Natural beauty boosting property values on Island’s west coast

When it comes to assessed values of residential property, conventional wisdom holds that any property survey looking north from Greater Victoria will start to see values drop as they get further from the capital.

Christopher Whyte, B.C. Assessment’s deputy assessor for Vancouver Island, drives home the point by noting: “market activity reflecting increases definitely decreases as you move north on the Island as one might expect.”

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But there are exceptions to every rule. A review this week by B.C. Assessment shows Tofino standing out from the crowd.

The vacation destination with spectacular scenery and oceanfront resorts saw its typical residence increase in value by about 13 per cent to $576,000 compared with a year ago.

Victoria by comparison saw a 19 per cent increase in value for a typical home, and Nanaimo had a 14.5 per cent jump.

But the District of Tofino also has more than its share of high-end homes, with six of its most valuable assessed at more than $3 million, and the most valuable at 1475 Braiden Rd., now assessed at $4.5 million.

Jen Dart, executive director of the Tofino Chamber of Commerce, said the town is filled with expensive lots and homes and that is having an impact on all facets of the community.

“Businesses struggle to find housing for workers, both seasonal and non-seasonal. Most resorts and many larger business provide some of their own staff accommodation, but many smaller businesses simply aren’t in a position to do this,” Dart said. “This is not a new problem in Tofino. It goes back decades. However with the high U.S. dollar, an increase in tourism, and high assessed values, it has been acute the last few years.”

To deal with the shortage, the district is starting to take action on regulating short-term rentals.

Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne said the assessment increases the district has experienced are just a case of facing what other desirable destinations in B.C. have to deal with, and suggests the area remains an attractive investment.

“I think so, just like they do in Victoria and Vancouver,” she said. “If you can afford to get in.”

Down the highway in Ucluelet, there have also been increases, with B.C. Assessment estimating the typical residence increased in value by 3.3 per cent to $281,000.

There are now six residential properties assessed above $1 million in Ucluelet, with the most expensive at 1210 Sunset Point, assessed at $1.8 million.

In Port Alberni, the typical increase may have been more modest, but it also belies a hive of activity and growth, Mayor Mike Ruttan said. “Our market is so robust, homes are sold before anyone knows they are on the market,” he said, noting the Alberni Valley has seen solid in-migration from the mainland, overseas, retirees and people returning from Alberta and Ontario.

Ruttan said affordability, a city with “everything you’d expect to find in a bigger city,” and a strong economy have been the attraction.

And he expects the value proposition in Port Alberni may be coming to an end.

B.C. Assessment estimates the typical residence in Port Alberni increased in value by 2.8 per cent to $180,000 from a year earlier.

“I think you will see a major increase [in value] in 2017,” he said, noting by this summer the less-expensive homes on the market will be snapped up. “Right now they are being bought [over listing price] and new homes being built are being sold before they are finished. “Builders like that.”

Demand and a buoyant economy also has new construction on the way with new subdivisions planned and built, which will add to next year’s assessment roll.

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