"...distinguishing factual characteristics not marketing boasts..."

Research shows that owners of malls and retail centers look for distinguishing factual characteristics not marketing boasts when they hire property tax representatives to assist them in contesting their property taxes. Four criteria are critical to these owners in making their buying decisions. These criteria are:

  • Experience in property tax but also in related areas such as appraisal or real estate that can aid in the property tax outcome.
  • Resources, the depth of people and scope of expertise to handle the matter and the access to any necessary outside resources such as lawyers and expert witnesses.
  • Leadership, a clear demonstration of a leadership role in property taxes because owners believe that leadership is a factual predictor of success.
  • Relationships, a firm culture that fosters long-term relationships.
  • While owners need to ask tax representatives many questions in order to determine how well they measure up to the criteria, the following 20 areas of questioning are critical:
  • What mall/retail center properties have you represented?
  • What percentage of your clients are owners of mall/retail center properties?
  • What articles relating to malls/retail centers has your firm written and had published in trade and/or professional journals? How many of these articles has your firm written in the last three years?
  • How many administrative hearings or lawsuits involving mall/retails centers have you personally been involved with in the last two years?
  • Describe some of the more significant ones?
  • Which MAI appraisers have you personally worked with on mall/retail center cases? Describe their valuation approaches?
  • Explain the evolution of appraisal theory and describe the content of appraisal literature relating to malls/retail centers?
  • What approaches have you used over the last several years to resolve mall/retail center cases? How do these approaches differ from other tax representatives or from tax authorities?
  • What appraisal designations do any members of your firm have? What courses in appraisal methods have members of your firm taken or taught? In what years were these courses taken or taught?
  • Other than appraisal and tax consultant experience, what other backgrounds do members of your firm possess that would aid in your representation of us?
  • What leadership position(s) has your firm occupied in the property tax field and in what years was this?
  • Have you been involved with your state Legislature in developing property tax law? How were you involved with these legislative matters?
  • What efforts does your firm undertake to keep informed about mall/retail issues in other states?
  • What memberships does your firm hold in national property tax organizations and how often over the last three years have you personally attended their meetings?
  • Describe how you keep informed concerning legal issues relating to malls/retail centers? If the candidate firm is not a law firm, ask, "Describe how you handle matters involving legal issues?"
  • Describe the credentials of members of your firm and the length of time they have been with your firm?
  • Who will specifically handle my case and will my case be moved among various members of your firm?
  • What does your firm do to develop an exchange of ideas among your clients? For example do you introduce your clients to each other?
  • What do you do to insure prompt and effective communication with your clients? What form of reports can I expect?
  • What factually distinguishes your firm from other providers?

Using these questions with appropriate probing for factual answers will provide owners with the information they require to select the most qualified property tax representation.

Jim Popp Web-ResJim Popp is a partner with the law firm of Popp Hutcheson PLLC in Austin, Texas. Popp Hutcheson PLLC is the Texas member of American Property Tax Counsel, the national affiliation of property tax attorneys. Mr. Popp can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..