British Columbia

Climbing property assessments trigger warning letters to 90,000 B.C. homeowners

Despite a cooling real estate market, many Vancouver-area property owners will see a spike in their assessed value, based on valuations taken July 1.

90,000 homeowners around the province getting sent warning letters about rising assessments this week

Many single family home owners in the Vancouver area will see 2017 property assessment increases of 30 to 50 percent over the previous year, based on July 1 valuations, said B.C. Assessment. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Despite a cooling real estate market, many Vancouver-area property owners will see a "significant increase" in the assessed values of their homes, with increases of 30 to 50 per cent for many single family homes, says B.C. Assessment.

The valuations, which are used to determine 2017 property taxes, were taken July 1 — before the province announced its foreign buyers tax and sales began to slow.

In a preview of 2017 property assessments, BC Assessment said the 30 to 50 per cent increase over the previous July 1 will be typical for single-family homes in Vancouver, the North Shore, Squamish, Burnaby, the Tri-Cities, Richmond, and Surrey.

Increases on residential strata properties, such as condominiums, will be in the 15 to 30 per cent range, according to B.C. Assessment.

"That is the market value of those homes as of July 1 of 2016," said Jason Grant, assessor for the Greater Vancouver region.

"What might be happening for instance today or next month in any given market would be reflected in the 2018 assessment roll."

In Greater Victoria, homeowners are also being told to expect significant increases with single-family homes in Victoria, Saanich, Sidney and Oak Bay rising 10 to 40 per cent and strata residential increases of five to 25 per cent.

In the Central Okanagan, increases of five to 20 per cent will be typical for single-family homes in Kelowna, West Kelowa, Westbank and Lake Country, with strata residential increases of five to 30 per cent.

Assessments will be available on the B.C. Assessment website for all properties on Jan. 3, 2017.

This is the second year in a row that single-family homes close to the City of Vancouver are seeing large property assessment increases, said B.C. Assessment. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

90,000 warning letters going out this week

Homeowners will be wondering what such sharp increases, for the second year in a row, will do to their property taxes — but Grant notes what matters is how your property fares relative to others in your property class and local taxing jurisdiction.

So, a house in Vancouver would be compared to other residential-class properties, including condos, in the city, said Grant.

"Large increases in property assessment do not automatically translate into a corresponding increase in property taxes," he said.

"If your property went up less than the average, your taxes could actually go down."

Homeowners whose assessments have risen much more sharply than others in their area will receive early notification letters from B.C. Assessment, which are being mailed out this week.

About 90,000 such letters are going out around the province this week — representing about four and a half per cent of the two million properties in the province, said Grant.

Last year, about 37,000 such letters were sent.

The letters ensure property owners are made aware of the significant increases that may impact their property taxes, the assessment website notes.

Appealing assessments?

UBC Professor Tom Davidoff predicts many homeowners will challenge the valuation.

"If you think it was incorrect as of July, you might have an opportunity to challenge. If you think it was grotesquely off and your home was never worth what BC Assessment claims, there is an appeals process," he said.

But Davidoff calls the process expensive and time-consuming, and says a property value decreasing since July 1 isn't enough grounds to appeal the valuation.

Vancouver-based property tax agent Paul Sullivan recommends people do their homework before they invest in the appeal process.

"[A] very small percentage of properties are appealed and a small percentage of those properties are successfully appealed," he warns.