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Property assessments down for Whistler, little change for Pemberton

Blog by Nick Swinburne | January 9th, 2011

Property assessments down for Whistler, little change for Pemberton

One single-family dwelling in Whistler Cay Heights falls from $2,984,000 to $2,040,000

By Andrew Mitchell

The B.C. Assessment Authority released its annual assessment rolls on Tuesday, confirming that the overall value of real estate in Whistler went down in 2010.

"Most homeowners in Whistler will see decreases in the minus two per cent to minus five per cent range," said Jason Grant, the area assessor for the Vancouver Sea to Sky Region.

"In addition, Pemberton property owners can expect assessments similar to the 2010 roll with changes in minus five per cent to plus five per cent range."

The assessments are an estimate of a property's market value as of July 1, 2010, and are based on home sale prices and listings, values from the previous year, and characteristics such as the age of the home, its location, quality, view and size. The municipality takes those values into consideration when determining what share of the municipal budget that home and business owners are expected to pay through property taxes.

In that way property taxes are relative - if your assessment went up then you might be expected to pay slightly more than the owner of another property owner where the assessment decreased. If all homes decreased by the same rate then there would be no difference in the share of the budget that property owners are expected to pay. In Whistler, the municipal budget is up four per cent this year, on top of more than 20 per cent in increases over the previous four years.

The total value of Whistler's real estate is estimated at $10.849 billion, down from $11.02 billion on July 1, 2009.

"The exact figure... shows Whistler going down 2.06 per cent for residential and businesses and other classes down 5.36 per cent," said Grant.

Grant said that the reduction is the assessment reflects lower market values for several properties, but also includes $231 million in subdivisions, rezoning and new construction. Without those new properties coming to the market the assessment would have decreased even further.

Declines in value were fairly consistent, although the assessment did point to one extreme example where a Whistler Cay Heights single-family dwelling valued at $2,984,000 on July 1, 2009 was valued at $2,042,000 a year later.

In response to a request from Pique, Lisa Landry, the general manager of economic viability for Whistler, confirmed that the Whistler Cay home is an extreme example - her own review of properties in the $2.7 million to $2.8 million range suggest that the average drop in value was closer to 3.6 per cent.

That's important because a large drop in value for higher value properties would result in higher taxes for properties that saw less of a decline.

Other examples in the assessment include:

A three-bedroom townhouse on the Blackcomb Benchlands that was valued at $2,059,000 has been re-valued at $1,940,000.

By comparison, a Creekside single-family dwelling valued at $1,017,000 on July 1, 2009 was valued at $1,010,000 a year later. A single family dwelling in White Gold decreased from $983,000 to $945,000, a single family dwelling in Alpine Meadows decreased $964,000 to $940,000, a two-bedroom apartment in Whistler Village decreased from $610,000 to $576,000, a one-bedroom in Whistler Village decreased from $522,800 to $498,000.

None of the sample properties listed in the assessment showed an increase.

Landry says there is some good news in the B.C. Assessment as well.

"Some positive news, as I'm reading the (Vancouver) Sun front page where they indicate the Lower Mainland assessments have increased seven per cent, up to 12 per cent and even 17 per cent in some cases," said Landry. "When the Lower Mainland assessments increase, that generally means that Whistler taxpayers' bills will decrease. Recall that just under half of the Whistler property tax bill is for School Taxes, funds collected on behalf of, and remitted to, the province. So when the Lower Mainland assessments increase more than Whistler's, then (what has happened in the past) more of the School Tax burden is shifted to the Lower Mainland.

"So preliminary indications - and not to make any predictions at this point - is that Whistler taxpayers' bills will be reduced, and given the scale of increases of seven per cent, 12 per cent and up to 17 per cent in some Lower Mainland municipalities, it's possible that the extent of the school tax reduction might be enough to wipe out the four per cent tax increase we are proposing."

Landry says it's too early to say what the cumulative impact of the assessments and difference between Vancouver and Whistler might be, and they will not know the final numbers until the province releases its tax rates in April. "I am only stating that this is the pattern I've seen in the past, but we must wait to see if that is how it actually does turn out."

The Village of Pemberton saw its assessment roll decrease from $493 million to $491 million, or less than half a percentage point.

A Pemberton single-family dwelling increased in value from $522,000 to $550,000, while there was no change in value for a three-bedroom townhouse priced at $337,000.

In Squamish, average property values increased two per cent.

On the Sunshine Coast, assessments are down between five and 10 per cent.

Province-wide, many areas saw increases in the 2011 assessment rolls. The city of Vancouver, for example, saw the market value of homes increase by roughly 12 per cent. In Greater Victoria, assessments are up, on average, one or two per cent.

For all of B.C., combined assessments broke the $1 trillion mark for the first time based on the value of 1.9 million properties. That's up from $969 billion the previous year.

Property owners should receive their assessments this week. If they feel their assessment is incorrect then they can appeal the assessment until Jan. 31 for an independent review, and can expect a ruling by March. Visit www.bcassessment.bc.ca.