Property assessments are in the mail

Last week I had the chance to talk to Larry Hummel, chief assessor at the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC). You’ll probably be hearing a lot about MPAC over the next few weeks, as it rolls out the property assessments for about five million properties across the province, starting today.

Cottagers are acutely aware that a new valuation for a cottage can have significant implications for the owners. Here at Cottage Life, we’ve heard more than a few stories of cottagers forced out by a new assessment, when the value of a cottage has skyrocketed and the property taxes have escalated. Sometimes, an affordable cottage has been passed down through the family over decades, but the current owners just can’t pay the taxes owed on a modest building that is now valued at, say, more than a million dollars. As always with real estate, it’s location that matters most and often the cottage itself is incidental. A tiny cabin on a desirable lake can sometimes carry a hefty price tag if it’s put up for sale.

Hummel had some good news, though: Waterfront property has risen in value over the past four years (since the last assessment in 2008)—on average across the province by about 12 per cent—but that rise is well below the average rate for all Ontario properties of about 18 per cent. In some communities, however, the shift in the tax base from inland to waterfront properties is continuing (with waterfront owners paying a greater share of the overall taxes for the municipality).

There are some pockets of property value inflation, Hummel pointed out: Cottages in Northern Ontario (north of Sudbury, over to the border with Manitoba) have been assessed at values of more than 20 per cent above that of four years ago, driven by a commodity boom in minerals and the resultant increase in employment, incomes, and population, and the greater demand for cottages (camps) that this boom creates. Meanwhile, in southern and southwestern Ontario, the effects of the 2008 recession linger, and many Americans, particularly from the hard-hit border states, have left the cottage market. Values are rising, but not as much as they were when the economy was in better shape.

Once you get your assessment, keep in mind that any increase in valuation will be applied for municipal tax purposes over the next four tax years (2013 through 2016), while if your property has a lower assessment, the full decrease will be applied immediately. If you disagree with your assessment, you have until April 1, 2013, to appeal, by filing a Request for Reconsideration. Hummel also promises that the website that MPAC has set up for owners to research their assessments, aboutmyproperty.ca, has been improved.

Tell us about your assessment when it arrives, in the comments below. Did MPAC value your property correctly or will you be appealing?