Commercial assessments still rising

Staff ~ The Burnside News
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HRM Business Parks

Commercial property assessments across Halifax Regional Municipality are up...

The latest assessment figures show commercial property values continue to rise, with HRM representing more than 50 per cent of all commercial assessment in the province.

Commercial property assessments across Halifax Regional Municipality are up eight per cent over last year's totals, to $11.2 billion. That's on top of the 6.9 per cent rise recorded last year.

Property Valuation Service Corporation (PVSC), the arms-length organization charged by the province with determining property values, says there continues to be strong growth in property values across Nova Scotia.

"The real estate market in Nova Scotia generally remains stable. There has been an average increase of approximately 6 per cent in assessments based on market values for 2010," says Jean Thorburn, vice president of operations for PVSC.

Provincial commercial assessments were up in 2011 to $21 billion, compared to $19.5 billion the previous year. The bulk of the province's commercial assessment remains in HRM. However, commercial assessments do to tend to be appealed more than their residential counterparts. On average, approximately half of all commercial appeals are successful.

Commercial properties are reassessed each year, starting with their market value as of two years ago to provide a base. This figure is then adjusted using new information collected by PVSC from property owners. Sales data is collected for six months on either side of the base figure and compared to the corporation's assessment data. Requests for income information are sent to investment property owners and this information is also put into the calculation. The PVSC historically achieves a 45 per cent return rate on these income information requests, which is characterized as excellent.

On average the PVSC assesses 590,000 property records each year. It reviews about 40,000 property transactions including sales, inspects about 35,000 accounts because of building permits, work orders and program reviews, plus it adds around 7,000 new accounts annually.

To aid it in this effort, the PVSC turned to some new technology in 2011. The organization is the first jurisdiction in Canada to use pictometry, an aerial technology that uses a specially equipped airplane to take pictures of all properties to be assessed. The technology captures three different angles of the property, allowing for highly accurate measurements. The technology is in common usage in the U.S., but has yet to find adoption north of the border. After their use for assessment proposes, the images will be handed over by the PVSC to the municipalities for use in emergency response planning.

On the residential side, HRM assessments are also up, by seven per cent compared to the previous year's 7.1 per cent, for a total of $34.2 billion. Province-wide residential values rose to $69 billion, compared to last year's total of $65.1 billion.

The key date for property owners now is February 6. This is the last date by which appeals can be received and still qualify. Any appeals received after midnight on the 6th, regardless of their post date, will not be considered.

PVSC came into existence in 2008 as a non-profit corporation charged with determining the market value of approximately 585,000 properties across Nova Scotia. It follows a similar method for arms-length assessment operations, as laid out under the province's Assessment Act, as is present in many other jurisdictions across Canada. About 160 employees work for PVSC at its seven offices in Sydney, Port Hawkesbury, Kentville, Bridgewater, Yarmouth, Truro and its headquarters in Burnside.

Organizations: PVSC, Valuation Service

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Canada, U.S. Sydney Port Hawkesbury Kentville Yarmouth Burnside

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