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« Countrywide Business Practices Continue to Sabotage Deals | Main | Broker Stands Ground Against Threats from Government Official »

December 29, 2007


Greg Swann

This is outrageous, like something out of a totalitarian state.

You did not forfeit your rights as a citizen by becoming a Realtor, and, therefore, you are endowed with not just a right but a positive duty to petition the government with grievances. Your rights are protected by the Federal and Virginia state constitutions. The functionary who is attempting to censor you is entirely in the wrong and should be fired at once as an example.

I have every confidence that, should you persevere, you will prevail in this matter.

Christina Ethridge

You have GOT to be kidding me?! It appears that the 'government official' has clearly over stepped his bounds and needs to have a face dunking of 'ethics' of his own. DO NOT back down. Know what he's really afraid of? That people will realize that their true market value is significantly below the assessed value. In other words, he's afraid that home owners will learn the truth and so he's coming out shooting to make you look like the idiot (when in fact, he's the idiot who wants consumers to remain blind to reality).

Bruce Hahn

The assessor is out of line. The county has sales price records as well as assessments for the same properties. It would have been very easy for the assessor to add the two sets of data for the last x number of transactions and post the ratio in response to the blog if in fact the data shows Louden homes aren't assessed at more than their fair nmarket value.

The fact that he didn't, and also responded in such an aggressive manner suggests that there probably is a problem of over-assessment in the county and the assessor's trying to head off further public discussion of the subject.


You have to be kidding!
We have sold by addresses posted on our blog without any commentary and a local town assessor’s office has actually linked to our blog as well as a local taxpayer association. The data on our blog is helping people formulate a defense for tax re-assessment.
This is Unreal!

Jeanne Breault

Wow! What's your broker's posiion?

Jeff Brown

Let it be known without an hint of ambiguity -- The assessor with the Napoleonic complex is making a complete ass of not only himself, but his office. As usual, when an entrenched nearly impossible to fire gov't employee has nothing of substance to make their point or persuade a taxpayer, their first 'go to' is naked bullying and intimidation.

That said -- as a designated broker for over three decades, I have ultimate power over my agent's blog content. Freedom of speech may indeed be an issue here, but trust me, his broker can shut him down any time she chooses to do so. The analogy might be listings. This agent takes a listing while working under his broker. It's the broker's listing, not his in any way shape or form. I maintain the same principle applies to the blog.

I just hope his broker shows some backbone and literally dares both the local and state Boards of Realtors to say or do anything, along with the assessor's office. Unless the blogger made his facts up out of thin air, he's on firm ground.

I suspect, though I pray otherwise, the agent's broker will cave.

If the Realtors in power pressure this broker and her agent to recant in any way, all they'll be proving is that nobody has yet found where NAR keeps the key to the testicle lockbox.

Phil Hoover

I can only hope your broker has the intestinal fortitude to do the right thing here.
God help anyone who attempts to cover up the truth in this day of full disclosure and truth-telling via the blogosphere.
Might be time to consider being your own broker?

Russell Shaw

What is missing in your post above is the NAME of the government official. He is WAY out of line and I am hoping that Chris Cormack does not back down on this issue. If it were me I would go to all of the local media with this - and I would include several very specific examples of properties that were taxed too high. As he (the official whose name I would be making very very well known) likes to send copies his "you shouldn't be doing this" to other various officials - I would return the favor.

Jeff Brown

Yeah, what Russell said. :) I wouldn't stop 'till they personally asked you for mercy.

Would very much like to hear from your broker.

Jay Thompson

Danilo -

How utterly asinine.

I completely agree with Russell. Plaster this guy/gals name everywhere. Do NOT let his delusions of his importance scare you. You don't need to hide his name.

I see you already edited your original post. IMHO, that's unfortunate and is giving this clown exactly what he wants.

Stand tough. Would be interested to know your broker's stance.

Email Joe at Sellsius. He's an attorney.

Geno Petro

I recently wrote in a post..."I purposely didn't go to law school because I purposely didn't want to become a lawyer."

I think I take that back. Someone in that dept needs to be served some papers Re: Amendment numero uno for starters.

Cindy Jones

Wow this is unreal. With all of the press about property values and tax assessments you would think that an official would want to reply and explain the discrepancies that consumers are seeing between "market value" and assessed value. I'll be looking for more information on how this plays out.

