Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Vancouver property assessment not worth the paper it's printed on?

Last week ushered in Vancouver's first entry in the -50% below assessed value club.

And while it technically falls just short of the -50% mark (it's currently listed at -47% below assessed value) you can be sure it will solidly join the club before long... with hundreds of other units quickly following suit.

Believe it or not, the property is located just to the west of the Olympic Village in False Creek.

Allow me to introduce you to #206-1477 Fountain Way:

This 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom condo which is 1,377 square feet in size is currently assessed at $463,000.

Current asking price? $250,000 or -47% below assessed value.

As with all our entries in the -50% club, this property has 'issues'.

#206-1477 Fountain Way is a leasehold property.  And the lease is owned by the City of Vancouver.

In the mid 1970s, housing was constructed along False Creek and leased for 60-year terms. The idea was to rehabilitate what was then contaminated industrial land by utilizing a combination of leased land and co-op housing programs to provide a mix of one-third social, one-third mid-market and one-third full market housing.

Thus was born the South West False Creek community plan. Cars were discouraged, transit was provided and Vancouver City Hall trumpeted how 5,000 residents built a strong, successful, sustainable community across from the downtown core.

By leasing the land, rather than selling it, the city boasted it had achieved affordable housing and retained the land value in the city’s Property Endowment Fund.

And by using densities that were considered high in their day — there isn’t a single family home in the entire area — the city-driven project sparked all the massive changes we now see around the Creek.

In return Condo residents on leased land paid monthly charges to the city that could be raised from time to time to market levels. Residents could also pre-pay a fixed amount for the outstanding term of the lease.

Fixed annual rents were set for the first 30 years of the leases, and increases were possible on the 30th, 40th, and 50th years of the leases. The increases were pre-determined by a formula outlined at the time the leases were signed.

But as the first 30 years came to a close in 2006, and it was time to re-examine the False Creek lease payments, land values in Vancouver increased far beyond what had been anticipated when the formulas were originally established. 

The City of Vancouver proposed raising lease fees to market levels.

But this was 2006, soon after Millennium had paid top dollar for the Olympic Village land nearby.  '

Market levels' were about to be massively distorted by the highest amount ever paid for land in the city to that time.

The 5,000 residents of the S.W. False Creek community plan - those who had  "built a strong, successful, sustainable community" - were about to suffered massive collateral damage from the Olympic Village land purchase.   In 2006 the newspaper, 24 hours, wrote:
"Richard Cooper woke yesterday to find his payments had jumped from $102 monthly to $785.

“I got up this morning and there was a bulletin,” Cooper told 24 hours.

Condo owner George Stratis was among the hardest hit. He wasn’t aware of the increase until he was contacted by 24 hours yesterday. “You’ve got to be kidding me! That’s absurd,” Stratis said, when told his payments had jumped by $1,400 a month. “That’s larger than a mortgage.”

Stratis could now owe the city about $20,000 a year. That’s on top of his regular property taxes.”

One owner has seen their payments raise from $121.50 to $2,000 – An incredible SIXTEEN HUNDRED PERCENT increase! The city claims that these lease rates have been stuck at a low value for thirty years and that todays increase reflects the current value of the land. Leasehold value has been a contentious issue between residents of False Creek and the city of Vancouver for years. Some residents claim this former industrial land is contaminated and overvalued by as much as 40-50 per cent.

“They’re simply boldly making the statement saying this land is worth top dollar and we should be getting as much rent for it as if it were clean,” said Renger, a senior city planner in another jurisdiction. “That’s not what market land value is about.”
As Director of Real Estate Services, Michael Flanigan, noted in a June 26, 2007 administrative report to city council, “Some leaseholders simply did not have the financial ability to prepay their leases on top of paying monthly mortgage debt, taxes, strata fees, ground rent, and special assessments.”

Ultimately the City agreed to go arbitration and to allow one more prepayment option. The end result were lease payments on a scale of $900 per month instead of an average increase of $1,200 per month.

And while the initial conflict over the lease increases has been resolved the damage has been done.

In a prophetic comment made earlier this summer Neil Hamilton, Senior Property Advisor with MacDonald Realty, identified the looming catastrophe which was clear to all to see:
“The thing you have to remember is, when you go into a lease, no matter how it’s set up, you have to know how long is left in it. Because once it gets under 10 years, and certainly under 5 years, the property is going to be much less saleable than one that has, say, 35 or 40 left on it. Because, at the end of that lease, nobody knows what’s going to happen to it. It’s like a game of musical chairs—or, in this case, musical buildings. When the music stops playing, you don’t want to be the person left holding the bag."
Hamilton, however, was overly optimistic. In the summer he predicted residents would have to wait until the lease gets under 10 years (which is 15 years from now) before they are left holding the bag.

But with 25 years left in those leases, it's already happening.

#206-1477 Fountain Way is assessed at $463,000. 

