The downside of up prices – higher property taxes

This story has been updated.Buyers love to hear that the value of their home is increasing, but few are as enthusiastic to learn of the downside of up prices – higher property taxes.“As soon as someone buys a home, they want the price to go up as quickly as possible,” John Herbert, executive director of the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association, told New Home & Condo Guide. “It’s a bit like a runaway train in terms of its impact on society – most people are enjoying the ride, but it’s going to be hell when the track ends.”When the track ends, metaphorically speaking, is when the next assessment arrives and homeowners realize the whopping property tax increase they’re on the hook for.Indeed, property taxes are a common complaint of homeowners, particularly those in Canada’s largest and hottest housing markets such as Toronto and Vancouver.Property valuesBut, looking at a new Canada-wide survey of property tax rates of major urban centres from the Real Property Association of Canada, homeowners in other cities actually have more to steam about.Estimated residential property taxes per $1,000 of assessmentRegina $13.69Saskatoon $12.58Winnipeg $12.13Halifax $12.11Ottawa $11.27Montreal $8.27Edmonton $8.01Toronto $7.23Calgary $6.10Vancouver $3.68 As an example, Toronto’s residential tax rate breaks down like this:City Tax Rate 0.5174652%Education Tax Rate 0.2030000%Transit Tax Rate 0.0025433%Total Rate Rate 0.7230085% And the total residential tax rate is actually declining:2013: 0.7457653%2012: 0.7711981%2011: 0.7929218%Gary Switzer, Chair of the Toronto Chapter of the Building Industry and Land Development Association, and CEO of Toronto-based builder Mod Developments, says Toronto’s property taxes have been growing at less than the rate of inflation. Toronto residents, on average, pay lower property taxes compared with residents of other Ontario cities, in large part because the tax burden continues to be higher on businesses.Based on a sample property with an assessed value of $499,521, homeowners in Toronto would be looking at tax bill of $3,611.58. Of that, $1,014.03 goes to education, $2,584.85 to the City and $12.70 to transit expansion – though you can bank on that last portion increasing as new LRTs and subways are built.Commuters crossing street (blurred motion)In Vancouver, a $499,521 property would mean a tax hit of $1,837.20.And in Ottawa, owners of a property of that value would be on the hook for – ouch – an annual tax bill of $5,711.19.“My own opinion is that property taxes are going to increase dramatically once the LRT system becomes operational,” says Herbert of the situation in Ottawa. “There hasn’t been a (transit) system built in North America that pays for itself. It’s just a question of how much money it’s going to lose and therefore, how much taxes will have to be increased to pay for it.”Toronto, take note.Buyers of new homes also face a troubling little matter called Development Charges. These are the fees – often in the tens of thousands of dollars – municipalities charge developers to help pay for new infrastructure. Builders usually pass those charges along to their customers, the new-home buyers. And this, of course, means first-timers are hit the most.


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