‘It really was time for a revaluation:’ Homeowners surprised by new property assessments

WAUWATOSA — There has been some shocking news for homeowners in places like Milwaukee, Whitefish Bay, and Wauwatosa recently as they headed to the mailbox. Property values are going up, and in some cases, way up.

Wauwatosa homeowner Kelley Ruzicka knew a property assessment was on the way.

"I opened the envelope thinking, 'It's going to go up,'" Ruzicka said.

Ruzicka had no idea how much.

Kelley Ruzicka

Kelley Ruzicka

"The surprise was $116,000," she said.

The average home assessment in Wauwatosa is up nearly 21%. The contributing factors include home styles, location, renovation permits pulled, home sale activity, and nearby business development.

"We've done a lot of work here in the city, and there's been a lot of development," explained Shannon Krause, Wauwatosa city assessor. "I think that has made Wauwatosa a very desirable place to live."

Another big reason for rising assessments is that there hasn't been a citywide revaluation in six years.

Shannon Krause

Shannon Krause

"So in 2013, they would have used sales for 2010, 11, and 12, which was pretty much a down market at that particular point," Krause said.

Real estate broker Suzanne Powers knows that Wauwatosa homeowners are not alone.

"We've gotten away, these last few years, with these low assessments, which has been great for our taxes, but it really was time for a revaluation," Powers said.

In Whitefish Bay, property assessments are up 16% since 2014. In Milwaukee, property assessments are up 14% since 2013.

"I think, right now, we're going to see assessments and current markets kind of even out to be closer to the same," Powers said.

Suzanne Powers

Suzanne Powers

The assessments have a lot of people wondering about the impact on their tax bill. After all, Wauwatosa just passed a $125 million school referendum. Right now, the impact is not entirely clear.

"At this point, until the budget is set, we really can't say how this is going to impact their taxes," explained Kathy Ehley, Wauwatosa mayor.

Ehley's home assessment just went up 54%. She said, in general, if a rise in assessment is below the citywide average, there probably won't be any impact to the tax bill.

Kathy Ehley

Kathy Ehley

"If it went up over that, you're likely to see some increase in that city portion of your tax bill," Ehley said.

Meanwhile, Ruzicka is still getting over the sticker shock.

"It wasn't like, 'You won the lottery,' for sure," she said.

Homeowners can challenge an assessment during the city's open book period. It usually starts right after property notices are mailed out.

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