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T. G. I. Short

February 28, 2007

I will not be sad to see the last of February. This month has worked my last nerve. I thought the truck getting totaled and the hassle associated with that was enough crap to deal with for this month, but no, the universe did not agree and arranged a screw up with our house assessment. In Michigan, annual increases in the taxable value of residential property are capped at 5% or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower, unless the property is sold, in which case they get adjusted (usually way up) based on the sale price. I was therefore surprised when I opened the mail Monday night and saw our 2007 assessment notice which showed that the taxable value on our house was going up by 33%. What?

Sure enough, buried in the middle of the text-crammed notice was this line:

5. There WAS/WAS NOT a transfer of ownership on this property in 2006. WAS

WAS NOT! I wanted to shout at it, but yelling at a piece of paper didn’t seem like a good solution. Now, a person less prone to anxiety than I would have just resolved to call the township in the morning and put the paper aside. Of course that’s not what I did. I started worrying about having to appear before the Board of Review and trying to prove that I didn’t sell or buy my house last year. I envisioned needing to hire a lawyer to help us straighten things out. I wondered if somehow we’d gotten ensnared in a mortgage fraud scam and soon we’d get notice of foreclosure proceedings. (It could happen.)

Standing around worrying wasn’t doing me any good, so I marched upstairs and got online to do some research. I spent the next hour or so until Mr. Karen got home poking around government sites and mortgage fraud weblogs and the like. The most interesting thing I found was the township’s assessor database. According to it, our house was sold last February. Mr. Karen and I were still listed as the owners, so evidently we sold it to ourselves. As buyers, we drove a hard bargain, too, because the sale price was about $30,000 less than the comparables. At this point, while I was still worried about how we’d get things corrected, I did at least feel a little less concerned about the possibility of fraud, since surely any scam artist would have stopped paying on the new mortgage long before a year went by.

Tuesday morning I called the assessor’s office and explained that my notice said my house was sold in 2006 and that wasn’t true. The woman typed my address into the computer and said that the county had reported to them that it was sold on February 23rd and told me the names of buyer and seller. I said I didn’t know either of those people and she said they’d look into it and call me back. Which another woman did a couple hours later, and she said yes, there’d been a data entry error and my house hadn’t actually been sold and my taxable value was only going up 3.7% and they’d send out a corrected notice.

So, problem fixed. (Though I will have a tiny lump of anxiety in me until I get the corrected notice.) Given that it took only one phone call to resolve, I feel pretty stupid for spending almost an entire evening fretting about it. Will I ever manage to be the kind of person who can just put the paper aside until morning? I hope so.

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