Alex Rinfret, Queen Charlotte Islands Observer, January, 2008
Strong demand for recreational property all over BC, especially waterfront lots, helped propel property values on the islands to their highest level in many years, perhaps ever.
According to BC Assessment, which mails out assessment notices every January to property owners, most real estate on the Charlottes has increased in value significantly over the past year.
"Most homes on the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii) are worth more on this year's assessment roll than they were on the 2007 assessment roll," said northwest deputy assessor Bradley Lane. "Most homeowners in the villages of Queen Charlotte and Port Clements will see increases in the 10 percent to 25 percent range. The greatest market change has been observed in Masset, where most property owners will see increases in the 30 percent to 45 percent range. Some acreage and waterfront properties throughout the islands will see increases of up to 75 percent."
Local governments use the assessments to calculate how much property tax homeowners will pay this year. However, a higher assessment does not necessarily mean an owner will have to pay higher taxes. The decision whether to raise taxes is up to the local government.
In Masset, the municipality with the biggest average increase, the total value of all property now stands at $89.1-million, up almost 25 percent from $71.4-million the previous year.
The average single family house in Masset was worth $76,000 on July 1, 2007, the date used for the 2008 assessment, Mr. Lane said. The year before, the same house was worth $53,500.
Port Clements saw some large increases in the value of waterfront properties which skew the average values somewhat, Mr. Lane said. The total value of all property in Port has reached $26.5-million, up 23 percent from $21.5-million the year before.
The average single family house in Port was worth $46,700 on July 1 last year, compared to $34,100 the year before.
In Queen Charlotte, where property values are traditionally a bit higher than the other two municipalities, the total value of all property now stands at $88.2-million, an almost 13 percent increase from $78.2-million the previous year.
The average single family home in Queen Charlotte was worth $81,300 last year, up from $71,800 the year before, Mr. Lane said.
Many communities in northwestern BC are experiencing sharp increases in property value. Terrace, with an average 28 percent increase, was one of the highest in the province, Mr. Lane said, and Smithers saw a similar hike. Stewart has seen a boom in percentage terms, but in dollar terms, property in that town is still relatively low-priced, Mr. Lane said.
The property market on the Charlottes has been buoyed by this kind of province-wide increase, but the islands are also unique in the availability of waterfront property, Mr. Lane said. He pointed to recent strong sales of beach-front lots offered by the developer NIHO in the Tow Hill Road area as an example.
"There is an increasing demand for recreational properties," he said. "They don't make any more waterfront... Waterfront on the Charlottes is very appealing."
There were about the same number of single family residential sales on the Charlottes in 2007 as there were in 2006, with fewer sales in Queen Charlotte this year but more in Port Clements. In Charlotte, there were 21 sales last year, compared to 38 the year before. In Masset, there were 33 sales last year and 30 in 2006; in Port Clements sales increased to 25 in the past year from 15 the year before.
BC Assessment has made more information than ever before available on its website at bcassessment.ca The website allows property owners to compare their assessment to similar properties and to properties that have sold in their neighbourhood.
Property owners should be receiving their assessment notices in the mail very soon. Owners have until Jan. 31 to appeal their assessment, if they believe it isn't accurate.