Drew Walker and family
Drew Walker with his wife, Jill, and their two children

Earlier this month, Cook County rolled out a one-stop website that pulls together information on a property’s taxes, ownership, and assessment—each of which came from a different website in the past.

It’s not esoteric stuff. If you’re looking to buy a home in Cook County, your due diligence should include a stop at this new site. You can easily get a feeling for how the asking price lines up with the county’s assessment—which is just one measure of whether the home is realistically priced—and compare the tax rates for properties in different locations, which can influence your choice about where to buy. And if you own a property and want to research a tax appeal, this is the place to start.

At the Cook County Property Tax Portal, you will find an array of information on any property, residential or commercial. That might include such useful details as any foreclosure notices that have been registered with the Cook County Recorder of Deeds, the valuation that the Cook County Assessor has established for the property, the recent history of the property’s tax rate, and the total tax bill.

Unveiled April 2 as part of Cook County board president Toni Preckwinkle’s ongoing campaign for efficiency, the site is designed to “keep Cook County residents from having to scramble around from office to office trying to put together something that could be at their fingertips,” says Liane Jackson, a Preckwinkle spokesperson. “When you’re trying to figure out your property tax situation, the portal offers speed instead of making you frustrated.”

For privacy advocates, the site may not be so welcome. Because owners’ names pop right up, it’s now easier than ever to figure out what properties celebrities and other prominent people own or have owned.

The portal debuted too late for Drew Walker, the US 99 radio personality; I wrote about his persistent efforts to sort out his home’s property taxes in October. On April 11, Walker got a letter from the county Board of Review saying his home’s assessment was being cut by $25,000, which was about twice what he’d been pushing for.

Before he began the appeal process, Walker and his wife, Jill, had been informed by the county that their home’s assessment would go up by 19 percent. Preparing his appeal, Walker sifted through the assorted county agencies’ sites, worked up spreadsheets, and really tore into the minutiae. A first review cut his assessment to just a 2 percent increase. With the final review, the assessment will come down 11 percent. That means Walker’s research paid off with a combined 30-percent savings—which means he will pay about $500 less in property taxes.

When Walker learned he had finally prevailed beyond his expectations, I pointed him toward the county’s new website, to see what he thought. His response: “Wow! That site blends everything together.”

And his words of advice for others in his situation? “Pay attention to your [home’s] tax value,” he says. “There’s so much public information around you.” With the launch of the new website, he adds, “the process is even easier.”