Only so-called "rural" properties at Lake Cowichan bucked the downward trend as BC Assessment announced its annual look at assessment trends around the province.
This time of year always sees homeowners anxiously opening their assessment notices to find out what’s happened to property values.
"Most homes in the Cowichan Valley are worth less in value compared to last year’s assessment roll," said Vancouver Island Regional Acting Assessor Bill Dawson. "Most home owners in the Cowichan Valley will see modest changes in the minus 10 per cent to plus five per cent range."
Lake Cowichan Rural (which includes Youbou and Honeymoon Bay and a lot of pricey waterfront) bucked the trend a little.
The average single family dwelling on under two acres went up a little from an average assessment of $277,926 for 2013 (valued July 1, 2012) to $291,000 for 2014 (valued July 1, 2013).
But that’s an anomaly for the Valley, and most of the Island, north of Victoria, according to Dawson.
Overall, Cowichan Valley’s assessment roll decreased from $11,006,821,659 last year to $10,751,961,341 this year. This overall 2014 roll value is slightly lower despite an increase of almost $132,600,000 from subdivisions, rezoning and new construction. In the City of Duncan, single family dwellings have gone down from $262,300 in 2013 to $247,447 in 2014.
Average strata condominiums in Duncan will go down from $146,200 in 2013 to $139,900.
In the Municipal District of North Cowichan, the average single family dwelling assessed at $325,400 for 2013 has gone down to $314,700 in 2014.
In the Town of Ladysmith, an average single family dwelling in 2013 was valued at $288,500; for 2014 it will go down to $285,100.
Average strata condominiums in Ladysmith on average will go down from $178,700 to $170,000.
In the Town of Lake Cowichan, single family dwellings assessed at $219,100 have gone down in 2014 to 202,700.
Under the category of Cowichan Rural, which includes areas like Mill Bay, Shawnigan Lake, and Cobble Hill, -"pretty well everywhere south of Duncan," according to Dawson – single family dwellings on under two acres of land went down from $375,200 to $357,000 and single family dwellings on over two acres went down from $499,600 to $488,000.
In Lake Cowichan Rural, single family dwellings on more than two acres were unchanged with the average assessment of $383,000 staying the same in both years, Dawson said.
According to BC Assessment, in general, commercial property assessments have remained stable in the Cowichan Valley with a taxable commercial assessment roll of $816,135,916.
A total of almost $19,212,142 in new commercial value has been added due to various changes including subdivision, rezoning and new construction.
Dawson has seen values rise and fall. "I’ve worked for BC Assessment for about 23 years now. I started in 1991 and I have been through some exciting assessment rolls: some with increases of 25 or 30 per cent. They caused a lot of concern, a lot of interest from the public, the phones were ringing off the hooks. But in the last couple of years, it’s been a pretty stable situation all up and down most of the Island.
"This year in the Cowichan Valley, we’re looking at changes similar to what we’ve seen in other communities like the City of Nanaimo, Parksville/Qualicum – the Oceanside area and the Comox area.
"In Campbell River, however, the majority of people are receiving increases in their assessments this year. They’ve also received an increase in their overall assessment roll over last year due to new development like new houses being built, new subdivisions occurring," Dawson said.
The other oddity is Ucluelet. "They have seen quite a drop in their vacant land values: up to 15-20 per cent in both the residential and commercial sides. I think what’s happened is it’s twofold: they have a huge stock of development land and have a decrease in the overall demand for that development land: building lots that already exist.
"Tofino is in a whole different situation because they have those water restrictions: they’ve never been able to build lots so they don’t have that over-supply of vacant land. I think Ucluelet is looking at some longterm growth but they’re just going to have to weather this storm," he said.
"The one thing that is different for the Cowichan Valley, especially the southern portion, is that there is more of a tie with that Capital Regional area. There are more people doing that commute, especially in Shawnigan Lake," Dawson said.
"Let’s hope that one day we have that rail service that makes it easier for people. They’re doing their best with the Island Corridor Foundation. I imagine that the rail would have a positive effect on real estate in the Cowichan Valley. It just makes commuting easier," he said.
"But, when you compare what we deal with on the Island to what my colleagues and friends deal with in the Lower Mainland, I think we live in quite a paradise already," Dawson said.
"I like to send emails to my colleagues saying it took me seven minutes to get to work today and I hit the red light," he said.
According to BC Assessment figures, the top-valued residential property in the Cowichan Valley is a piece of acreage on Thetis Island ($3.16 million), followed by Dayman Island ($2.71 million) and then some Cherry Point acreage ($2.68 million).
"Property owners who feel that their property assessment does not reflect market value as of July 1, 2013 or see incorrect information on their notice should contact BC Assessment as indicated on their notice as soon as possible in January," said Dawson.
After that, there is a review process available for changes.