On November 05, 2010 it was listed for sale for $574,900. On March 28, 2011, after 143 days on the market, it was removed because no one wanted to touch it. It has been re-listed (and removed) four additional times since then - with a lower asking price on each successive listing.

On December 12, 2012 the property was listed for fifth time.  The asking price: $250,000... -47% below it's so-called assessed value.

In our collapsing housing bubble, leaseholders are now clearly holding that proverbial bag. And it's happening 15 years before local real estate agents predicted it would occur.

They're finding out - a little earlier than everyone else - that their 2011/2012 government property assessments aren't worth the paper their written on.

So there you have it.  2012 is topped off by ending with -50% below assessed value real estate listings  entering the City proper.

Who would have thunk it?

(Hat tip Observer @ Vancouver Price Drop)


Email: village_whisperer@live.ca
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  1. A leasehold can barely be considered a 'property'.

    1. So you agree with me when I say that this property assessment isn't worth the paper that it's printed on?

    2. Yes. It should be called a 'leasehold assessment'.

  2. Seems like the assessment ignored the fact that it's a leasehold... or at least the buyers involved in the recent transactions which the assessment is based on did, foolishly.

    1. Now... if the lease rates when up dramatically because of supposed increase in 'value' (based on property assessments), will the lease rate revenue go down dramatically with the next review?

    2. The way I think about a leasehold property is, there's no land value to that property by definition. Therefore, a purchaser should value it based on the depreciated building value + the present value of subsidized land lease over the life of the remaining lease contract. Of course, those who "suffer" from the city's lease rate escalation didn't think about valuation this way... they mistakenly think lease rate remains similar after the contract expiry.

  3. People must be hoarding for the long term.

  4. They need to jack up the lease rates because Vancouver effectively got zero for the Olympic Village land ROFL

  5. Lets see:

    250K for something you can use for 25 years.

    10K/year for the use of the place not counting the mortgage interest.

    $833/month. Add $438 maintance fee (does this include the lease?) = $1271

    So $1271/month not including property taxes (couldnt find them, or are they included in the lease?) or mortgage interest or any coming special assessments.

    Still seems pretty expensive.

    Even worse, if you were to take the 250K and get 3%/year for it (low estimate) that's another $625 a month, bringing the total to $1896.

    You could probably rent it for that, assume basically no risk and leave whenever you want. And it's not like you lose out by renting because the 'owner' doesnt even get to keep the place once 25 years is up.

    1. Worse yet, at end of this example the person is 25 years older. Normally, less risk tolerant, looking for more stability but lease over and at risk.

      Also, remember in the article's example it was only 15 years for $250k.

      The value of the property should drop exponentially over time IMHO. It has lots left to fall.


    2. Damn, I even forgot that in that scenario you end up with 250K in the bank still, while with buying the condo you end up with a condo on land with no lease, which could be totally worthless.

      This is looking like more of a rip off by the minute.

  6. You won't get a bank to finance this condo because of the leasehold. You will have to pay cash for it.
    Either way, this posting is B.S. Probably another ethical real estate agent phishing for new clients.

    I was curious to see what was up considering another apartment in the same building was listed at twice the price per square foot. I left the listing agent two messages yesterday and he hasn't called back yet. I don't think he will.

    I think it's another "lie" by a scummy real estate agent. Just goes to show desperate the rats/real estate agents are getting.

    I can't wait till these guys are starving and will have to get a real job waiting tables...

  7. Whisperer,

    Farmer asked to pass along that he is having trouble accessing. He wrote a note on vreaa's site.


  8. The answer seems obvious to me -- at the current "pricing", the city should buy out the units of those trying to sell and convert them to rental housing. The market rent income pretty much justify the 50% discount from "assessed".

    No brainer?

    1. I suspect a proposal for the City to 'buy' property they already own would not fare well.

  9. I only recently found out about your positive understanding of Vancouver's Real Estate Market. I was most impressed to find that you take a listing off the MLS and provide readers with a FALSE interpretation of its position in the market. Just to be clear, #206-1477 Fountain way SOLD for over $500,000 when marketed the conventional way. $250,000 + The building rainscreen assessment + pre-payment of the lease. There are only 20 units out of thousands in False Creek that have not been prepaid. All buildings in Vancouver freehold inclusive need to go through some form of remediation and there is great value for people to live in False Creek.BTW the ability to prepay the lease is indefinite in order to assist with the sales of those remaining 20 units. Writing about facts is usually more interesting to your readers rather than interpretation. Vancouver's condo market freehold and leasehold has been down for the past 2 yrs. Yet they all still seem to fetch good money in and around the superficial tax assessment values. If a place is problem free, rainscreened and renovated, it will fetch very big money in a short amount of time. FACTS. So if you feel as though the bubble is about to pop, I heard that if you sit in front of a computer for too long your eyes will cross and the screen might pop. True or False? A positive soul.