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Bill Good

Assessment highs quick to wear off

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A lot of Vancouverites got their assessment notices recently and were smiling.

It seems on average assessments went up - way up. Of course, when you think real estate values are up - as an owner - why should you not feel good? Well, the catch is that higher assessments mean - usually - higher taxes and there is the rub.

If you are an owner wishing to sell, you want your assessments to be high, so a potential buyer feels justified paying you the full price that you think is so well deserved. As an owner wishing to stay ... you want to dispute the assessment with somebody - because your taxes are based on your assessments.

Realtors are also between and betwixt. Their listing price may have been already quite high at - say $1.3 million for that wonderful 33-ft lot with that fine war-time bungalow on it. Now the owner's assessments clocks in at $1.5 million and he wants to raise the list price. In fact, on the west side, assessments in many places went up by $400,000 and more (usually on the land value side of things) and the government said so, right?

Well hold your horses; assessments are based on values as of July 1, 2011 ... and guess what? Since May 2011 prices in Vancouver have come down. Down? In Vancouver? Yep, while the mainstream media proclaims that all is well in 'Vancouver's roaring real estate land' and merrily quotes December 2011 prices ($691,000) versus December 2010 prices ($700,000) as about even, reality is that the average price of May 2011 was $834,000 and is down 17 per cent or a whopping $140,000. So, read your assessments and cry . they represent (likely) yesteryear's values ... What it was worth last July, may not be - is not - what it is worth today.

Now BC Assessment is offering the opportunity this January to March to check out FREE detailed information on up to eight properties, including the sale prices of similar houses in your immediate area, assessed value and even the number of bedrooms and bathrooms at www.bcassessment.ca. Click on E-VALUE BC! Type in an address (not only your own) and presto - there it is. Information to justify, feel good or dispute your assessments.

It is actually a very fine website. You can check out every home in the whole province as well as go up and down your street and check out what your neighbour's houses are assessed at ... and based on that facts dispute your assessments or - as was the case of my neighbour - shut up. (His was assessed $300,000 higher than last year ... but everyone else's on the street was assessed $400,000 higher).

So, do it - find out what your friends said they paid/received and whether they 'fibbed'.

Your assessments determine the taxes you pay. You can do your own market evaluation and if you feel your property is assessed too high you can dispute it ... but only till January 31, 2012. You might try a phone call to the Assessor first ... they do not bite.

In any case ... even if your assessments are - happily - lower ... the city can set the mill rate to whatever it likes. Rest assured whatever the assessments ... your taxes will be higher!

Ozzie Jurock publishes Jurock's Real Estate Insider - www.factsbyemail.com

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