Russell Shaw

If for *any* reason, Chris does not want you to use his NAME on your blog - please send it to me. I will not only post his name, right along with his stupid, ham-handed attempt to shut you up - I will get his name communicated all over the country. If this just showed up on 100 - 200 blogs, all pointing right back to your original post (all, of course, with his NAME specifically featured) it would eventually get picked up by the main stream news.

If he had actual facts to back up *anything* he had to say - he could have and would have simply stated those facts in a post or a polite letter to you. Instead, he choose to make a snide comment and attack you for *being in business and communicating*. That was your "crime". People often make statements that are supposed to be factual that are in error and no sensible person tries to handle mistakes by trying to shut them up. They just point out the error. Even if your math was off or you did not use the correct formula for calculating the tax correctly the correct "handling" would not be attacking you - not unless HE had something to hide.

If your County Tax Assessor seriously believes he has a right to tell you (or anyone else) what they can or can not say on their blog he should not hold a position of public trust.

Tony Arko

Thanks everyone for confirming what we thought initially. At first we were taken back by the tactics this gentleman used to intimidate us. It completely caught us off guard. Then we started talking about it and felt the same way as you. We are trying to be as transparent with this issue because we feel it is very important for bloggers (especially real estate bloggers) going forward as blogging becomes more mainstream.

We are also very aware of the implications of this situation in defining blogs as they apply to advertising and marketing in the real estate world. The Virginia Association of Realtors is following this story very closely.

Russell, we left the name of the official out of the post but might consider putting it back in. Anyone can easily find out his name by following the link that goes right to his office website.

We have reached out to writers we know at The Washington Post and Reuters but if you or anyone else wants to spread the word, we feel this issue is important enough to warrant widespread media exposure.

As for our broker, she is not happy with the misrepresentation the county official made regarding their conversation. She, too, is not happy with his tactics and has made him aware of this.

We will keep everyone posted as the story unfolds.

Jeanne Breault

Do you have a smaller, local paper? They might be more interested in picking up the story than the WP or Reuters? All you really want to do is make Loudoun County residents aware of the issue. Another option would be a Letter to the Editor if news writers aren't interested in picking up the story.

It seems to me the issue here has become less about the overassessments and more about the behavior of the County official. Linda Davis is right about assessments and mills - the County is going to meet its property tax revenue threshhold one way or the other. What's more important is the County official's threats and attitude. I don't know whether your county officials are elected or appointed, but either way the political ramifications could be huge.


It should be very easy to combat this: Simply send him a letter via certified mail - return receipt requested - asking him to point out the specific inaccuracies to you as well as what the 'correct' data is alleged to be.

If he responds then you have narrowed the scope of the complaint to specific 'facts' for an potential litigation. if on the other hand, he does not respond, you will be in even a better position in the case of pending litigation.

DIsclaimer: I am not a lawyer and don't play one on TV. Free legal advice is worth exactly what you pay for it.

Arlington Virginia Condos -- Jay

Drama! I love it! I'm putting in my planner to call my contact(s) at the Washington Post to have them hear what you have to say and at least read the articles. IF this story--that assessments are significantly out of line--gets out to the general public of Loudon County, the media and a local citizen's taxation organization homeowners (consumers) will come out victorious and justice will be done. You're response was so diplomatic and professional that I'm truly impressed, Danilo. I've been an admirer of your blog for awhile my friend. Can't wait for the next update and let's see if WP will report more on this....Also I'd call 630wmal on this...they would eat this up on talk radio in the morning out which focuses on local public policy issues for the most part--chris core show. Get their number at their website. By getting any press--radio or newspaper--you will get transactions. Never fails. Consumers (the public) want advocates and they offer their loyalty to agents who are truly in the business to cover their back$ide.

If you're broker wants to look like he/she is on the side of his agents when issues arise then he/she better stand by you. Otherwise they'd lose all the positive branding and following that your blog represents--perhaps 1000s of local consumers who are on your side because you're on their side. For your broker to not support you full throttle would be a big mistake. The great thing is that those of us who are productive and can pick up and settle down somewhere else (brokerage)anytime practically....

Arlington Virginia Condos -- Jay

Also I'm going to send this to Frank ( whose blog rocks as well. He is the most media connected realtor I know. Once he reads your article I would not be surprised if he some advice on this matter....


I'm neither a realtor nor associated with the Assessor's Office, so I have no horse in this race. I agree that the tone of the County Assessor's emails are assertive and he could have stated his case less forcefully. But I don't read any threats in what he said. In fact he stated twice that he offered to meet with realtor's office and the association to explain the assessment process. Was that offer accepted?

