more they’ll increase our assessments when they find the eternal fountain of cold, crisp beer that flows through all our back yards.

I suppose it’s a good thing that our secret stash of highly desirable real estate has been discovered. While other communities struggle to improve their residents’ home values with boring things like a competent County government and a functioning school system, DeKalb has chosen to raise taxes and spend, spend, spend! Hey, if you had a unicorn farm in your county, wouldn’t you go hog-wild by blowing taxpayer dollars on stupid crap like lawsuits and water parks in celebration? Of course you would!

Now, in the real world, the County is supposed to appraise the fair market value of properties, and then assess taxes on 40% of that fair market value. The problem is that the market hasn’t been very “fair” to the tax appraising, assessing and collecting communities of DeKalb County recently. In fact, the market’s invisible hand has been pimp-slapping DeKalb county property values pretty hard. Just like the rest of metro Atlanta, and Georgia and most of the nation.

But the Board of Assessors in DeKalb refuse to believe in things like markets, invisible hands and reality. The believe in unicorns, and that DeKalb County’s real estate valuations will lead the real estate recovery boom that will happen just as soon as every DeKalb taxpayer wins the lottery and can afford to pay their new, higher taxes.

There’s a boomlet in property tax appeals in DeKalb, and if the tax folks have notified you that you’re also living near an oil well or unicorn farm, you can get the form to file an appeal online at this link. Here’s State Representative Mike Jacobs explaining the process.

You have until July 13 to appeal your assessment, and you should.

If that doesn’t work, stock up on pitchforks and torches.


  1. Calypso says:

    Now that your home is so valuable, I’d sell, move just outside the fantasy zone and PROFIT!

      • saltycracker says:

        It is a painful subject – I’ve learned, particularly in Florida, that trying to be logical or legal in the circular world (see the other guy) of assessments and millages is futile when it isn’t what they want to hear or do.

  2. saltycracker says:

    “DeKalb has chosen to raise taxes and spend, spend, spend!”
    Correct. Your Assessors are pretty much high income public servants (The chair is a university employee) or lawyers in the business. If they don’t get you plebes the BOC will on millages.

    The idea of property taxes is for you to increase your income each year, pay homage or get out. It goes into hyper drive in metro counties where the dynamics between the high & low incomes crunch the middle.

    Kinda like sitting on the beach on an incoming tide and complaining your feet are wet.
    Solution, earn/get enough to float or move away.

  3. Progressive Dem says:

    There are a number of subdivisions along Briarcliff near Hawthorne Elementary school which the tax assessor has already identified as having problems with the “modifers.” Revised assessments are forthcoming for about 2,000 parcels. Call the number printed on the notice. You’re probably in the affected area. It’s helpful to gather more information when obvious mistakes occurr.

  4. USA1 says:

    Appraisals for the DeKalb CEO and BOC:

    Burrell Ellis: 2011 was $193,800 and now 2012 is $123,300

    Elaine Boyer: 2011 was $244,320 and now 2012 is $204,800

    Jeff Rader: 2011 was $302,500 and now 2012 is $273,000

    Larry Johnson: 2011 was $91,920 and now 2012 is $58,800

    Sharon Barnes Sutton: 2011 was $206,520 and now 2012 is $117,400

    Lee May: ??? bankruptcy and foreclosure, does not own a home

    Kathie Gannon: 2011 was $529,800 and now 2012 is $577,300

    Stan Watson: 2011 was $177,360 and now 2012 is $135,100

    It looks like only Kathie Gannon feels your pain (and only a little bit at that).

  5. elfiii says:

    I think I’ll keep my mouth shut. Ours dropped $47,100 and that after we spent $147,000 on a remodel/addition and landscaping.

    I am insulted.

  6. DeKalb Wonkette says:

    Rep. Jacobs et al: What about amending the law to give citizens a private right of action when DeKalb or any other county can’t or won’t comply with the law?

    Problem: Been there done that with Board of Equalilzation and all parties agreed to a lower valuation. Nevertheless, DeKalb’s Assessment still reflects the old valuation for 2011 and uses it for the basis of 2012 valuation. We’ve appealed yet again, for whatever that is worth. And don’t even get me started on what passes of a BOE process in DeKalb!

    Bottom line is that DeKalb taxpayers can get stuck in an endless loop wherein their valuation issue NEVER gets fully addressed. Very nice to hear that our county commissioners appear to be squared away on theirs.

    My one situation has taken more than a year to resolve. None of it would have been necessary had DeKalb simply done what it was supposed to do and factor in the foreclosure of the dead-on comparable property right next door to us.

