EDITORIAL: Assessing market price proves taxing

Just two weeks into 2017, and it’s already been quite a year for B.C. homeowners, thanks to the latest property assessments

Just two weeks into 2017, and it’s already been quite a year for B.C. homeowners, thanks to the latest property assessments.

On the Semiahmoo Peninsula, many residents were shocked to discover the value of their property had been assessed, on average, at 30-50 per cent higher than last year, with some rightfully stunned by 70 and 75 per cent jumps to their property’s values.

The boosts, BC Assessment officials explained, were based on sales activity in the respective neighbourhoods as of July 1, 2016.

And while it remains to be seen just how many people will appeal the valuations – the deadline to do so is Jan. 31 –  there is no doubt the market frenzy leading up to then was an unusual one.

In August, it led the provincial government to introduce a 15 per cent tax on property purchased by foreign buyers in Metro Vancouver – a move that followed months of spiralling real-estate prices spurred by wealthy foreign buyers.

Some residents say the near-instant cool-down that followed the new tax justifies an assessment do-over. And predictions for the market moving forward certainly support the notion that the assessments were based on an anomaly.

This week, a report released by Royal LePage forecasts a further 8.5 per cent drop in Metro Vancouver home prices this year, “as sanity returns to the marketplace.”

The provincial government on Tuesday cushioned the blow of the assessments for some by increasing the homeowner grant by $400,000, to $1.6 million from $1.2 million.

The move is said to have returned the majority of those who had previously qualified at the lower level back to the fold.

But what happens to that Band-Aid solution next year? Will the grant threshold be reduced to its former $1.2 million to reflect the cooled market?

It remains to be seen exactly what impact the assessments will have on individual homeowners’ property taxes, and the uncertainty remains a source of concern for many.