It is shameful that this discourse is being used as a means of self promotion - as boasted by Arlington Virginia Condos - Jay: "By getting any press--radio or newspaper--you will get transactions. Never fails". Is it all about making money?

Irene Morales Ward

I had to go back and re-read your original post to see what on earth was making the county Assesor so incensed! The only thing I could come up with was this line; "That means that Loudoun County residents are paying up to 30 percent more in taxes than they should." While you state that "Everyone we've talked to in Loudoun County is upset about their assessed value and most are worried that their 2008 tax assessments will not be in line with their fair market value.", it would probably be safe to assume you didn't speak to every county resident.

I see an easy way out of this. Update your post with TWO words in the sentence. "That means that MANY Loudoun County residents MAY be paying up to 30 percent more in taxes than they should." The former way is stated as a matter of fact and the latter is a matter of opinion. The second still makes your point loud and clear without being misleading or inaccurate. Loudoun's County Assessor's Office has certainly shot themselves in the foot my highlighting something that was probably overlooked by many county residents. Let's see them try to punish you for stating your opinion!

Good luck and I'm going to link this on my blog. This an important example of governmental "powers" gone amuck!

Danilo Bogdanovic

Irene - Yes, you are correct about us not meaning everyone in the county. When we say that everyone "we've" talked to, it means just that - the people "we" have talked to, which, of course, is not everyone in the county. It's the people we run across throughout our time spent every day in Loudoun County for both, business and otherwise.

And your point about the words "many" and "may" is one to consider, but we clearly said "up to" 30 percent meaning that some may be only down a few percent and some more. In fact, there are properties in Loudoun County currently selling for up to fifty (50) percent less than their 2007 assessed values, but we wanted to use an example that wasn't completely on one end of the spectrum and more towards the middle.

Steve Belt

What a can of worms. The government official fails to point out specifically what "...the information that you provide on your site is misleading and erroneous." He repeatedly says there's something inaccurate, but then never says what exactly he doesn't like. You have a blog for goodness sake. With hundreds of posts. Which post is the problem, and what part of that post is a problem? That's never clearly explained.

And thus, what is really going on here is a bullying tactic. I'm pleased to hear that your broker and the folks at your association haven't just run for cover and told you to cease and disist. It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if that eventually happened. I'm not saying that would be right...just that with blogging being so new, it wouldn't surprise me if the powers that be decided to take the easy way out.


WOW! Where have I been? Obviously not keeping in touch with the local Blogosphere.

You guys really stepped in a pile with this controversy! But that's good. It was going to happen sooner than later. This issue is NOT about assessments. It IS about our right to express opinion...right or wrong. In three years of Blogging about Northern Virginia real estate, I have said some things that offended some people or that they otherwise disagreed with. So what? My commenter's have started written wars with me and I never deleted or censored that dialog (I would only delete a comment if it was vulgar or an inappropriate personal attack).

I remember a conversation we had at the VAR conference a couple of months ago about proposing standards for Bloggers. I was adamant then and even more adamant now that the associations, brokers and our peers should stay out of trying to control it. That being said, Blogging is a very powerful tool and we need to accept the immense responsibility that goes with the power and exercise sensible judgement in expressing our opinions. Those without good judgement will die on their own.

The public wants transparency in this industry that has been missing since dirt. Real estate Bloggers are bringing transparency and consumers love it.

The unnamed government official is making a name for himself that he really doesn't want (actually, his name is all over the planet).

Happy New Year to you, Chris and all your supporters. This is going to be a watershed debate.

Laurie Manny

While I agree with your right to free speech, it sounds like you pounced on a raw nerve. The assessors office likely has been discussing raising the taxable amount concurrently with a reassessment of value to offset the loss of income to the county. Planning of this nature usually happens under the radar, it sounds like you just blowed it up and pissed a few officials off, lol...

Donna Crouse

Amendment I, To the Constitution of the United States of America,

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise therof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press, or the right fo the people to peaceably assemble, and TO PETITION THE GOVERNMENT FOR A REDRESS OF GRIEVANCES."

From the post:

"The people who are even more upset are those who appealed their tax assessments earlier this year and were completely shot down without a good, if any explanation."

Sounds likes he has violated more than just Danilo's right to free speech. Thank you Danilo Bogdanovic for standing up for the rights of others, as well as yourself.

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