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West Allis homes take a hit in market value

Commercial properties, including rentals, fare better in latest city valuations

June 11, 2013

West Allis — West Allis residential and commercial property dropped 14 percent in the real estate crash, the recently completed citywide revaluation shows.

The highest values were in 2006 just before the slide. As of the 2006 citywide revaluation for property tax purposes, West Allis had more than $4.1 billion in residential and commercial property compared with not even $3.66 billion in the recent revaluation, said city assessor Charles Ruud.

The $3.66 billion isn't the city's entire tax base. Manufacturing property will be valued by state assessors this fall.

Part way into the real estate slide, the city performed a revaluation in 2010. Still, the current values are 8.4 percent less than in 2010, Ruud said.

Residential took a bigger hit than commercial, going down 9.3 percent compared to 6.6 percent for commercial, he said. Neither total includes properties that were in foreclosure, and all were sales that were not forced, Ruud noted.

Of all the residential properties — single-family homes, duplexes, condos and apartments up to three families — it was older duplexes that lost the most value, Ruud said.

"Older duplexes took the biggest hit because, in 2005 and 2006, that was the hottest part of the market, and people were paying a lot for those properties," Ruud said.

While residential went down an average 9.3 percent, Ruud estimated older duplexes probably went down 12 percent from 2010.

Commercial property slipped less steeply than residential from 2010 to 2013 probably because commercial had already been slammed by the time the 2010 was done, Ruud said. Apartments fared better than stores and offices in this latest evaluation.

"Apartments are pretty much full occupancy and rents are going up," he said, so property values remained stable.

He guessed that people moving out of homes looking for less expensive places to live and people putting off home ownership probably contribute to the high apartment occupancy rates.

Stores aren't doing as well, he said, but the downtown area along Greenfield Avenue is doing as well as retail in other parts of the city.

Despite the revaluation, no one protested their new assessments at the Board of Review last week.

"That is very uncommon," said Ruud, who guessed that was probably because assessments went down.

Even if homeowners' assessments went down, they could still pay more taxes, even if the levies stay the same.

If their assessments went down less than the 8.4 percent average, they could pay more, theoretically. If their assessments fell 8.4 percent, they would probably pay the same tax in actual dollars but with a higher property tax rate.

It's theoretical because the chances are small of all six units of government that get a share of property taxes keeping their levy increases at zero.

— Jane Ford-Stewart

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