Tax Valuation Appraisals With Straw Bale Houses –

Written by Andrew Morrison

snoopy with tax bill
Art credit: Harry Chen Thinks Aloud

I just received an email from a man who received his tax valuation appraisals after final completion. The property tax assessment turned out to be really high and he asked if there was any history of successful contesting of such assessments in my history. I didn’t have anything to offer him other than support and advice. Here’s the deal:

Many tax valuation appraisals are assessed from the outside of a home. As such, the overall square footage on which you are taxed as a straw bale home owner is considerably higher than it is for a conventional home owner. In the example of the man who contacted me this morning, he is being taxed on a square footage of 3100 SF even though his actual floor space is only 2400 SF. That’s a lot of extra money they are assessing within the actual wall of the house.

My suggestion to him was to contest the assessment by suggesting that the county tax office support green construction and become a pioneer in the area for such appraisals. They can take the exterior measurement just like they usually do and then subtract all of the “excess” wall thickness so that they are left with a conventional wall thickness of 6 inches. They can then base the assessment on that square footage. Otherwise, they are actually penalizing people for building green which is a terrible message to send to the public.

I’ve asked him to reconnect with me once he gets an answer from the tax assessor’s office. I hope it’s good news and I trust the assessor will see the reasoning in this approach and will choose to support efficient construction.

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3 Responses

  1. Andrew…excellent article as always!
    Two comments on the subject.
    1. Many times zoning requires a minimum square footage in order to get a building permit. For those that wish to build
    a “Little House”, the outside measurement may allow them to do so. This requirement is no doubt made to maximize tax revenue.
    2. While I support your suggestion of a promotional “green” consideration at what point is a huge strawbale home still considered green? A house on the small side should be given an extra credit in my opinion. This may not maximize the taxes collected but will allow a message to be made that our consumptive society could re-think our
    values at the same time we are trying a greener approach…not to mention allowing persons of modest means to possibly build without assuming the standard crushing debt that seems to be the unsustainable norm lately.

    Regards, Doug
    (an avid “Little House” supporter)

  2. Thanks Doug. I agree with you about huge houses not necessarily being Green anymore. That said, if someone plans to build a 3000 SF house, and I can convince them to at least build that huge house out of bales, at least it’s more efficient.

    Either way, huge (not very Green) or small (very Green) houses made of straw are still taxed at a higher rate per usable SF than a conventional home. I’d like to see that change.

    Thanks for your input!

  3. Dear Andrew
    on a 1600 square foot house (exterior) maybe 20 percent will be used as straw bales thickness. my yearly taxes on my 1100 foot three bedroom stick built house is $474. Adding another twenty percent to that payment is 100.00. it hardly seems worthy of the work to reduce that. howev er I think that convincing your local municipality to give a tax credit for a new green house would be a viable way to get the taxes reduced. I live in kansas city and am excited about urban renewal with straw bales. I am sure with all the city owned vacant lots the city would love to grant special tax credits for green housing.

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