    • bgsmallz says:

      Question…did the county flip the ratio on your land/building appraisal? My appraisal decreased by about 8%, but the value of my land increased by 20% (and has increased by about 180% since 2010) while the value of the building has decreased by about 60%.

      I’m in an older home (built in ’61) but have infills in our subdivision. I’m starting to think the county is trying to systematically reset the appraisals in order to be in a position to tax not on the fair market value of your home, but on the value of other homes being built nearby.

      It’s the same story throughout our neighborhood. Most of my neighbors took increases or held flat…and it was all due to an increase in the value of the land rather than the building value.

      The most absurd thing about it…a foreclosure of a ranch home…county has the bank sale which occurred on 2/06/12 listed at $148K….house is appraised for 2012 at $256K.

      Just stoopid.

      • DeKalb Wonkette says:

        On our original appraisal for 2011, DeKalb did exactly that: Flipped the value of land v. structure to arrive at the same inflated appraisal as for 2010 – or about $100K more than the property is worth. Funny how the math worked out so neatly.

  7. Progressive Dem says:

    DeKalb and every metro counties tax digest went down billions of dollars because of lower assessments. The foreclosures and distressed sales of banks are driving down assessments and local government/school board revenues. Government tax assessors use a mass assessment methodology. They can’t very well perform individual assessment on 100’s of thousands parcels every year. Unlike the assessor who you and your bank hire to help refinance your home, most people hide information from local government assessors. You can deny them the right of entry. If you hire an appriaser to complete an individual appraisal, most people tell them every improvement and puff-up the cost and value as much as possible.

  8. elfiii says:

    @ Progressive Dem “Unlike the assessor who you and your bank hire to help refinance your home, most people hide information from local government assessors.”

    You mean like the data on comparable sales in your neighborhood, the real estate listings on MLS, the tax stamps paid on closed transactions which are a matter of public record? All of these things are indicia of FMV. They don’t need to see the inside of your house to come up with a value that approximates FMV for tax purposes. A third grader could do a better job.

    • Progressive Dem says:

      Since it dropped, it would be fair to assume they looked at closed sales, and one or more sales were foreclosures or distressed. Asking listed prices on FMLS are worthless in an appraisal, so no they should not consider what a seller has priced a property – only closed transactions. If your work was permitted, they’ll probably catch up to your improvement, but if you think it is too low, I’m sure you can appeal and ask to pay more.

      • bgsmallz says:

        @Progressive Dem

        I’m at a lost to figure out what point you are trying to make. Here is the bottom line: I have no idea how in the world the county appraiser could increase the appraised value on any home in this market. It doesn’t make any sense. On my street, we have 15 houses. 15 out of 15 had an increase in the assessed value of the land. How in the heck does that make any sense?

        Is there a secret market for the sale of residential land that doesn’t include anyone actually building or selling any houses on it?

        The county is scheming and manipulating using the value of land. I smell a lawsuit coming down the pike.

        • Progressive Dem says:


          Over the past 5-7 years many neighborhoods inside 285 have experienced a significant amount of infill housing. Some older homes were purchased primarily for their location and the structures were completely gutted and rehabbed or the existing house was demolished to build new housing. That trend explain why land values have gone up, but it would depend on your location. Usually the increse in land values is countered by a reduction in the value of structures.

          To believe a local government is “scheming and manipulating” you have to believe in conspiracies among three groups: the board of commissioners, the citizens they appoint to the Board of Assesors and between the professional staff. I’ve been appointed by politicians to serve on various boards and task forces, and never have I been told to how vote one way or another. The staffs are also civil service employees who are protected from the kind of political pressure needed to implement a political manipulation. I believe (not 100% certain) that the appraisers who serve in local government tax appraisal offices are all certified by the state board, and that they must meet specific qualifications and continuing education requirements.

          Bottom line: this is a crazy real estate market. If you speak to any appraiser, they will tell you their job has never been more difficult then in this market. These market conditions can produce odd and incorrect assessments, and are probably the source of most of the problems. It is unlikley anyone is conspiring to “get” your neighborhood.

          • bgsmallz says:

            Interesting…I wouldn’t know anything about this…or…I would know exactly what you are talking about as I live in a neighborhood that was experience infill housing. Our subdivision is made up of 60s and 70s ranch and split level homes. I would say that pre-2008, we had roughly 10 to 15% of those homes replaced by infill. However, that stopped…dry. I have no belief anyone is out to ‘get’ my neighborhood. However…how can land increasing by 200 to 300% on some properties in north Dekalb from 2010 be rational without some sort of philosophy shift on the part of the county’s appraisal team.

