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"Assessed" Value Versus "Fair Market" Value

Assessed Value

Assessed value is the dollar value placed on a parcel of property by the Assessor's Office. It is computed by analyzing thousands of individual sale transactions, thousands of inspections and a thorough study of all Milwaukee neighborhoods. It is the Assessor's estimate of market value. It is important for maintaining equity between and among all taxpayers in the city.

Estimated Fair Market Value

Estimated fair market value is calculated by dividing the property's total assessed valued by the average assessment ratio. This ratio is applied to all property, including personal property, regardless of type or location of the property.  In theory, this should approximate the current market value of the property as of January 1st in the year the assessment was determined. This value estimate is determined by the Department of Revenue(DOR).  It is used to apportion tax levies among municipalities and is used in the distribution of shared revenues.


In the early 1980's, the legislature passed the law requiring estimated fair market value be included on all tax bills.  This was a time when Assessors for the more than 1800 Wisconsin municipalities were not required to assess property at market value during any time interval. As a "truth in taxation" measure, the legislature thought it was important for their constituents to know what their assessment actually meant, in terms of value.  Because the DOR already prepared equalized values at the municipal level, the legislature thought these estimates should also be provided at the property level. The intent was to show whether the assessment on a property was at all accurate. It was never meant to actually be your individual property estimate. But, at that time, it was more meaningful to the taxpayer than the assessment. For instance, if the assessor was assessing property in your municipality at 10% (and you were not aware of this rate) and your tax bill showed an assessment of $10,000 you might think, "boy am I getting a good deal, I know my house is worth at least $60,000." However, if you realized that the $10,000 actually equated to approximately $100,000; you might not be so happy.  Since this initial "truth in taxation" legislation was enacted in 1986, the legislature has tightened the law and we now are required to assess within 10% of market value at least once in every four year period.

The reason DOR equates all municipalities to an estimate of fair market value (equalized value) each year is to ensure the uniform distribution of shared taxes across municipalities. The assessor, on the other hand, assesses each property to make sure that each property pays their fair share of tax on an individual level.

  • The estimated fair market value on the tax bill is a less reliable estimate than that prepared by the assessor. The DOR has never inspected any property in the City of Milwaukee. It is only to be used as a tool to check your assessment.
  • The important thing to point out is that ALL property in Milwaukee had the same factor applied to it to determine its estimated fair market value. Also, it is important that you know that it is the assessed value, in all cases, used to calculate your property taxes. If we used the "estimated fair market value" the taxes would not change.
  • State law requires assessor's be within 10% (higher or lower) of the state's equalized value ratio at least once in every 4 year period. Milwaukee is not, nor ever has been, out of compliance with this requirement. The Department of Revenue allows this leeway because appraisal is not an exact science, and to allow for the different standards used by them versus a municipality.
  • Remember, the "estimated fair market value" like the back of the tax bill states is an "estimate" and is only "approximate".

Nicole F. Larsen

Commissioner of Assessments

2024 Assessment Assistance

General Information

Web Request: Ask the Assessor

  [email protected] 

 City Hall, 200 E. Wells Street, Room 507, Milwaukee, WI 53202

 Monday - Friday, 8:00 AM - 4:45 PM


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