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Tax saturation

Opinion: Editorials

July 10th, 2018 12:22 PM

By Editorial

Our Views

Selling real estate in Oak Park, and everywhere else, is about accentuating the positive. Good schools. Great public transit. Vibrant downtown. Diversity. Walkability. You name it, we've got it. Move right in.

So when notable local Realtors go on the record to Wednesday Journal and suggest that Oak Park's spring housing market had "an uneasy feeling," we pay attention. Homes are still selling, the Realtors told our Lacey Sikora, but it is taking somewhat longer and buyers are negotiating more aggressively on price. 

A key reason, these experts told us, is the long-whispered impact of rising property taxes. "Anecdotally, there is the tax situation," said John Lawrence, owner and managing broker at Weichert Realtors Nickels Group. "We've always said, 'What is the tipping point?' I think we've reached it."

Another Realtor, Michael Nowicki, said, "Seeing affordable houses with unaffordable taxes has been a hard pill to swallow. The realization that property taxes affect how much house you can afford has been frustrating for them. Prices are down and taxes seem to be why."

For people who make their living touting the virtues of Oak Park to speak plainly about the tax elephant in the room suggests to us that they feel the need to publicly send a clear message to elected leaders. Tax saturation is real. It is having an impact on potential buyers. Do something.

Simultaneous to our story last week, Oak Parkers also received their property tax bills in the mail. This year's bills reflect the impact of last year's property reassessments. Ali ElSaffar, our Oak Park Township assessor, explains the vagaries of the tax system in a One View today on page 33. Homeowners who got socked on their reassessment number — 18 percent or more increase — got clobbered on their taxes. If you took a more moderate reassessment hike — up to 11 percent — you were among the one-third of locals who actually saw their taxes decline this time around.

All this follows the previous two years where, on average, property taxes rose by 20 percent in Oak Park. 

Every potential home buyer adds up the combined cost of their mortgage and their property taxes to figure out the monthly hit. The message from the real estate people we interviewed is that the balance of those costs is out of whack.

It's not a whisper. It's the reality.