By Jeff Davis, The Star Phoenix April 27, 2013 - Residential property values in Saskatchewan are rising faster than anywhere in Canada.
Assessed home values jumped 133 per cent between 2006 and 2011, according to a report released by Statistics Canada this week.
Values in Saskatoon jumped by an average of 150 per cent in five years, while values in Regina rose by 135 per cent, the report notes.
The next-closest cities, St John's and Edmonton, both saw assessed values rise by 102 per cent.
"The fastest growth occurred in Saskatchewan (+132.6 per cent), where values more than doubled, followed by Newfoundland and Labrador (+100.0 per cent) and Alberta (+97.0 per cent)," the report says.
For many years, assessed property values in Saskatchewan were far lower than actual market prices, said Joanne Stevens, manager of assessment and tax administration for the City of Saskatoon.
"Before 2006 the assessed values were quite a bit less than other parts of the country, so I think it's more of a catch-up than anything else in Saskatchewan," she said.
"For years, we compared ourselves to Alberta and the values (there) were so much more, but that's not the case anymore."
Early this year, Saskatoon homeowners received letters informing them that assessed values were going up by an average of 83 per cent. For some homes, especially in the city's west side, assessed values more than doubled.
Stevens said tax rates will increase by three to 15 per cent on homes which have seen their assessed value jump more than 83 per cent. Tax rates will fall for homes whose assessed values rose less than 83 per cent.
Homeowners don't know yet exactly how much more or less tax they will have to pay, but they soon will.
"Tax notices will be going out in May," Stevens said. "Council has decided to phase in the impact of reassessment over a four-year period."
Assessed home values in Saskatoon were laughably out of sync with going market prices for many years, and as a result they were not useful reference points for buyers looking for deals on the housing market, said Saskatoon realtor Norm Fisher.
While actual market prices grew by about 90 per cent between 2006 and 2011, the 150 per cent jump in assessed values has brought them more in line with reality, Fisher said.
"Today's assessments more closely match market values. More often now when I look at a property assessment, it seems to be in the right ballpark."
Assessed property values often follow more general trends in the local economy, Fisher said. Saskatoon's real estate boom is happening now in part because of the province's hot economy.
"Not much was happening in 2005 and 2006, but Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver were seeing pretty significant increases," he said. "Calgary was cooling in 2007 when we were heating up."