Getting to the nitty gritty of property assessments Get the answers to your questions

By Stephanie Lake

The City of Calgary

It’s the beginning of a new year and with that, the annual mail-out of your property assessments. That familiar, City-branded envelope will be gracing mailboxes across the city. Depending on the value found inside, it will likely trigger questions:

  • “How exactly are these assessments determined?”
  • “Why is my house worth more (or less) than my neighbour?”
  • “How does The City determine my individual assessment?”

So we set out to dive a bit deeper into the realm of assessments and reached out to Ian McDermott, Team Leader, Valuation, at The City’s Assessment business unit. Here are his answers to some of those questions many Calgarians may have once they open those envelopes.

Hey Ian! Thanks for talking to us about our property assessments. I understand The City uses a software called CIAO, which everyone pronounces like “chow.” Can you tell me what this stands for exactly?

CIAO stands for Calgary Integrated Assessment Office. It is the system that allows property and business assessment notices to be produced. These assessments provide the basis for over $2.4 billion in tax revenue for The City and The Government of Alberta. CIAO provides and uses data from most City departments and many external partners, through 37 integration points.

What is this system exactly? How does it work?

This system houses all types of data, from house sizes to lease information. It also allows connections between multiple departments of the City to provide information to the Assessment business unit, such as permit information.

Is this a common system that is widely used across the country?

Systems like this are used by every jurisdiction that values property on a mass scale. CIAO is a unique system to Calgary, developed to support our specific valuation needs as a city.

How is my assessment determined?

Assessments are based on physical data (about the property) and market information.

What can I do to increase my assessment value?

If the market is increasing, generally assessments will increase. If there is a change to the physical details of a property this could also change the assessment value. If you feel your details are not correct on your property, phone the Assessment business unit at 403-268-2888 to discuss.

If I live in close proximity to a new City Recreation center or CTrain station, will this kind of criteria impact my assessment value?

Depends. As assessments are based on market data. If the market shows that these types of criteria impact value, then it is possible it could affect your assessment.

Proximity to a CTrain station could have on impact on your assessment -- but it depends

What could potentially make my assessment more or less than my neighbour?

Physical details. For example, if your neighbour’s house is the same as yours, but the difference is a finished basement for your house and not for the neighbour’s. We would expect the house with the finished basement to sell for slightly more.

Sounds good. Let’s talk about the Assessment Search on calgary.ca. What kind of details are available on Assessment Search?

Anyone can access limited details, such as property address and assessed value without having to create an account and logging in.

More detailed information is available by logging in (the user will have to create a City myID account). Information available includes complete property details such as building sizes, year of construction; all sales that were used for valuation and much more. These can be searched by community, property type and even by using a map function.

To access Assessment Search, go to Calgary.ca/assessment and follow the link or click here.

When should Calgarians be accessing this feature?

Any time! The information for the current year is available from the date of mailing assessments.

Is there a chance my assessment information on Assessment Search could change prior to receiving my official assessment notice in the mail?

We review property details throughout the year for current and next year. If there was a change to the physical details of your property that resulted in a change in value, this would be reflected on the Assessment Search site.

Why should Calgarians use this feature? Is it pretty intuitive?

I would encourage all Calgarians to use this site to review sales and neighbouring property values to verify fair assessments with their own property. We have created the site to be easy to navigate and search for the information necessary to understand the assessment process.

How long does it take to determine an assessment in my neighbourhood? On my house specifically?

We are always reviewing sales and property details for the next year’s assessments. It takes the full-year cycle to determine an assessment on all the properties in the city.

When do you begin determining our assessments?

It is a continuous cycle. We have already started developing the data to value properties for the 2018 roll.

Why do you determine assessment values as of July 1 of the previous year?

It is a legislated date in the Municipal Government Act. This is to ensure that all municipalities in Alberta are using the same valuation date and standards.

Why don’t current assessments reflect the Calgary real estate market at the time of mailing?

In addition to the fact that it is legislated under the Municipal Government Act, the difference in time between the valuation date (July 1) and the date of mailing (January of the next year) provides us with time to make sure values are accurate and fair. It also provides us with time to print and mail over 500,000 notices. Any changes in the Calgary real estate market will be reflected in the following year’s assessments, if the sales reflect market changes.

Is this something that might change in the future, or is it strictly governed by the Municipal Government Act?

The valuation date is a date from the MGA.

Assessment staff can answer questions about your assessment during the Customer Review Period.

If a citizen wants to challenge the assessment, what is the process?

If a citizen disagrees with their assessment, they should first review their property details online at Assessment Search and call Assessment at 403-268-2888 during the Customer Review Period (CRP). The CRP is held for 60 days following the mailing of the notices. The 2017 CRP will be held from Jan. 5 to March 6, 2017. An assessor may be able to resolve their concern without the need to file a formal complaint.

If they are still unsatisfied, they may file a complaint with the Assessment Review Board. There is information on the back of their assessment notice including the process and the fee to file the complaint.

What criteria would warrant challenging an assessment?

Generally, if there is a disagreement of the overall value. Disagreements over physical details can be discussed with the Assessment business unit during the CRP.

What is one message that you would like Calgarians to keep in mind when opening their assessment notice in 2017 that hasn’t been covered?

Review your assessment notice and ask yourself whether the value reflects market value as of July 1 of the previous year. Also, review your property’s data and sales in your area using Assessment Search. This data is the basis for assessment values. If you have any questions, contact us.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

If you’re looking for more information on your annual 2017 property assessment, check out these tips and links to help get you started…

LINKS

  • Visit the Assessment web site for information on market value assessment, how your property is assessed and any other questions.
  • To understand how assessors work to determine our assessments, check out this video

ASSESSMENT TIPS TO KEEP IN MIND:

  • As mandated under the Government of Alberta’s Municipal Government Act, assessments reflect the market value for property or the typical net annual rental rate for business as of July 1 of the previous year.
  • Assessment notices are not tax bills. Assessed values provide the basis for calculating taxes. The assessment process is a distribution system to ensure everyone pays their fair share of taxes based on the value of their property and what The City of Calgary needs to operate.
  • Property and business owners are encouraged to log into Assessment Search to access more detailed information about their property/business. This includes factors that contributed to their assessment, comparing their property/business with other similar properties/businesses in their area, estimating their upcoming tax bill and viewing sales of properties in their area. (To log into Assessment Search, users must register for a City myID account (calgary.ca/myID) and then use their property roll number or business identifier and the access code located on their assessment notice).
  • Beginning the day the assessment notices are mailed each year (Jan. 5 this year), customers have 60 days to contact Assessment if they have any questions or concerns about their assessment. This 60-day period is referred to as the Customer Review Period (Jan. 5 to March 6 this year). Changes to an assessed value can only be made if the customer calls about it during the Customer Review Period. If a customer calls after this period, their account will be updated if necessary and it will be reflected on their following year’s assessment.
  • Assessment has the largest and most comprehensive database for Calgary’s real estate inventory. More than anything, that information is the foundation of assessment. (Assessments are only as good as the data on record, so customers are encouraged to check the information we have on file for their property and use Assessment Search to check their information.)

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