Property values grow with state average; median home sales dip
Following a five-year decline, the current market value of all taxable property in Wisconsin rose for the second consecutive year, rising 2.4 percent in 2015.
However, at $490.7 billion, values remain almost $25 billion below the 2008 market peak of $514.4 billion, according to a report from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization devoted to public policy research and citizen education.
Portage County’s equalized property values rose 2.9 percent from $5.19 billion to $5.34 billion.
Value changes were far from uniform across the state. Among the state’s 20 largest cities, only Beloit (5.9 percent) and Kenosha (5.2 percent) had growth above 5 percent. Eau Claire (4.5 percent), Madison (4.3 percent) and La Crosse (3.6 percent) rounded out the top five.
The state’s 40 most populous counties reflected regional trends found in major cities. Counties in the west and northwest generally outperformed the state, with the Twin Cities’ bedroom counties of Pierce (6.7 percent) and St. Croix (6.2 percent) leading the way. Eau Claire, Chippewa and Dunn counties all increased more than 4 percent.
Subpar appreciation occurred in the north. For example, values in Douglas (0.0%), Oneida (0.5%), and Oconto (1.7%) all rose less than 2%. In the southeast, values in Manitowoc, Milwaukee, Sheboygan, and Walworth counties all rose less than 1%.
The new WISTAX report is based on preliminary data released by the state Department of Revenue. Detailed county-by-county value information is available on the WISTAX website at www.wistax.org/facts.
Housing median sale drop
According to a recent analysis of residential housing by the Wisconsin REALTORS Association (WRA), while the overall equalized property value rose, the housing market took a dip in Portage County during the same time period.
The median price for homes sold in 2015 was $144,500 in contrast to a median of $151,875 in 2014, for a drop of 4.9 percent.
But the decline was not indicative of the central Wisconsin region. Overall, the central Wisconsin region rose 6.2 percent. Adams County saw the largest rise in median home price from $86,000 to $110,000 for a 27.9 percent jump. Other counties that experienced an increase included Marathon County with a 13.2-percent increase, Clark County with a 14.3-percent increase and Wood County with a 15.7-percent increase.
Portage County’s dip in median price from last year could be explained by a simultaneous dip in the number of home sales. By the summer of 2014, 88 homes were sold. By contrast, only 75 homes were sold by the summer of 2015 for a 14.8-percent drop.
On the state level, the median home sale price rose 3.8 percent from $158,000 in July of 2014 to $163,999 in July of 2015. The number of sales jumped 16.9 percent from 7,403 total sales to 8,657 sales.
“Summer is obviously our peak sales period, and it’s encouraging to see a continuation of the strong sales that began in the spring,” said Dan Kruse, WRA board chairman. “This is the strongest spring and early summer sales volume we’ve seen since before the recession,” said Kruse. Home sales have been up by double-digit margins compared to last year in all but one month since March this year, which made this the best start to the year since 2005. The period between March and August account for about 59 percent of annual sales in a typical year. “We’re definitely on pace for a very strong 2015 if sales continue to grow at this pace,” said Kruse.
Every region of the state was up in July, with the strongest growth seen in the Northeast region where sales grew 30.3 percent compared to July 2014 as well as the south central region where sales were up 21.8 percent over that same period. Other strong regions were the western part of the state, up 14.6 percent; the north, up 2.5 percent; and the southeast, up 11.9 percent. Modest growth was also recorded in the Central region, which was up 5.8 percent.
“What we’re seeing on the state level, (home) sale prices have tended to rise and with those higher sale prices, it typically then leads to a higher property value,” said Michael Ostrowski, director of Community Development.
“For what we’re seeing during the sales in this city, for a while there, these houses were just flying off the market. At ridiculous prices, at or above asking prices,” Ostrowski said. “So, it’s good to see that coming back and rebounding very nicely.”
“One of the things we’re running into here (Stevens Point) is a lack of available lots to build on,” Ostrowski said. “I think we’re down to one left in Whitetail (Subdivision). We’re going to be buying a lot back, but we have one left to sell. So, we should be completely sold out in Whitetail by the end of the year.”
Whitetail is a city-owned subdivision north of the Stevens Point Municipal Airport, across Highway 66.
The city of Stevens Point is currently going through the process of re-evaluating the assessed values of all the homes to get a more accurate taxation of homes.
Most municipalities go through a re-evaluation process every five years or so, but Stevens Point hasn’t completed one for many years. As a result, neighbors with similar homes may be paying vastly different taxes.
“The re-evaluation typically should be done every five to 10 years. Once you get it done and are able to keep on top of things, we’re able to keep it more equalized through the process,” Ostrowski said. “We haven’t had ours done in a very long time and we’ve got property values that just aren’t in line with each other.”
“For example, let’s say we’re in the same neighborhood and you have a split-level ranch and I’ve got a split-level ranch and they’re comparable. But let’s say mine was resold and went for $20,000 or $30,000 above what the original value was set at – the prices may have been raised or the assessed value may have been raised in accordance with that – I may be paying higher taxes than you are, even though our homes are very similar,” Ostrowski said.
“There are differences between neighborhoods that drive up values, but what this will do is take a city-wide approach and look at all the properties and value them accordingly,” he said.
“A lot of people think when they buy a home or a commercial property, just because they got it at $50,000 below the assessed value, doesn’t mean we’re dropping your value $50,000. We don’t drop the assessed value to what the sale price is,” he said. “We take that into consideration, but the assessed value doesn’t and shouldn’t fluctuate with the sale price.”