Analysis: North Shore home values fall while property taxes soar [Update]
The red brick three-bedroom, two-bathroom at 344 Wagner Road in Northfield, steps from Willow Park and Middlefork School, sold for $400,000 in Nov. 2006.
Its property taxes that year were $4,472, or about 1.1 percent of the property’s value.
344 Wagner Road sold Jan. 9 for $357,000 and today has a property tax bill of $6,920, according to Blockshopper.com. Adjusted for inflation, the home’s value fell 32 percent at the same time its property taxes grew 32 percent over ten years.
Suffice to say, likely this wasn’t the plan for Albert Stepniak, a North Shore mortgage broker who has since left Illinois for West Palm Beach, when he first bought it.
Stepniak paid nearly $61,000 in property taxes while owning the property. That’s 17 percent of its current value.
In Chicago’s North Shore suburbs, the past decade has wrought countless stories like 344 Wagner Road. They aren’t well-publicized-- but given upward pressure on property tax bills, they soon may be.
Local Government Information Services (LGIS) analyzed home sales in thirteen North Shore communities between 2007 and 2015, finding that when adjusted for inflation, all have seen home values fall by 20 percent or more.
Northfield, where the median home price fell from $780,737 to $543,000, ranked the worst of the thirteen at 30.5 percent. But it wasn’t by much.
Kenilworth homeowners saw median sale prices fall by nearly $600,000 over the span, from $1.955 million to $1.360 million (-30.4 percent). Glenview (-29.0 percent), Northbrook (-28.5 percent) and Glencoe (-25.1 percent) rounded out the bottom five.
Homeowners in Winnetka (-21.9 percent), where median sale prices fell $326,000 over the eight years analyzed, fared the best on the North Shore.
Yet over the same period, as home values have plummeted, local property taxpayer spending on school districts, which make up 80 percent of property tax bills, has continued to steadily rise.
Of eighteen North Shore school districts analyzed, sixteen are spending more today (inflation-adjusted) than they were in 2007, when home prices were 20-30 percent higher.
The districts, which serve approximately 290,000 people, spend a collective $916 million in local property tax dollars today.
In Wilmette, where home values fell 22.5 percent from 2007 to 2015, School District 39’s local property tax take rose 24 percent, to $53.25 million.
As Kenilworth homeowners saw their home values fall 30 percent, Kenilworth District 38, which serves 485 elementary school students, raised its levy by 30 percent, to $12.9 million.
In Deerfield, homeowners have lost 25 percent of their home value. But Deerfield District 109 today spends 17.5 percent more than it did in 2007.
Northbrook-Glenview District 30 and West Northfield District 31, which serve Glenview and Northbrook, where home values are off nearly one-third, raised their levies by 17 and 16 percent, respectively.
Effective property tax rates on the North Shore in 2015 ranged from 1.8 percent (Lake Forest and Lake Bluff) to 2.9 percent (Deerfield), according to a Chicago Tribune analysis.
That means a $500,000 home in Lake Forest means a $9,000 property tax bill; in Deerfield the same home costs you $14,500 to own.
The real question for owners of properties like 344 Wagner Road is where it all goes from here.
Government spending and debt, driven by generous guaranteed defined benefit pensions for state and local government employees, are pressuring Illinois property taxes even higher.
According to Wallethub.com, the average property tax rate in Illinois is 2.25 percent, second-highest in the U.S. But as high as they already are on the North Shore, they are even higher most everywhere else in the Chicago area.
For a look at what’s likely to come, North Shore homeowners can just look up the road, where a feared future real estate apocalypse happening right now.
In Grayslake, where the effective property tax rate in 2015 was 5.33 percent, property taxes on that $500,000 home are $26,650. In Round Lake Park (5.10 percent), they are $25,500.
The LGIS analysis projects what North Shore home prices will look like in 2023, if the next eight years are like the last eight. If home prices fall at the same pace, homeowners in Deerfield, Kenilworth, and Highland Park will all have paid more than 50 percent of their home value in property taxes over the previous 16 years of ownership.
LGIS publishes North Cook News and 25 more news products across the state, focused on local government transparency.
North Shore Median Home Prices, 2007 - 2015
|Rank||Community||Jan 2007||Jan 2015||CHG|
Fastest-spending North Shore School Districts
School District Local Spending, 2007-2015
|Rank||Community||2015 Local Spending||CHG|
|5||West Northfield 31||$16,153,021||+15.7%|
|6||Northfield Township 225||$116,600,515||+14.4%|
|8||Lake Forest 115||$44,038,591||+10.8%|
|12||Sunset Ridge 29||$12,891,455||+8.7%|
|13||Highland Park 113||$92,628,170||+8.6%|
|14||New Trier 203||$102,919,627||+8.1%|
|18||Lake Bluff 65||$16,046,584||-1.1%|
|19||North Shore 112||$67,255,103||-2.8%|
All numbers are inflation-adjusted. Does not include state or federal grants to school districts.
North Shore 2023 Projected
|Rank||Community||2023 Median||Taxes Paid||Taxes Paid %|
Update: An earlier version of this story stated that Wilmette School District 39's property tax take was $53.34 million. The correct value is $53.25 million.