MADISON (AP) - The value of Wisconsin's homes, businesses, farmland and forests continued a five-year decline last year, although the latest decrease of just 0.8 percent may suggest that a recovery isn't far away, according to a report released Thursday.
The report by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance says the value of the state's properties was about $468 billion last year, down $3.6 billion from the previous year, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The value peaked at $514 billion in 2008.
State property values haven't fallen in five straight years since World War II. However, the smaller rate of decrease last year could mean the market has bottomed out and is starting to recover, said Dale Knapp, a Taxpayers Alliance researcher.
"I think next year we'll finally see an increase," Knapp said.
He says factors from persistent unemployment to homes lingering in the foreclosure process have cooled the market's recovery.
The study drew on state figures as of Jan. 1, so it doesn't reflect a recent uptick in housing sales and prices.
Joe Murray, a lobbyist for the Wisconsin Realtors Association, also predicted that next year's data would show an increase in statewide property values.
"For sales, it's been a great year," Murray said.
Most of the declines last year were concentrated in southwestern Wisconsin. Property values were down 4.8 percent in Racine County and 1.1 percent in Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties.
The news was better in several western counties. Property values in Monroe County rose 5.4 percent, and Clark, St. Croix and Barron counties all saw improvements over 3.0 percent.
Knapp said the western counties benefited from the economic growth in Minneapolis, while Milwaukee has struggled due to high unemployment and foreclosed properties.
Overall property valuations fell in 45 of Wisconsin's 72 counties. The largest drops were in Menominee County (down 6.9 percent) and Adams County (down 5.0 percent).
The report highlighted one optimistic factor. The state's manufacturing industry saw property values increase 2.3 percent overall, suggesting renewed investment in the state's plants, Knapp said.
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