Why property assessments are up 15%-25% in Northwest suburbs

Rebounding housing market, desirable suburbs contribute

Northwest Suburban Cook County property owners are getting a dose of sticker shock this year as triennial reassessment notices have been averaging 15 to 25 percent increases by township.

Wheeling Township, with 36,000 single-family and 19,000 condominium properties in Arlington Heights, Mount Prospect, Buffalo Grove and Wheeling, among others, is the most recent to get reassessment notices.

The township's median assessment increase is 16.8 percent over 2013, the last reassessment. The median sale price of homes went from $270,000 to $315,000 in the same three years.

“The bottom line is that the housing market has recovered,” said Tom Shaer, spokesman for the Cook County assessor's office. He added the good news for homeowners is that their house is worth more.

“The bad news,” he added, “is their house is worth more.”

The assessor's office does not decide the amount of taxes collected from each property owner - that's determined by the taxing bodies that set the levies.

But the assessed value of your home is a big part of the bottom line for your annual tax bill.

Cook assessments

This year's assessments will be used on next year's tax bills, which has residents like Jerry Boldt of Mount Prospect worried.

His home's assessment went up more than 34 percent in value, from about $321,000 to $431,000 in three years, nearly double the Wheeling Township median.

“Right now I'm struggling to pay my taxes so my wife and I can stay in the home,” Boldt said. “We're retired. We've been in our home for 45 years. We can't afford these increases.”

The shock has been spread equally around the Northwest suburbs. Schaumburg and Hanover townships will get their notices in August and September, respectively, but elsewhere the average increases are between 14.47 percent and more than 25 percent. In March there were long lines in Palatine Township of people waiting to appeal their assessments. One worker there said she helped a man file an appeal whose assessment had gone up more than 60 percent.

Shaer said the increases seem jarring because assessments are done only every three years. The last assessment, which covered 2010 to 2013, was during the lowest point of the housing crash.

“You had a false bottom coming from a too-low starting point during the housing crash,” Shaer said. “Now that it has substantially recovered, there is a little bit of sticker shock.

“Not only is there the normal increase in value, but there's the greater leap because we were coming from that low point.”

Another factor, Shaer said, is the continued desirability of housing in the North and Northwest suburbs.

“This is a great place to live,” he said, adding that while he doesn't expect assessments to go down, they might level off a little bit. “But this is a very desirable area. ... I would be surprised if there is any substantial change.”

Shaer said the appeals process has gotten simpler and that residents can do it by themselves, without an attorney.

“No one knows their home better than the homeowner. Our hope is that they get the fairest possible figure, but we use the appeals step as just another part of the assessment process,” he said.

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