British Columbia

5 things to know about this year's B.C. property assessments

Here are a few answers to questions you might have about property values across the province. 

Find out how much the median single-family home in your municipality went up (or down) in value last year

While property values decreased in Metro Vancouver, they stayed stable or went up in most of B.C. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Housing assessments are in the mail for nearly two million homeowners in British Columbia, but those in Vancouver who may have searched their properties online have already learned that values have fallen dramatically.

The figures released Thursday by B.C. Assessment show the typical value of a single-family home in Vancouver has dropped 11 per cent, from $1.76 million to $1.57 million, as of July 1, 2019.

Here are a few answers to questions you might have about property values across the province. 

How much did things change in my municipality?

While property values dropped by four to 15 per cent across Metro Vancouver, it was a different story in the rest of the province.

The median value of a detached home in other major population centres was relatively stable over the last year: a two per cent drop in Victoria and Kelowna, a three per cent increase in Nanaimo, a five per cent hike in Prince George and a seven per cent increase in Kamloops. 

And the biggest increases came in some of the communities farthest from Vancouver — led by Kitimat, which saw a 41 per cent increase in the median value of a detached home, as the community ramps up for the construction of a $40 billion LNG plant. 

Below is a chart showing the change in the assessed value for a median detached home across B.C. last year. 

How will it affect my property taxes?

It's important to remember that your property tax bill for 2020 has very little to do with how much your home's value has gone up or down and more to do with a municipality's individual budget — and what's happened to the home next door to you. 

"What's most important to a homeowner is how their assessment changes relative to others in their community, because that's what's going to determine whether or not there's an impact on their property taxes," said Tina Ireland with B.C. Assessment. 

"If your assessment goes down 10 percent and your neighbour's assessment goes down 5 per cent, there's likely a good chance that you're going to see a reduction in your property taxes."

What does it mean for renters?

In the short term, very little — the maximum rental increase for 2020 was 2.6 per cent, and it will be months before the province sets its figure for 2021. 

"The rental market specifically is a more complicated market," said Robert Patterson, a staff member with the Vancouver-based Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre.

While Patterson said he was "cautiously optimistic" lower home prices would help tenants, he said it wouldn't ensure that new market rentals coming on board are affordable and advocated for governments to prioritize the creation of more non-market and co-op housing units. 

How can a White Spot be worth $138 million?

For many years, one of the more eyebrow-raising property assessments has been a decades-old White Spot in Vancouver's downtown Coal Harbour neighbourhood. 

Once valued at $16 million, it exploded upward to $156 million in 2018 before decreasing to $138 million in its most recent valuation.

The reason?

B.C. Assessment values properties based on their "highest and best use," and the land under the White Spot — which was sold to a Hong Kong-based development company in 2017 — now allows towers, as part of the West End Community Plan approved by council in 2013. 

The White Spot at 1616 West Georgia decreased in value from $156 million to $138 million over the past year. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Up or down next year?

It's unknown whether Metro Vancouver properties will see a similar decline in value next year.

"Overall, it's kind of a market that's still figuring itself out and correcting itself," said real estate agent and industry blogger Steve Saretsky.

Property valuations are based on market conditions on July 1 of the previous year, and Saretsky noted that home sales picked up in the second half of the year.

But he thinks that whether things go up or down, it won't have the same huge fluctuations as the past.

"We've had these large gyrations, huge movements up, huge movement down," he said. 

"[In] 2020, I think we're entering more into ... sort of like a more normal market."

With files from The Canadian Press, Estefania Duran and Yvette Brend