For most property owners, the annual assessment is a one- or two-day affair, usually checking it in early January to see how it compares to the neighbours.
But for B.C. Assessment, there’s little rest over 12 months. “The process starts right from the time we complete the roll,” said deputy assessor Greg Wood. “By that time we are already making changes in preparation for next year’s assessment roll.”
That’s right. The pieces of paper mailed to each property owner in the province is very likely out of date by the time it’s been read. Even so, a lot of work goes into the numbers.
The process is similar for most of the major categories.
Wood said the B.C. Assessment’s record on each property in any region includes salient criteria such as location, size, layout, shape, age, finish, quality, carports, garages, sundecks, condition of buildings and proximity to services and schools.
“Then, throughout the year, we receive permits from local government informing us of changes to that property, appraisal reports, Land Title property transfers as a result of sales and we get notices of new subdivisions and new properties and we would have people go and investigate those properties,” Wood said. The agency also uses sales data collected from the Multiple Listings Service and by talking to buyers and sellers to verify data.
In some cases, the B.C. Assessment may identify areas or a subset of properties it wants to review.
That can mean sending targeted property owners a mailout to fill out and return so the agency can verify the information it has.
It may also mean having assessment branch staff canvassing neighbourhoods doing physical property inspections
That’s all done early in the year. Wood said by the end of the summer, the branch and its 680 staff go into “full analysis mode” to determine the change in the market from the previous year. Appraisers consider real estate transactions that occur before and after the July 1 valuation date.
In the fall, appraisers inspect new construction and development, verify the physical condition of each property as of the end of October and verify ownership through the Land Title and Survey Authority by Nov. 30.
With that work done, the final assessment roll is completed in early December. It is audited and notices are printed and mailed to property owners on Dec. 31.
The system has changed over the years with improved technology speeding up information gathering and assessment.
“Door to door, we can do 15-20 assessments per day. With desktop review, we can do 45-50 per day,” Wood said. That system gets tweaked every year and, with more information available and shared online, it will get easier and faster.
One new system they are working on in the Capital Region will allowfor online sharing of building permit data.
“We are always making small system changes to improve efficiency,” he said.
The system doesn’t change much for commercial property.
Wood said many of the same factors are taken into account — size, finish of the building and location and the like — but there is a major difference.
“In commercial property, the value is based on the income-generating potential of the real estate,” said Wood. “The residential is based on [factors involved in] pride of ownership like size, finish, convenience to services or schools, but for an income-producing property it’s different, it’s based on commercial exposure.”
In other words, value will change depending on how well-placed that building is to attract customers and income.
“And with commercial or industrial properties, we don’t consider the businesses that might be occupying the building ... it’s just the income-generating potential of the real estate,” he said.
Light industrial property is assessed much like commercial property, but major industrial properties like pulp mills, saw mills, shipbuilding centres and the like are treated differently.
“They are valued by a legislated process, it’s not based on market evaluation,” said Wood, noting those properties are based on the productivity of the land.
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