City commissioners and county officials meet with Vanguard

The Langdon City Commission and Cavalier County Commissioners Rick Ring and Elsie Magnus, Cavalier County Auditor Lisa Gellner, and Cavalier County Tax Director Pam Lafrenz met with Ryan Ehli of Vanguard Appraisals, Inc. during the regular Langdon City Commission meeting. 

Vanguard graphic

Posted on 8/29/15

By Melissa Anderson

Vanguard is a mass appraisal company that services the midwest and has done appraisal services or has their assessors program being used by 34 counties, more than five cities in North Dakota, and the company has six ND counties on their schedule for future work.

Vanguard Appraisals, Inc.  was started in 1968 and has been at the forefront of the mass appraisal industry. With over a billion properties appraised by Vanguard’s certified appraisal staff and accreditation by the Better Business Bureau, the specialists at Vanguard have proven that it does what is needed in order to have the best assessment for customers. The staff includes individuals in field data collection, appraisal review, pricing, and mass appraisal project management.

The Vanguard company has not stopped at just being the best in the field of assessment work but also has one of the most commonly used assessment programs to their credit. The Vanguard program called CAMAVision is a program that was developed “specifically to operate in the assessor’s environment”.

Over the course of his hour long presentation, Ryan Ehli, a Regional Field Specialist at Vanguard, stressed the importance having good assessment data to create the appropriate figures.

“Without a good foundation of good and current property data, the assessment process cannot be completed properly,” Ehli said.

Ehli explained the best assessment process to use when working with the Vanguard program begins with determining the replacement cost of all structures on the property as well as the condition and age of the fixtures both inside and outside of the buildings.

“One of the most important steps in the valuation process is to calculate the replacement cost of all structures,” Ehli stated.

Interior inspections are a large part of having an accurate assessment according to Ehli. He explained that being able to enter a residential property is important to insure the accuracy of the assessment in regards to the specs of the house and grade.

“Garbage in, garbage out. If good data isn’t being put in then I can’t get good data out,” Ehli said.

One example that Ehli used on the capability of the program to create an extremely accurate assessment of properties when viewed internally was related to basements. Ehli explained that an assessor using the Vanguard program has many options for assessing a basement from unfinished to fully finished living spaces with bathrooms and bedrooms and any condition or use in between.

All of this information, once collected, can be used for more than just tax purposes as appraisers and realtors also rely on this information. Inadequate and/or incorrect data has a negative impact on the reliability of the outcome of appraisals and market analyses that are conducted by those entities for their purposes. This would in turn help to create more accurate sales value for the City of Langdon to use in the assessments data. Ehli explained that the sales values used for the assessments would be local.

“We would use sales values in Langdon or Cavalier County. We would not use Grand Forks or Fargo values,” Ehli stated.

Another feature of the program that is important to note is that the program has a sort of built-in safeguard to insure equal assessments. The program allows the operator to go back in the history to determine when the issue occurred and rectify it.

“The Vanguard program has a feature that self checks to ensure accuracy and that there are not discrepancies in equity value between homes. We want to equalize everybody and make sure that everybody is paying their fair share,” Ehli said.

Ehli then covered the contract that would be given to the buying entity. The service contract would cover license fees, unlimited tech support, unlimited updates to the program, any changes that would need to be made as a result of state law changes, and that representatives would come up to help train those who use the program such as the Tax Director, Auditors, and the assessors.

Ehli explained that how Vanguard prefers the program to be licensed is in a top down sort of format.

“Vanguard usually prefers to work from the county down, licensing at the county level and then working their way down,” Ehli said.

The cost for the service contract and the licensing the program for five years is about $37,000. Ehli explained that there is the option of having Vanguard create the parcels in the system for a one-time fee of $3,000.

The Vanguard assessing program is not limited to just residential assessments in the city. The program can be utilized for commercial assessments, rural residencies, townships and most importantly, for agricultural assessments. Currently, Cavalier County uses a program called Sidwell that Ehli said can work with the Vanguard program.

“We have the capability to populate our tables with your soils and modifiers to get a value for that out of the program. You [Cavalier County] would have to give us everything and tell us what to put in here,” Ehli said.

Ehli then addressed the bid that was sent in earlier this summer to the City of Langdon regarding reassessment. Ehli explained that the reassessment would be a year-long process beginning in early January with preliminary work. Sometime between April and May a team of field appraisers would come spending one or two weeks appraising the city residences.

A reviewer would then do follow-up work to create a consistent opinion on property assessments later in the year in about August or September. Finally, a team from Vanguard would come again to do informal hearings with taxpayers who wish to discuss their assessments prior to the actual City Equalization meeting held in April.

The bid submitted by Vanguard for this year long process was $140 per parcel. The City of Langdon listed 840 resdiential parcels in the bid for a total base cost of $117,600 to reassess the city. The total cost is in the $225,000 range which includes commercial, vacant lots, the elevator and the purchase of the Vanguard assessing program.