Assessed values for high-end homes and recreational properties have declined in pockets of the Vancouver region, but new data shows that the B.C. housing market has avoided a widespread downturn.
Most B.C. homeowners, who have watched their property values steadily rise over the past dozen years, will see little change when they receive their assessment notices in the mail this month, according to BC Assessment. The provincial Crown corporation estimates values on behalf of B.C. municipalities, which in turn use the data to determine tax rolls.
On Bowen Island, however, a typical single-family detached home on the waterfront had an assessment of $1.3-million last July 1, down 23 per cent from the previous evaluation on July 1, 2011.
Grant McDonald, deputy assessor for the Vancouver Sea to Sky region at BC Assessment, said Wednesday that housing markets also softened in parts of the Sunshine Coast, Pemberton and Whistler, with certain assessed values slipping in the range of 2 per cent to 13 per cent.
On Vancouver's coveted west side, the year-over-year valuation fell 5.5 per cent on a representative single-family home on a 10-metre (33-foot) wide lot last July 1. Since then, the district's home prices have continued to slide, hurt by Ottawa's moves to tighten rules for mortgage borrowing, effective last July 9.
Some industry experts say the single-family detached index price in key neighbourhoods of Vancouver's west side will be down roughly 8 per cent to $2-million when new statistics for December are released Thursday.
Amid some pockets of decline, many B.C. markets experienced increases in assessed values in the range of 1.5 per cent to 5 per cent.
"When you crunch the numbers, the majority of homeowners will be within 5 per cent of the prior assessment roll. The market is catching its breath," Mr. McDonald said. "Sharp drops were perhaps reflective of overly exuberant and particularly aggressive listings. People are being more realistic about what the market actually will bear now."
Cameron Muir, chief economist at the B.C. Real Estate Association, said that as house prices eased in 2012, some prospective buyers opted to stay on the sidelines, especially in Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.
"While we have seen prices come off in some neighbourhoods, we have also seen a pullback in the number of new listings being added. Many potential home sellers are not putting their homes on the market. That tends to have a balancing effect on the overall marketplace," Mr. Muir said.
Some Vancouver-area markets sagged, such as Richmond's Thompson district, where statistics show the trend down 2 per cent for a single-family home's assessment last July 1. But BC Assessment's values rose elsewhere, including in parts of Surrey, White Rock, Burnaby and New Westminster.
The odds of deeply discounted Vancouver house prices in 2013 are slim, Mr. Muir said, adding that local real estate markets might even strengthen slightly over the next 12 months. "Some home buyers are sitting on the fence and I think many of them will come back into the market in 2013 when they realize they aren't going to buy a home in Vancouver for 50 cents on the dollar," he said.
Mr. Muir said positives include forecasts for solid population growth and the continuation of interest rates near historic lows this year.
BC Assessment pointed out that the total assessment roll for City of Vancouver residential properties, including new construction, climbed 2 per cent last July 1, compared with the same date in 2011.