Assessment shows Wauwatosa home values declining 9 percent
But current market is already reversing 'very rare' dip
Residential valuations have fallen an average of about 9 percent in this year's citywide assessment, said City Assessor Steven Miner.
Manufacturing, commercial and other business properties fared better, bringing the city aggregate up slightly, to a decline of 4 percent.
The last full reassessment of city properties was done in 2006, Miner said, based on pre-recession sales, when property values were rising. The current assessment represents a stark contrast.
"Over the decades it's been very, very rare for the properties to go down in value, so this was a pretty significant change for most people," he said. "To have this kind of a change is not something that's very common."
The assessments that homeowners have received, or are just now receiving, in the mail are based on sales data from 2010, 2011 and 2012, he said, "so that's really kind of the low end of the trough as far as the cycle of real estate."
But the data, up to date as of Jan. 1 of this year, already doesn't match the current market, Miner said.
"As you may know, this year the values are going back up, but our new assessed values don't reflect that," he said.
"I've heard from brokers that things are selling in less than a week, often times with multiple offers," he added.
Because municipalities don't all do full reassessments in the same year, it's difficult to compare Wauwatosa values to those of its neighboring communities, Miner said. But he feels confident that Wauwatosa's home-sales market didn't suffer the convulsions that swept through other regions.
"Wauwatosa is continuing to be a leader in the county. It's very much in demand, and that held true with the downturn over the last five or six years. Wauwatosa didn't see the drop in values that some communities did."
Miner said there was variation among neighborhoods, with those homes near city amenities — the east end of North Avenue, for example, or the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center, or in and around the Village — faring a little better in the real estate market compared to other locations.
"There's just a lot of very nice neighborhoods," he said, "and those have held their value well."
While he said he hadn't yet done a full analysis of neighborhood variations, the northern corner of the city was an area that stood out as more generally coming in with lower assessments.
The assessors office has a staff of five certified, full-time assessors, and a half-time office worker. The assessment process in Wauwatosa involves inspecting homes that have sold, and those that have pulled permits for major renovations. In addition, several hundred property owners request reviews, so those properties are inspected. Also, some properties stand out as anomalies in the data, so those, too, are inspected.
"We're just trying to make it better, so we're going to find the parts of our database that showed the most variability, and we'll probably do some inspections in those areas," he said.
Reading the 'Open Book'
Property taxes, of course, are calculated based on property values, but it doesn't follow that a lower assessment necessarily means lower taxes. Tax rates are adjusted annually, based on the city's budget, and a given homeowner may pay more even though his or her assessment declined.
The "open book" period, which allows homeowners to discuss their valuations with city assessors, has begun and continues through Sept. 3. Miner said it is a period to answer homeowners' questions, to explain how values are arrived at, and to correct obvious clerical errors. Homeowners not satisfied may pursue an appeal before the Board of Review, which starts in the middle of September, Miner said.
Information on the open book and appeals processes, with links to home sales and tax information, forms to file objections, and other resources can be found online by clicking on "Open Book Inspection Period" on the city's homepage, at www.wauwatosa.net.
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