Report on the 81st IAAO Conference

Lloyd Funk, AAM
By Lloyd Funk, AAM

On September 13-16, 2015, I attended the 81st International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO) Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana as a representative of the AAOM.

Monday morning began with the opening ceremonies. Since Indianapolis is home to the Indianapolis 500, the conference title and theme were appropriately penned Racing Toward Assessment Innovation.

It’s at the opening ceremonies that you realize how large an event an IAAO conference is and the far reaching influence of the organization. The conference had over 1,100 attendees from nearly every corner of the globe including Europe, Korea, Guam, Lithuania as well as Canada, and of course the USA, providing a truly international setting.

Attending an IAAO conference is an experience that is both educational and inspiring.

Eric Legrand
Eric Legrand

Eric LeGrand, a former star football player from Rutger’s University provided a motivational speech at the opening ceremonies. He was an elite NCAA defensive tackle and was on track to be a first round draft pick in the NFL.

Everything changed on a routine play when he made a tackle on a kick return. Eric fractured his C3 and C4 cervical vertebrae and nearly died later in the hospital.

Doctors expected him to need the assistance of a machine for the rest of his life, in order to breathe, but within a year he was breathing without the assistance of a ventilator. Even though doctors have given him a 0-5% chance of ever walking again, he is determined to do so (I wouldn’t bet against him).

Eric now works tirelessly to raise awareness and funds for spinal cord injury research. His ability to persevere and his determination since the injury serve as an inspiration for anyone who has suffered setbacks.

…professionalism and knowledge imparted through the education tracks was its strength…

Although the size of the IAAO conference was impressive, the professionalism and knowledge imparted through the education tracks was its strength. There were six unique educational tracks provided at each session and they were all delivered by leaders in the field.

The tracks offered this year were:

  • Commercial Real and Personal Property;
  • Residential and Agricultural Focus;
  • Management and Personal Development;
  • Tax Policy and Assessment Standards;
  • Technology Trends and Tools; and
  • Special Issues.

Assessors in the United States are consistently facing the argument from lawyers and tax agents of large chain or franchise properties (e.g. Lowes, Walgreens, etc.)  that those properties should be valued based on sales of vacant buildings.

Many of the sales of these vacant chain stores also have deed or title restrictions placed on the property, putting further downward pressure on their sale prices. This is a trend that we will likely see in the near future in Canadian assessment jurisdictions.

It’s vital to get back to the basics when determining the market value

The presenter of this session, William D. Shepherd, counsel for Hillsborough County, emphasized that it’s vital to get back to the basics when determining the market value of these types of properties.

To do so, he stressed the importance of analyzing whether there is demand for the current use of the property, conducting a marketability study, determining if current design specifications are the same as the building being valued, or if obsolescence exists.

Hillsborough County was successful in making these arguments in a Florida Circuit Court versus a major drug store company.

Travis County was able to complete their field checks in less than four months, increasing the efficiency by more than 30%.

Another session that was a highlight at the conference was led by the Residential Appraisal Director for Travis County (Austin) in Texas. Their assessment office recently moved away from paper field cards for recording property characteristic data to tablets.

With the use of tablets, Travis County was able to complete their field checks in less than four months, increasing the efficiency by more than 30%.

My time spent at the IAAO conference was an invaluable experience that displayed the excellence of the assessment profession. The IAAO is an organization that provides credibility to all assessors and jurisdictions that are affiliated with it.

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