An analyst says new assessment figures point to a more a stable and balanced real estate market in Greater Victoria.
“I would suggest that the significant increases that we have generally seen in the past are really just that — they are a thing of the past,” said Tina Ireland, assessor with BC Assessment, Vancouver Island Region. “We have really seen moderate changes this year, and even some decline in value. So I’d suggest that we are returning to a more stable and balanced market.”
Ireland made these comments after BC Assessment released its 2020 assessment figures measuring the value of properties as of July 1, 2019.
Starting from the Saanich Peninsula heading south and west, single family homes lost value in North Saanich (down three per cent to an average assessment of $897,000) and Sidney (down one per cent to an average assessment $691,000) while remaining unchanged in Central Saanich ($739,000). Average assessments also dropped by three per cent in both assessment areas of Saanich to $785,000 for homes inside the boundaries of School District 61 and $979,000 inside the boundaries of School District 63. Other core communities also recorded drops.
Average assessments dropped by one per cent in Esquimalt ($702,000), three per cent in Victoria ($821,000) and six per cent in Oak Bay ($1,144,000). This said, Oak Bay remains the region’s most valuable terrain. All seven Greater Victoria properties that cracked the list of the 500 most valued properties in British Columbia lie within the District of Oak Bay, starting with 3195 Humber Rd. with a value of $14.459,000, good enough for 160th spot on the provincial list dominated by properties in Greater Vancouver, with the most expensive properties located in Vancouver’s Point Grey neighbourhood. This said, the Humber Road also lost value compared to last year, when it was worth $15,397,000 as of July 2018.
Looking at the West Shore, the average assessed values of single family homes rose by one per cent in View Royal ($746,000) two per cent in Langford ($623,000) and three per cent Sooke ($517,000) in confirming the up-and-coming popularity of the area. Highlands ($812,000) was the only West Shore community where property values remained steady.
So what accounts for these figures? “We don’t look to specific whys why assessments change,” said Ireland. “We reflect market conditions as of our July 1, 2019 valuation date.”
Ireland added that the assessments lack predictive power. “It is hard to say what will happen in a year’s time,” she said. “I will say generally that the market is becoming more stable and balanced. So I wouldn’t suggest that there would be wide swings.”
For the provincial government, the new assessment figures are proof positive of successful policies aimed at moderating house prices.
“This is a positive sign that our government’s efforts to make housing more affordable for more British Columbians are having a real impact,” said Selina Robinson, minister of municipal affairs and housing, in a released statement.
“For too long, the previous government sat back and watched housing prices climb well out of the reach of average people. Younger generations were shut out of the market and many abandoned hope to ever own a home or felt forced to leave the province to start a family.”
Robinson said that ongoing stabilization of property values give more certainty to investors in multi-family buildings, more stability for current homeowners and improved opportunity for those entering the market.
Current homeowners with stagnating or declining assessments likely won’t share Robinson’s cheery assessment, because softening assessments threaten to erode a major source of personal wealth, if not now, but then in the medium and long-run.
It is also hard to overstate the importance of assessment rates for municipalities since they help determine property taxes, the major source of revenue for municipalities.
Ireland said the important question is the relationship between any individual assessment and the average assessment change in the community.
“That really impacts your property taxes,” said Ireland. “If you are moving in the same way as all of your neighbours, then the impact on your property taxes would be less. If you go up and your neighbours go down, then there is the potential that it will have a greater impact on your property taxes.”
This said, a second factor comes into play — municipal budgetary needs. “That [relationship between individual assessment and community assessment] is assuming that local governments keep their budget needs stable over the year previous,” said Ireland.
Property owners who want to challenge their respective assessments have until Jan. 31 to file an appeal, said Ireland, who recommends property owners check out the various comparative tools available through BC Assessment.
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