            Bottom line: in 2011, for whatever reason, the county as a whole reassessed much of the property in north DeKalb by reducing the value of the building and increasing the value of the land. Not in 2005. Not in 2008. In 2011…after the building boom had ceased. In my case, the land has increased in value by 200% and the building has decreased by 60% resulting in a net decrease of about 20% from 2010. Some of my neighbors had their land increased by 300% while their building dropped by a X% resulting in a zero net decrease. This is a common story throughout north DeKalb.

            The housing and infill boom was prior to 2011, yet this re-assesment continues to happen. From 2011 to 2012, the assessed value of my land went up by 30%. What possible explanation could there be from that? We have had three vacant lots sitting for infill, 1 foreclosure (as referenced above) and several distressed sales…what could possible be out there as a comparable that says the fair market value of my property increased?

            And I don’t know if you’ve lived in DeKalb…but I have and my siblings have and my parents have and my grandparents have and my great grandparents have….my assumption is that you haven’t. Otherwise, you would know that you don’t need a coordinated effort that makes sense in order to manipulate these things.

            Conspiracy theories aside…there was a shift in philosophy on how to appraise older homes in the north end of the county (and maybe in the central and south…I just haven’t looked) and it mostly involved flipping the ratio of building/land worth. There are only two real justifications…either the county was grossly wrong prior to 2011 on their valuations or they have some reason of trying to increase the price of land 2 and 3 fold.

            • Calypso says:

              One thought on the matter, they are putting the lion’s share of the assessment on the land because no matter what happens to the house (burned down, razed but not rebuilt, abandonded) the land will always be there as a continuous and available revenue stream.

              Just an idea, though I think what is happening sucks.

            • Progressive Dem says:

              I’ve lived in DeKalb for 30 years. Last year I experienced an increase in land and decrease in structure. The total value didn’t change. This year, the value of my structures went down a little. Sounds like the same thing happened to you. The infill boom in your neighborhood, particularly with tear downs is why the land assessments are going up. Essentially people were buying finished lots for $150-200,000. Its proof you have a good location. (Home values are rebounding inside 285 and close-in, but property in the exurbs ain’t never coming back.) Land outside the the perimeter is cheaper, and the new homes may be larger with a longer economic life. Therefore their land values will be less and house values higher. If you took your 60’s ranch to Cherokee County, what’s it worth? Would someone pay the same price as they would in its deKalb location? Probably not. Fow what my house is worth, I could buy a much larger home in the suburbs, but my commute would suck. I have a higher value for location aka land.

              The changes – the bias towards land – seems like a logical progression to me. In my mind, it is a more accurate method and reflects the trend in rising property values in places close to employment centers, with short commutes, with transportion alternatives.

  9. SallyForth says:

    Mike, I tried that appeals thing last year, since my neighbors’ across the street went down and mine went up. That made no difference to the county tax folks – they said I have a “bigger footprint” than my neighbors do. I said that was downright insulting and that my feet have nothing to do with this tax stuff!
    Heaven help me when they find out about my unicorn and the cold, crisp beer flowing through my back yard…

  10. Obi's Sister says:

    Pixie dust.

    Mike, you forgot the pixie dust. Pixie dust is very important when dealing with appraisers, politicians and other orc-like beings.

  11. USA1 says:

    This is just such awesome news.

    Any Brookhaven residents still on the fence will now be inclined to vote to incorporate, as they realize that DeKalb government’s only strategy at this point is to grab as much money as possible from north DeKalb homeowners.

    As of next year, the folks in Tucker, Northlake, Oak Grove, Sagamore, Medlock Park, Toco Hills, and Druid Hills are going to realize they are the only suckers left.

    I’ve heard from several people that the estimate is that homeowners in commission districts 1 and 2 (40% of the population) pay two-thirds of the property taxes. Four more years of Ellis and his tax-raising majority on the BOC is going to do wonders for the incoporation movement and pleas to join Milton County.

    Add to that the living, breathing incompet monster that is the school system, and we may even see new school districts forming.


    • bgsmallz says:

      I’m curious about the rest of the county. The county can’t continue to provide municipal services under the current model. The county can’t and shouldn’t be allowed to collect franchise fees. However…that is going to be the next push. I can already smell it….city of DeKalb, the sequel.

