A recent ruling by Judge Arthur Engoron in New York found that former President Donald Trump and his adult sons were liable for fraud, with the judge noting that the Trump real estate empire had grossly inflated the value of their properties. One of the most eyebrow-raising findings was that Trump had inflated the value of his Mar-a-Lago estate by a staggering 2,300%. However, experts are questioning the metric that the judge used, namely the county tax assessor’s appraisal value, as it is widely known that this value is typically lower than what a property would sell for on the open market.
Real estate and legal experts argue that appraisal values and market values are not the same, especially for unique properties like Mar-a-Lago. The tax assessor’s valuation is often the lowest among other valuations from sources like Zillow or realtors. Jonathan Miller, a real estate appraisal company CEO, states that while tax assessment and market value can be the same in some markets, they usually aren’t in most cases.
Melissa Cintron, a partner in a law firm, argues that it is undeniable that Mar-a-Lago is worth more than the tax assessment value, considering improvements and market analysis. However, she notes that just because the judge used a low valuation doesn’t necessarily mean Trump used a fair valuation.
Valuing a unique property like Mar-a-Lago is challenging, as there aren’t many comparable properties to reference. Dina Goldentayer, an executive director of sales at a real estate firm, suggests hiring multiple independent appraisers to determine an estimated valuation by taking a blended average of their valuations.
While the ruling has been challenged by Trump and his attorneys, the judge found multiple instances where Trump inflated the values of his properties. It is important to note that the ruling was not solely based on Mar-a-Lago but also included other properties such as 40 Wall Street and the Seven Springs Estate. The judge also found that Trump inflated the size of his triplex apartment at Trump Tower.
Experts believe that the controversy over the valuation of Mar-a-Lago does not significantly impact the question of whether Trump committed fraud. The ruling indicates a pattern of fraudulent practices in relation to his properties.