B.C. property assessments skyrocket but appeals drop off

Despite skyrocketing and sometimes uneven property assessments that will mean property tax increases for some homeowners, appeals are down in key areas compared to this time last year, according to BC Assessment.

With 10 days to go before the Jan. 31 deadline, appeals have fallen 15 per cent in the Vancouver-Sea to Sky region and 18 per cent in the Richmond-Delta region, two areas that saw assessments in some areas jump by as much as one-third, said Grant McDonald, deputy assessor for BC Assessment’s Vancouver Sea to Sky region.

The average assessment increase in Vancouver was 16.4, 15.9 in West Vancouver and 16.5 in Richmond.

Some assessments went up much more than the average increase, such as a two-storey house built in 1972 on a 60-by-120-foot lot on Riverdale Avenue in the Thompson area of Richmond that went up $300,000 from $780,200 last year to $1,083,500 this year, said Richmond realtor Shafik Ladha.

McDonald gave an example of a house on the west side of Vancouver on a 50-foot lot that went from $1,189,000 last year to $1,645,000 this year, an increase of $456,000. Both of these examples are up 38 per cent, more than double the average increase in their cities.

People who saw their property go up more than the average will likely see a bigger-than-usual increase in their tax bill, although the amount of that increase will depend on the assessed value of their home and how much the city’s budget is increased.

Vancouver Councillor Raymond Louie, who chairs the city’s finance and services committee, said it’s not automatic that the city will get more money when people’s property assessments go up.

“When your property value goes up, the city takes that assessed value and divides that into what it takes to run our city,” Louie said. “The amount it takes to run our city generally stays about the same. The city does not get additional revenue just because your property value goes up.”

Former Vancouver city councillor Gordon Price said it’s fair that taxes are linked to a property’s assessed value, but that it’s important to remember there isn’t a one-to-one relationship between property assessments going up and property taxes going up.

“Whatever your percentage increase is above the average, you can expect that you will be paying a greater percentage of the city’s property tax,” said Price, who is director of the City Program at SFU. “It would be very difficult to come up with anything else that would be more fair.”

In Vancouver, assessed values are averaged over three years to mitigate the effect of large single-year value increases, Louie said. He and Price also noted that property taxes do not all go to the city, a portion goes to school taxes, TransLink and other levies.

This year certain neighbourhoods went up more than others, something McDonald said is simply based on what actual sales reveal. Both Vancouver realtor Tom Gradecak and Ladha said good schools made a big difference in an area’s popularity.

Sometimes that will mean that houses on one side of the street sell for much more than those on the other side, if the school boundary is drawn down the middle, Gradecak said.

Gradecak said assessments are traditionally lower than market value, but that they’re moving closer.

“Some of the assessments are now quite close to the market value, but most are still a little bit low,” Gradecak said. “If it’s an older home, some of the assessments can be fairly close [to market value] because they’re looking mostly at the land value. For the newer homes, the assessments could be a bit low because they don’t always take into account all of the improvements.”

Assessments are a snapshot of market value on July 1 of the previous year. By the time homeowners receive them in early January, they are already six months out of date.

One reason appeals are down may be the amount of information now available online. Assessed values are all online (http://evaluebc.bcassessment.ca/) and people can compare homes by address and by comparable sales.

Fewer than two per cent of homeowners usually appeal an assessment in any given year, McDonald said.

People who want to ask questions about their assessment, or the appeal process, can call BC Assessment at the number listed on their assessment.

“We’ve got a team of professional appraisers you can call and they will know your neighbourhood, they may even know your house, but they can certainly call it up on the computer, and talk to you about the specifics of your property,” McDonald said.

“If at the end of that process [you are not satisfied], there is the last resort of filing an appeal.”

Source: The Vancouver Sun

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