      What’s going to be really interesting is to see whether Atlanta makes another push to annex more area in DeKalb. I could easily see the city annexing everything east to Candler Road and getting rid of those silly boundaries on the south side of Decatur. What’s more interesting is the north side of Decatur. I think there would be a lot of sentiment in the Druid Hills and Emory area in joining the city of Atlanta rather than starting a new city or …shudder….going with a city of DeKalb. If I were a betting man, I’d put money on Atlanta expanding east to Candler, the area north of 78 incorporating into some variation of a city of Tucker, a large city in the south grabbing up the commercial along I-20 (either in the form of a city of So. DeKalb or a Lithonia annexation) and a pretty interesting discussion of what happens to the areas between the city of Atlanta and 285 north of Decatur within the next 8 years. By 2020, the only area that might not be incorporated could be the extreme south portion of the county (which would make sense considering it is pretty rural and not nearly as dense as the rest of the area.)

      • USA1 says:

        I’m sure DeKalb leaders are resistant to privatizing large chunks of county government because once they do that it becomes easy for cities or wanna-be cities to sell their residents on the benefits of a cheaper, more flexible workforce.

        Decatur officials are already keen to annex more land north of the city to capture Suburban Plaza, and Medlock Park residents have already shown some interest in being annexed into Decatur. Closing Medlock Elementary, allowing PATH to build their trail through the woods, and having Walmart come to town has given them even more motivation to join Decatur.

        I have no idea if Atlanta would even consider annexing more land but, if they did, I think you’re right and that Emory and Druid Hills would be good fits.

        Clarkston leaders are also interested in expanding their boundaries.

        I think the county has done their dardnest to placate Tucker. They’ve given them a new high school, new middle school, new library, police precinct, and helped them spruce up main street. Don’t forget Burke Brennan is still president of the Tucker Business Association. Had the whole incorporation movement started earlier, before large changes in Tucker demographics, I think becoming a city would have been more likely. It’s still possible but I think the county will put up a huge fight, because losing Tucker would be a huge blow to what’s left of unincorporated DeKalb. One big key to Tucker cityhood is who will be the 81st district representative. I’m certain Scott Holcomb would be opposed, so a good question to ask Chris Boedeker and Carla Roberts is if they would support and sponsor legislation for cityhood. Seeing as how neither of them would live in the new city, I’m not sure how they’d feel, but Boedeker would probably be sympathetic since he is in Brookhaven.

        I’m not sure what Atlanta would get out of expanding into SW DeKalb, except more headaches for the police and lower property values. Hell, maybe DeKalb leaders would actually want to give it up.

        • bgsmallz says:

          There has been loose discussions about annexation of the Decature boundary along N. Decatur road since the 80s. I know my parents were against it because of the addition of kids to the school system. That’s a real issue for a small system like Decatur. Interestingly…I’ve hear they are discussing re-opening Westchester. Mabye annexing and purchasing Medlock Elem might be an easier task than redividing the elementary schools again?

          As far as Atlanta…I assume there is some interest in having the rest of East Lake in the city boundaries. Frankly, it doesn’t make much sense that the east side of Moreland is unincorporated DeKalb either. Candler Rd. may be too ambitious, but smoothing out some of those boundaries on the SE side of town makes sense.

          But good point on local representation and Tucker…however, if Atlanta and Decatur was involved and it wasn’t just a ‘republican’ issue, I could really see local legislation and support from many moderate Dems in facing the reality that a large portion of DeKalb has characteristics of a city and therefore should be incorporated rather than having muni services provided by a county.

  12. analogkid says:

    My DeKalb assessment went up by $40k, but my neighbors on either side saw theirs go down by about the same amount. After I calmed down, I called the assessor, and he acknowledged that they applied the wrong “neighborhood factor” as Progressive Dem notes above. My assessment is now in line with the rest of the neighborhood.

    I’d recommend calling before going to the effort of filing an appeal.

  13. Merrie says:

    Everyone on my street went up too. But not as much as mine. My next door neighbor also owns a condo in Decatur and the county has it assessed higher than the city.

    Not to be a downer here, but even if we all march on the tax office with our pitchforks and torches and are succesful at lowering our assessments, they’re just going to raise the millage rate on us.

  14. saltycracker says:

    Property taxes are subjective unless they are based on what one paid for it. Assessors could be used for inheritances, barters, exchanges and activities considered not at arms length.

    The current purpose is to drive turnover and subjectively increase government revenue. The current process needs to be ended. Tax monetary exchanges and, if necessary, tax on a per resident basis.

    My home is worth what I paid for it, not what my neighbor sold his for by whatever financial methods he used.

    • Calypso says:

      “My home is worth what I paid for it…”

      Actually, your home is worth what someone would pay you for it. What you paid for it is immaterial at this time.

      • saltycracker says:

        To better say it – at the worst case I should only be taxed on a basis of what I freely paid for something – that’s a number I used in determining what I could afford.

