KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) – There is surprising new information about how appraisers may have determined the value of homes in Jackson County, and the lack of information they had available to them.

It comes from a whistleblower inside the county who calls the assessment a colossal mistake and decided to share inside information directly with KCTV5 News investigative reporter Angie Ricono.

When most people go to sell their house, they work with a realtor who uses the MLS system, a database of all home sales that contains pictures and details of sales.

However, Jackson County didn’t renew its subscription to this service, so during the middle of the latest assessment, they lost access to this database.

Despite not being able to check the information, the county moved forward with the assessment and appraisers just winged it.

Realtor Curtis Jay says MLS data is everything in his business, explaining it is how realtors and appraisers determine home values due to its wealth of information.

Jay was surprised to hear that Jackson County did not use the service.

“I would have no clue how an appraisal is done without MLS data,” he said. “I’m actually stunned they didn’t have MLS access. That information is critical in assessing properties.”

The whistleblower told KCTV5 News the county appraisers office lost access to MLS data more than nine months ago when the subscription ended.

KCTV5 News checked that claim, and the Kansas City Regional Association of Realtors confirmed it was true.

Instead of using the MLS system, the county worked with complimentary data feed, meaning they had spread sheets that revealed sales prices and limited information on homes.

For example, the county would see a four-bedroom, three-bath house sold for $200,000. If they paid for MLS data, they would have pictures of the property.

They could also see if closing deals were cut, like a house sells for $200,000 but the homeowner agreed to pay closing cost and for new carpet and paint.

The MLS database would also reveal homes in that neighborhood that didn’t sell.

Realtors say all of this helps shape an accurate picture of what a property is worth, but Jackson County didn’t pay for the service, a cost of less than $2,000.

“It’s mind boggling they didn’t pay the money to get access to MLS!” Jay told KCTV5 News. “It’s stunning they could come up with a correct accurate value because they don’t know the market value. The market value was on MLS.”

New property values have sparked outrage across the county as angry homeowners question how the county crunched the numbers and determined new values.

The whistleblower explained that part of the answer was plain and simple - it’s a simple lack of information.

In a statement to KCTV5 News, Jackson County Director of Assessment Gail McCann Beatty put the blame on the Kansas City Realtors Association saying they changed membership requirements so the office no longer qualified to participate.

“I reached out to Heartland MLS in August 2018 when I discovered all of our appraisers did not have access to MLS. On October 9, 2018 we received a letter, which is attached, from Heartland MLS that informed us that the MLS Board made changes to their rules and regulations. This change required all Participants to be REALTOR members and as a result, our organization was no longer eligible to receive access to the Matrix MLS system effective December 1, 2018. The letter indicated that there was an alternative solution that was complimentary for County Appraiser/Assessor offices to provide data for recent sales and property characteristics. We exchanged a number of emails where I asked questions about the information we would receive using the data feed and how it compared to using the Matrix MLS System. After several emails back and forth, we were told Johnson County, KS was using the complimentary data feed alternative with certain parameters. We asked about using the same parameters and a sample of what we would receive was sent to us. On December 12, 2018 we received our login information for the data feed for the same complimentary data feed alternative as used by Johnson County, KS. We created a database in Access and have uploaded the information to give each appraiser access to that data.

Throughout the 2019 reassessment, data provided by Heartland MLS to Jackson County and data from the Certificates of Value filed with the Recorder of Deeds as required by County Code provided each County appraiser access to relevant sales data necessary and appropriate for the reassessment.”

Johnson County, Kansas, officials say they use more than just the complimentary data sharing from MLS.

“We have become members of KCRAR and MLS in order to receive and have access to all information. We worked with MLS to ensure that we have everything we need to have full data sharing. There are qualifications that our appraisers have to have in order to be a part of this data sharing," a spokesman for the county told KCTV5.

As for Jackson County, McCann Beatty, who is a licensed real estate appraiser in the state of Missouri, qualifies and could have joined. She could have signed up and had access to the MLS database for less than $2,000.

The bottom line is she didn’t. She chose to take the limited free information.

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