The total value of properties in Whistler shrunk by $700 million from July 1, 2010 to July 1, 2011, according to the latest assessment roll for 2012 compiled by BC Assessment. In 2010, the total value of property in the resort was pegged at $10.7 billion, while a year later the value was reduced to $10 billion — an overall decline of roughly seven per cent, although when you consider the addition of new homes to the resort the decline is actually higher. According to BC Assessment, some $69 million of the total was from new home construction.
The new assessments continue a trend that dates back to the start of the latest financial crisis. For July 1, 2009 the total assessed value of properties was $11.2 billion. The 2010 number was revised down to $10.849 billion, later adjusted to $10.7 billion following the appeals process.
"Most homes in the Resort Municipality of Whistler and in Village of Pemberton are declining in value compared to last year's assessment role," said Jason Grant, the area assessor. "Many home owners in both communities will see decreases in the zero (less than one per cent) to 15 per cent range."
The assessment roll is based on home sales around the assessment date and previous assessments, and BC Assessment does take Whistler Housing Authority values and appreciation into consideration.
The roll is used by local governments to determine the property tax bill for individual properties. The municipality determines an annual budget, then sets property tax rates that share the cost of that budget among homeowners. The value of your home, in comparison to other homes, determines your share of the total tax bill and whether your taxes go up or down, and there is an appeals process in place for property owners that feel the assessment was incorrect.
BC Assessment provided examples of Whistler home sales around July 1 that explain the 2012 assessment:
In Creekside, a single family dwelling that was assessed at $1,010,000 on July 1, 2010 was assessed at $919,000 on July 1, 2011, a drop of almost 10 per cent.
A single family dwelling in Whistler Cay Heights was assessed at $2,042,000 in 2010 then reassessed in 2011 as $1,940,000, a difference of roughly five per cent.
A single-family home in Alpine Meadows was assessed at $964,000 in 2010 and $918,000 in 2011, a difference of just under five per cent.
A two-bedroom apartment in the village was $583,000 in 2010 and $498,000 in 2011, a difference of almost 15 per cent.
A one bedroom in the village assessed at $508,000 in 2010 was $484,000 in 2011, a difference of almost five per cent.
A three-bedroom townhouse in the Benchlands valued at $1,940,000 in 2010 was $1,794,000 in 2011, a difference of 7.5 per cent.
A one-bedroom townhome in the Benchlands was $598,000 in 2010 and $513,000 in 2011, a difference of 14.2 per cent.
A one-bedroom townhouse in Creekside was $234,000 in 2010 and $198,300 in 2011, a different of just over 15 per cent.
For the second year, none of the given examples showed any kind of increase. The average decline was 6.18 per cent for residential properties, while commercial and other types of real estate declined 4.83 per cent.
Pat Kelly, the owner of Whistler Real Estate Co., said he doubts that the declines will continue into the 2013 assessment roll, based on strong activity in the second half of 2011.
"Activity is up, but prices really haven't changed (since July 1, 2011)," he said. "Prices have experienced downward pressure over the last 12 months, which is consistent with the amount of inventory for sale right now — although my guess would be, given the increase in activity, that the price will follow the volume eventually.
"We've seen the worst of it and now the market is reconfiguring into a new paradigm, and Whistler is a good value both regionally and internationally."
The number of home sales is at a high compared to the last three or four years, 18 per cent higher in 2011 compared to 2010 according to Kelly, although with the number of listings the supply is still greater than the demand. He predicts that will turn around in the next year, and said the turnaround point was probably mid-summer.
However, he said, in a town like Whistler where 103 home sales in a year is on the high side, assessing the value of homes "is more of an art than a science." In some neighbourhoods there are no home sales in a given year, and only one or two sales going back three or four years. What homes would actually sell for if they were placed on the market can be very different than the assessed value, he said.
Provincially, it's a much different story than Whistler as the overall assessment roll increased 6.42 per cent, with a total value of $1.106 trillion. New construction accounted for $14.69 billion of the total.
The highest increase in residential assessments was reported in resource industry towns. Stewart led the province at 20.78 per cent, linked to an increase in commercial values of over 50 per cent. The Northern Rockies district rolls in the Peace River region were up almost 18 per cent, followed closely by Fort St. James.
Whistler is not alone among resort communities experiencing declines. House values declined close to 10 per cent in Tofino, by 3.3 per cent in Osoyoos, by up to 3.46 per cent in Kelowna and nearly eight per cent in the newly incorporated town of Sun Peaks. Bucking the trend, Revelstoke's assessment roll increased by over 17 per cent for 2012.
Closer to Whistler, Richmond's assessment roll was 16.5 per cent, Vancouver's 16.4 per cent and West Vancouver's just under 16 per cent.
Pemberton's overall assessment role increased from $490 million on July 1, 2010 to $497 million a year later, with $31 million of the 2011 total coming from new construction, the boundary expansion, subdivisions and rezoning.
The overall value of Pemberton properties decreased by 2.91 per cent on average. A single-family dwelling priced at $550,000 in 2010 was reassessed at $499,000, a difference of nine per cent. A three-bedroom townhome priced at $337,000 was reassessed at $316,000, a difference of six per cent.
In Squamish, residential assessments were down a modest 1.88 per cent on average in 2011, although home values fluctuated wildly. At one end of the spectrum, BC Assessment reported declines of 10 per cent, while some properties increased in value by five per cent.
The total assessment role for 2011 was reported at $3.81 billion, down from $3.92 billion the previous year. Of the new total, $82 million in new construction, subdivisions and rezoning helped offset the decline.
A downtown single family dwelling valued at $390,000 in 2010 was valued at $374,000 in 2011; a single family dwelling in Brackendale increased from $450,000 to $456,000; a single family dwelling in Garibaldi Highlands decreased from $531,000 to $497,000.