Contrary to the hopes of some that the COVID-19 pandemic would drive down property values, the latest BC Assessment figures show the opposite.
In Squamish, the assessed value of a single-family home has risen by 10% to about $1.02 million, up from about $930,000 the previous year.
The assessed value for strata-type properties like apartments and townhouses also went up, but not quite as dramatically.
That number jumped up by 2% to $571,000. The year before, it was $561,000.
Assessments are made every year by looking at price points in July.
The upward trend appears to reflect a provincewide increase.
BC Assessment says the total value of real estate on the 2021 roll is about $2.01 trillion, an increase of nearly 4.2%.
This uptick may come as a surprise to a number of people, who were expecting — or at least hoping — that the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 would’ve decreased the value of properties and help them get into the market locally.
SFU professor Andrey Pavlov told The Chief that being confined to our homes during the pandemic has put a premium on having more space.
As a result, single-family houses have become more desired than before.
“People realize that they kind of need more space. And, you know, single-family [homes] offer a bit more space and a backyard and that kind of stuff,” said Pavlov. “And if you’re more or less confined to your home, then having that bigger outdoor space becomes very, very important.”
Pavlov also noted that Squamish has become a desirable place to live, and with the rise of remote work — especially during the pandemic — it’s feasible to have a job farther away from an urban centre.
It’s easier for commuters to live in Squamish when they don’t need to be at the workplace every day, he said.
Pavlov, however, said that it’s important to note that an increase in your property’s assessed value doesn’t necessarily mean that your property taxes will go up.
Assessments work relative to general trends, so if your assessment value goes up, but all your neighbours’ homes increase by the same amount, then there’s a solid chance your property taxes will remain the same — unless the municipality itself chooses to raise taxes, he said.
People who have values that increase more relative to the rest of the population will have a higher chance of having a higher tax bill, Pavolv added.
However, people who have values that decrease more relative to the rest of the assessments in the area will have a chance of getting a lower tax bill, he said.
UBC professor Thomas Davidoff provided his own reasons for why home prices are staying strong in the middle of the pandemic.
First, income losses have been concentrated at the bottom end of the income distribution for whom home ownership is out of reach, he said.
Davidoff agreed with Pavlov, saying that while the shutdown is bad for the economy, it makes people want more space.
Finally, Davidoff said that interest rates have fallen to historically low levels, enhancing affordability.