        For my tax purposes I could care less what someone thinks my property is worth ot they’d like to pay me for my property. It does not compute.

        Once someone pays me for it, it is his problem & I’d hope he figured that into his cost to carry.
        I then might have another tax issue on the profit for what I got out of it.

        • Calypso says:

          “…at the worst case I should only be taxed on a basis of what I freely paid for something – that’s a number I used in determining what I could afford.”

          You don’t allow for value (hypothetically speaking at this time of course)-and thereby property tax-increases?

          I’m not trying to be argumentative, I might even agree with you. I’m just unclear as to what you mean.

          • saltycracker says:

            The value you speak of is subjective, so I do not accept it. Sure had fun in cocktail parties, particulary in Florida, telling me, holy smokes, guess what that property of yours is worth now?

            On a favorite it was, don’t care, not interested in finding out, it’s to have & hold. It is criminal to have a drive by nitwit looking at my neighbor who sold out for good reasons or financial smoke & mirrors & determining my value on that. That method is falsely engrained in our psyche. Things change and are not real (for taxation) until monetized.

            I had my taxes go up 50% in 24 mos. on this property in the insane runup. It has gone down a little but I still pay 3x my neighbor, a long time “protected” homesteader (now trapped by the taxman on his property – he has a fixed income & moving gets him nailed).

            Most of my family has had to sell their non-homesteaded property as they were land rich & cash poor – it’s a long sick practice, that’s what the carpet baggers did after the “conflict” they taxed the cash poor land owners off their property. The new carpet baggers are the real estate interests jumping on the need more public tax revenue bandwagon.

            Now, to some benefit, owning a large tract has tax advantages today – take a look at your lot value (xhome) today and then go look up a hunk of land a developer is eyeing. My lot (but it is developed, they say to discharge my complaint) is valued at 10 to 20 times undeveloped property near me.

            Property taxes are us paying for the growth that is not adequately funding that growth.

            I have no issue with low values on raw land – a tree or cow does not use many public facitlities – as long as when development starts a big impact fee drives growth to fund growth. No County has a savings account for future capital needs & most zoning changes are with the development. So should everyone in the county or the developer/new resident pay a larger share of the capital costs for that new school & firehouse & precinct & library ? Not all of it, but a big hunk of it, property & sales taxes of the new & old folks adress the operating costs & some future cap costs.

            And yes the developer will adjust what he is willing to pay if he cannot pass that cost to you. Thus the anti-zoning, anti-impact fee crowd springs forth funded by real estate interests, bankers, CofC’s. And the anti-regulation T-party doesn’t think local stuff thru and falls into that trap that will increase our taxes and drive down our quality of life.

            My fingers on these little keys are cramped now……

          • saltycracker says:


            Property could go up if we inflate or continue to devalue the dollar, thus your fictious property taxes will rise accordingly or in tough times they might go up out of proportion, via higher millages……and if your wages don’t keep up…you can sell out & move down…some option huh ?

  15. autygr says:

    My name is RJ Morris, and I am running for Fulton County Tax Commissioner. And brother, do we feel your pain too! Almost 30,000 parcels were raised in value this year in Fulton.

    Okay what can you do? Its really simple. STOP focusing on the assessors. They are paid to keep values high so elected officials will not have to raise the overall millage rate on everyone.

    Think about it, better to raise 10% of the people 50%, that to raise 100% of the people, less enemies. And they also do not have to take the blame for it. “Oh no, I dont have nuthin’ to do with raisin’ no taxes. That’s the assessors that I appointed that did that to you.” Says Mr. County Commissioner.

    So next time the County Commissioners tell you they cant do anything about the assessments, say “Okay…. well I can sure do something about YOU on election day!

    • saltycracker says:

      I’m very familar with the politics & finger pointing between the BOC & assessor’s office, it is the way it is in Georgia & Florida. I have one tax bill in Fla. with 12 seperate entities setting their millage rate & was told to go talk to each one if I had a problem & they politely gave me the phone numbers.

      For a Tax Commissioner pointing that out to the unwashed is passing the “not my job, I just collect what I’m told” buck.

      Our interest would be what are you going to do to get that money in the most timely & cost efficient way ?

      There are a lot of ways to go about that very inefficiently & expensively. Hiring Dog the Bounty Hunter is not a good one. Making the process complicated & appealing for adequate staff is not either.

      As a sidenote, I had a property in the City, Atlanta , never knew about the mandatory garbage fee, never needed collection, it was not on two tax bills, never heard anything and one day got a monster bill, it was an error on their part….but tough, pay up or else….never really knew what office screwed that up but I paid & was thankful they didn’t ask for penalties.

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