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Whistler property assessment values spiked last year, not expected to slow anytime soon

Single-family homes increased in value by 29 per cent in Whistler, 22 per cent in Pemberton
Assessed values of Whistler’s single-family homes and residential strata properties, like condos, rose significantly in the past year.

Whistler and Pemberton’s assessed property values jumped significantly this year, following two years of slowed growth. 

Whistler saw a 29-per-cent increase in the median assessed value of single-family homes, from $2.033 million in 2021 to $2.629 million in 2022, according to BC Assessment. Assessments of the resort’s residential strata properties—meaning condos and townhouses—rose in value by an average of 24 per cent this year, from $931,000 a year ago to $1.154 million in 2022.

Released every year in January, the assessments reflect market value as of July 1 of the previous year.

Because the resort’s overall property values began the year at the higher end of the spectrum, “I didn’t necessarily know for Whistler if it would not go up as much, because it was already at a higher price point, or would it still go up a lot because it’s far out of the city,” said BC Assessment deputy assessor Bryan Murao. But, he added, “It looks like it went up a lot.”

Pemberton, meanwhile, recorded a 22-per-cent increase in single-family home assessments, from $945,000 in 2021 to $1.151 million in 2022. 

The total assessment roll for Whistler is $24.3 billion in 2022, up from $19.7 billion last year. Assessed properties in Pemberton hit a total of about $1.3 billion this year, up from just under $1.04 billion a year prior. 

The assessed value of a single-family home in Whistler as of July 1, 2020 rose by an average of just one per cent, compared to a five-per-cent rise the previous year. That represented a noticeable slowdown after four straight years of double-digit increases (11 per cent in 2018; 21 per cent in 2017; 20 per cent in 2016 and 11.7 per cent in 2015).

“Some of this probably is a little bit of recovery” from the slowdown brought on by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Murao. “But I think another part of it is [due to] some people moving out of the city. If [Whistler] wasn’t already at a higher starting point, you probably would have seen changes, say, more similar to Squamish.”

The District of Squamish saw its assessed values jump by 35 per cent this year, a bigger margin than any other Sea to Sky community. The typical assessed value of a single-family home in Squamish is $1.386 million in 2022, while strata residential property values rose by 29 per cent, to $724,000. 

Though Whistler’s housing market is unique for several reasons, the increase in assessment values falls in line with what’s happening around the rest of B.C. Other regions saw their single-family home values rise between 11 per cent, as seen in Vancouver’s University Endowment Lands, to 45 per cent in the District of Hope. 

Those massive increases are not unheard of for BC Assessment, said Murao. “What is new is seeing this on such a wide scale throughout other parts of the province,” he added. “That’s new for me, anyways. I’ve been here for 15 years and I haven’t seen anything quite like this before.”

Whistler and Pemberton’s heightened values, however, are “fairly expected, in my eyes, and very consistent to what we’re seeing across B.C.,” said Katelyn Spink of the Whistler Real Estate Company. “Our market values have been going up and up and up, as everyone knows, so it’s about time the assessment plays catch-up.”

These increases are driven by everything from a limited supply—the Sea to Sky’s “inventory is at [an] all-time low right now,” explained Spink—to lifestyle choices now that more British Columbians are able to work remotely, as Murao alluded to.

Appraisers primarily determine home value assessments based on recent property sales in a similar area, though other factors like size, age, quality, condition, view and location are also considered. 

In Whistler, elements like property zoning and the ability to generate revenue also play a role, Spink added. The different types of property ownership that exist within the resort mean assessments “can’t really be applied as a parallel comparison,” she said. “Because you’ll see some townhomes that have likely doubled in assessed value, where something just down the road can be completely different.”

Property owners can expect to receive their assessments in the coming days. Owners concerned about their assessments can submit a Notice of Complaint appeal by Jan. 31 for an independent review by a Property Assessment Review Panel. 

RE/MAX Sea to Sky managing broker Ann Chiasson advised those who disagree with their assessment to compare their home to recently sold properties in their neighbourhood, rather than the property as a whole. “The land? Forget it—you can’t fight that,” she said. “If they put your lot value at $2 million, that’s your lot value … and it’s really the land value that’s driving taxes.” 

But In Chiasson’s neighbourhood of Tapley’s Farm, for example, “a lot of homes have been here since ‘82. Now, some have been taken down and rebuilt; some have been totally renovated. Those ones that are selling for higher price points are reflecting on all the ones that haven’t had any major renos.”

Chiasson urged anyone planning to appeal their assessment to contact a local realtor for sales statistics from their area. 

As Murao pointed out, changes in property assessments do not necessarily translate into higher property taxes.

Municipalities set their own tax rates each year, which are then applied to a home’s value. An owner’s property tax will only spike above that set rate if the property’s value rose at a higher rate than the average change across similar properties within that same municipality.

But despite the widespread and significant rise in B.C. property values this year, “all of the indications are that Canadian house prices are not going to go down substantially” in 2022, said Chiasson. 

“If you want to live in a place like Whistler, you’re always going to be faced with limited supply, and price point is not going to drop dramatically.”

And while “nothing is for certain, here I would say that we live in a beautiful place, we are surrounded by tourism, and we’re kind of in our own little bubble when it comes to a lot of this value, where you’re investing in a place that seems fairly safe,” agreed Spink. “We only have a certain amount of properties here, and there’s only so far people can build. 

“I think it’s a really special place and it’s always going to be worth something.”

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