Provincial Property Assessment notices have arrived in the mail, giving some homeowners a very large smile and a bit more spring in their step (putting increased property taxes aside), while others wilt and lament at a modest gain or slight decrease in the assessed value.

Hold on for one second now, neither this assessment document nor either parties’ emotions, are tied to a current true market value. In fact provincial property assessments can be significantly too high or too low. Values are determined in the previous year, and properties are rarely visited in person by provincial appraisers.

For this reason provincial property assessments should never be solely relied upon as any sort of relevant indicator of true market value for the purposes of purchase, sale, or financing.

 In a buying/selling transaction your are best to order an appraisal, which is a much more accurate reflection of current market value. It is timely and reflects value for zoning, renovations and/or other features unique to the property. An appraiser is an educated, licensed, and heavily regulated third party offering an unbiased valuation of the property you wish to have appraised.

 THE REAL VALUE OF MY HOME

Usually, market value is determined by what a buyer is willing to pay for a home, and what the seller is willing to accept.

A quick survey of recent sales and their relation to assessed values will often demonstrate no clear relationship between sale price and assessed value. It’s often all over the map. Some properties selling well below assessment, and others well above.

You also want an experienced and local Realtor to help you determine the selling price of your home. A (busy & local) Realtor will have a far better handle on what is happening in your area for prices than does a government document, and in many instances will save you from yourself.

In theory a comprehensive current market review completed by a Realtor should not differ radically from the value determined by a professional appraiser.

Professional appraisers spend all day every day appraising properties, and their reports are often seen as less biased. Imagine your reaction, as a buyer, to the following statements…

  1. Seller says their house is worth $400,000.
  2. The sellers’ Realtor says it’s worth $400,000.
  3. This house is listed at $400,000 based on a professional (marketing) appraisal.

Most buyers would consider #3 the most reliable of the above statements. And most buyers requiring financing will have the benefit of the lender ordering their own independent appraisal to confirm fair market value. Sellers rarely order an appraisal in advance, which can create some interesting situations.

In practice, Realtors are relied upon for listing price estimates. Most buyers don’t care much about what anybody else thinks the house is worth. Buyers care what they think it is worth. This is why we say that market value is ultimately determined by what a buyer is willing to pay for the home, aligned with what is acceptable to the seller.

It is important to note that there are two kinds of professional appraisals. There is the marketing appraisal, such as one ordered by a seller. And there is the financing appraisal, which is done so the bank is satisfied the house is worth what the buyer and seller have agreed it’s worth. The financing appraisal is a less in depth review and is essentially answering the question; is this property worth the agreed upon purchase/sale price.

A marketing appraisal goes deeper (and costs more) but a lender is not concerned with the actual market value over and above the purchase/sale price. A lender just wants the simple question answered. It is a rare day that the appraisal for financing has a value that differs significantly, if it all, from the sale price. Therefore one should not be surprised if, when buying a home, they find that the appraisal comes in bang on at the purchase price. As they do most of the time.

So basically it comes down to this:

Your assessment is not a proper tool to assess a fair market value of your property.

The value printed on that document was arrived at in the summer of the previous year, the market has changed since then.

Do not rely entirely on the buyer’s opinion or the seller’s opinion in an unlisted private transaction for a fair market value.

Do not rely entirely on your neighbours, friends, or family members opinions for a fair market value of a property.

Do  order a marketing appraisal.

Do have an evaluation by an experienced, active, local Realtor or two. This in combination with a marketing appraisal is the best indicator of current fair market value.

Gather professional opinions from Realtor(s) and an Appraiser – these are the people with their feet on the ground and their heads in the game so they know what is best.