News Release Archive

At the office, over the neighbor's fence, or around the kitchen
table, people are talking about more than just the weather.
Property assessment has also sparked a conversation or two.

The province recently began extensive changes to the assessment
process, in order to give homeowners a more accurate picture of
what their property is worth. Despite the recent attention
assessment has been getting, the process still remains a mystery
for some. Just how and why do assessors value property?

The Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs' assessment
services division is responsible for assessing all property in
Nova Scotia. Residential and commercial assessors must complete
the Appraisal Institute of Canada's four-year program in property
assessment, administered through St. Francis Xavier University.
They also must attain a Canadian Residential Appraiser (CRA) and
Accredited Appraiser Canadian Institute (AACI) designation.
Recently, the department was awarded a presidential citation from
the Appraisal Institute of Canada (AIC) for its contribution to
the growth and enhancement of the appraisal profession. It was
the first provincial government department ever to receive an
award from AIC.

Rob Flanigan, a residential assessor with the Kentville office,
has been assessing property for 15 years. He says he's gotten
lots of feedback about the changes, some of it negative and some
positive. "I was at the dentist office yesterday, and the
receptionist just wanted to tell me she thought she and her
neighbour's assessments this year were right on the money."

He says assessors are legislated to value property under the
provincial Assessment Act. They look at three things when trying
to determine the value of a property: land, buildings and any 
improvements the homeowner might have made. In some ways, this is
similar to homeowner's insurance for the replacement cost of
their homes with the difference being the assessors subtracting
any loss in value as a result of normal wear and tear, such as
painting, carpeting, cabinets, etc. They then add the value of
the land and compare this amount to what other similar properties
are selling for.

Like other assessors, Mr. Flanigan says he spends a lot of time
explaining the difference between a rise in assessments and a
rise in taxes. "Everyone pays taxes - it's something that
everyone's concerned about and that's understandable. But people
think if their assessment goes up 25 per cent, their taxes will
automatically go up 25 per cent and that's not the case. In the
past, we've had assessments where the values went up and the
taxes went down."

The process begins when assessors divide areas into neighborhoods
and look at what land is selling for in a particular area. Next,
they examine the building to find out what the house is worth.
They consider things like the size of the structure, whether or
not it has a full or partial basement, what shape the building is
in, where it is located, and the quality of materials used in
construction. They then take into consideration other items the
homeowner has added, such as sheds, garages, decks, swimming
pools, barns, or paved driveways. A value is set based on Nova
Scotia construction costs, depreciated loss in value to wear and
tear and other things that may detract from the value.

"When we're assessing homes, we rebuild the house from the ground
up - on paper. We look at how much it would cost to replace that
house brand new as of a certain time. Next year, that date will
be January, 1995, instead of 1988 as it was in the past," Mr.
Flanigan says.

"We consider the age, condition, and other physical attributes of
the building, then reduce it by a dollar amount to allow for
 wear and tear'," he said. "If it is an older home, the  wear and
tear' will be much higher. It may have a leaky roof, a low or wet
basement or worn out carpet, for example. We take all that into
consideration and allow a dollar amount based on what we believe
would restore the property to  like new' condition."

Todd Gratto is a residential assessor with the Truro office. His
background in real estate led him to his current position. "I've
always had an interest in land and property," he said. He notes
that all assessors strive for uniformity and equity when
completing their assessments. "We have to be fair. If there are
two houses side by side, and they're relatively similar, they
should be assessed the same."

He said that consistency is the key to maintaining this fairness.
"With property assessment, it's important to compare apples to
apples. Someone may wonder why his property is assessed at a much
higher value than his neighbor's, but the neighbor might have a
one-storey house and his might be a two-storey structure. He then
would be in line with other two-storey buildings in the same

Mike Musycsyn, a commercial assessor with the Sydney office, says
some of his closest friends are still a bit confused about
exactly what he does for a living. "I've known people for 15
years who still call me  The Tax Assessor'," he laughs. "I keep
telling them - I don't assess taxes - I assess property."

He agrees that maintaining accuracy and fairness is top priority
in his line of work. "If we say a property is worth a certain
amount of money, that's because we've checked it thoroughly,
based on a very structured, analytical system designed to make
the process as precise as possible."

For Todd Gratto and the other assessors, making sure the process
is open and accountable is just as important.

"If anyone has a question about their assessment, they can come
in and go over it line-by-line with an assessor. This one-on-one
contact we have with people gives them a better understanding of
the process," he said. "Once they get an understanding of the
how's and why's behind it, they usually look at the whole process
differently. They seem to have a little more confidence that what
we're doing is valid and a necessity."

For general information about the assessment process, call
1-800-667-5727. For more specific information about your
assessment value, call your regional assessment office.


Contact: John MacKay  902-424-5671

trp                    August 09, 1996 - 9:45 a.m.