Chris Bryan, Burnaby News Leader, January 9, 2009
There are few surprises for Burnaby homeowners this week as the 2009 assessments arrive in the mail.
For most, there is no change over 2008 because of provincial legislation capping assessments at the lower value between the two years, to provide people with some financial certainty in a tightening financial climate.
“The lower value is the basis upon which the 2009 property taxes will be calculated,” said Connie Fair, president and CEO of BC Assessment. “For most properties, this means there will be no change between the 2008 and 2009 assessment.”
That’s a good thing, because despite a cooling real estate market, the 2009 assessments are based upon BC Assessment’s estimate of a home’s market value as of July 2008—when the market was near its peak. The median sale price for a single family home in the North Fraser area (which includes Burnaby, New Westminster and the TriCities) in the month prior was $645,000.
On paper at least, Burnaby is home to 1,886 million-dollar homes, according to Landcor Data Corporation, a New Westminster-based land valuator company that takes its information from BC Assessment. There were slightly less (1,8740) last year. The top assessment in the city is $5,750,000, which is the Twin Cedars home, owned by Ray and Anne Loewen at 7629 Burris Street near Deer Lake.
The 14,611-square-foot mansion sits on 1.3 acres and took two years to build, completed in 1995. It includes a racquetball court, a games room and a tennis court.
Although the assessment pegs the house at just over $5 million, the house was listed late last year on MLS at $25 million, making it the most expensive home on the market in the Lower Mainland.
Landcor, which analyzed the region’s property assessments, still found 54,183 homes in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley top the $1-million assessment mark—an increase of 1.5 per cent from a year ago.
The increase is the result of construction of new seven-figure homes as well as renovation of existing homes that increased their value, Landcor president Rudy Nielsen said.
It’s a modest change compared to a year ago when the number of millionaire properties soared nearly 50 per cent as regional real estate prices were still rocketing towards their peak.
The largest numbers of $1-million-plus homes were counted in Vancouver (28,532), West Vancouver (10,679), Surrey (3,932), North Vancouver District (2,986), Richmond (1,910), Burnaby (1,886) and Langley Township (1,344).
The ranks thin out considerably for homes assessed in eight figures.
Vancouver had 31 homes worth more than $10 million, followed by 23 in West Vancouver, two each in Surrey and Richmond.
Nielsen predicts the drastic decline in the property market since last spring will eventually turn around with the rest of the economy.
But he admits it’s a downturn like none he’s seen before.
“I think we’re going to have to hold on for a while in this market until we see an increase,” he said, adding only those who are forced to sell are being hurt by the price drops.
He said prices in the Lower Mainland have long-term support because land development here is constricted by the mountains, ocean, and U.S. border – as well as the Agricultural Land Reserve.
“We just don’t have that much land,” he said. “In the long run we’ll be back up to proper prices.”
Local realtor and Burnaby resident Michael Christie says despite the cool real estate market, if a home is priced right, it will sell.
“There is always a market,” said Christie, an agent with RE/MAX All Point Realty, who works with his wife Deborah and his two children.
“I like to say the market is between your ears.”