Did you know that you can find detailed records for all properties in BC and that it’s possible to search the records free of charge? BC Assessment has now made the records for 2014 available. We’ll outline how to use the BC Assessment system to search for records. As well, we’ll summarize the other types of records that are accessible online.
The detailed property records can be searched in person by going to one of the BC Assessment offices in the province. The Vancouver branch of BC Assessment office is located at Renfrew and East Broadway (200-2925 Virtual Way). There are also offices in Burnaby and Surrey.
As an example, we’ve outlined the steps that it takes to find additional information on the assessment record for Vancouver City Hall using a computer terminal at a BC Assessment branch. The terminal must be logged in (reception staff can assist here) and ready to search the digital ‘MicroFiche‘ records. The search screen options include a selection for ‘Drawer’, ‘Folder’ and filter criteria. The first step in a search is to select the ‘2014_Roll’ option under the ‘Drawer’ section:
The second step is to select the municipality. In the case of Vancouver, the ‘Folder’ that should be selected begins with ‘2014 Area 09‘. Note: Other municipalities belong to different areas, select the appropriate number. There’s a reference guide beside the terminals that shows North Van as Area 08 and Burnaby as Area 10. In any event, it’s important to check this option as the default is not 09 (Vancouver), but rather 01 (Note: it resets to 01 if the searched year is changed).
The third step is to select the Filter criteria. There are three drop down menus that are initially labelled as ‘Jurisdiction’. For this example, select ‘Street Name’ from the first drop down menu and enter ’12th’ in the search field (as above). Any street that ‘starts with’ 12th will be selected. To further refine the search, select ‘Street #’ in the next drop down menu (change from ‘Jurisdiction’) and type in 453 in the search field. You can also change ‘starts with’ to ‘equals’. Click on ‘Search’ to find all records to match your filter criteria.
A number of addresses will be listed in the results in the lower part of the screen. Select the line for ‘453 West 12th Avenue’ to bring up a record of Vancouver City Hall.
The 2014 assessed value of Vancouver City Hall is $73,194,000. This total is broken into two components: Land $59,223,000 and Buildings $13,971,000. The assessed value for the previous year is shown as $71,737,000. The owner of the property is not surprisingly listed as the City of Vancouver. There are further details and numbers for the property. The PID (Property Identification number) is a 9-digit number, for this example it is 014-570-5050. The PID is needed to do a Title Search at a Land Title Office; a title search provides the most up-to-date information possible but it isn’t free. It’s not possible to do a title search with only an address; the PID is required. The PID can also be found using online resources.
Occasionally searching BC Assessment property records is not as straightforward as entering a street name and number. There are cases when no result comes up. Here are a few tricks:
- Try searching for a partial address. Any address that starts with ‘4’ will find matches on a ‘400’ block (or a ‘4000’ block). The ‘equals’, >, <, >=, <= options can be used to refine a search; the ‘start with’ option is just the default.
- On corner lots, the address in the system may correspond to either of the two streets. Check both.
- Search the address using the Property Identification number instead of the address. The PID can be found using VanMap, the City of Vancouver’s online GIS system.
- Printed maps of different sections of the city are also available in the office. It’s possible to locate a property on these maps and to search for them with other criteria (District Lot, and so on). You can also ask reception for help.
- Sometimes there are linkages across adjacent properties; the assessment may be listed for only one of these grouped properties. VanMap can show how properties are grouped.
- If a number of search results were returned, you can always switch back to the results after you’ve looked at one of the listed properties by clicking on the tab in the lower part of the screen. This trick is quite useful when looking through a number of individual strata titles at a particular location.
- Sales information for the previous quarter is another option in the ‘Drawer’; it’s also possible to see if a property changed hands during the year. While it’s not as up-to-date as a Land Title Search, it’s free of charge.
The valuations of land prices used for the 2014 assessments were set on July 1, 2013. The assessed values of all buildings on a property are effective October 31, 2013. The property ownership information is from November 30, 2013. The land and building assessments are combined for a total assessed value for the property. Property owners have until January 31, 2014 to appeal their assessments in writing (details here).
There are municipalities in the Lower Mainland that have online GIS systems. The system in place for Vancouver is called ‘VanMap’. It’s possible to get Property ID number and the 2014 assessed values in a web browser.
To launch ‘VanMap’, select the ‘Start VanMap’ button on the City of Vancouver webpage. It will take several seconds for the application to start up, please be patient. When VanMap has finished initializing, you will see a map of the City that shows all of the separate neighbourhood boundaries:
From this map, it’s possible to zoom into specific parts of the City. This can be done by either the default panning options (hand icon) and zoom control (right hand side of the screen), or by using a mouse with scroll-wheel and by centering on the area to magnify. After the map is sufficiently detailed, the separate property lot lines and addresses are shown:
By moving the mouse over the address in a property, an information box appears after a few seconds. This information also shows the PID that is a useful search criterion at BC Assessment. To find a tax record for the property, double click on the address. The result below is the 2013 assessment information for Vancouver City Hall:
The City’s records show the Land Value and the Buildings (Improvement) as two separate values; these need to be added together to show the overall assessed value. The PID is also shown in the table. Some records also show the ‘Year Built’ and this is quite useful for researching heritage buildings, and a ‘Big Improvement Year’ often corresponds to a major renovation or building expansion.
Another online tool that can be used to compare assessed values is the e-Value system in BC Assessment. It’s possible to compare assessments for a given address or for properties sold in an area. The ‘Compare by Address’ will list further specifications the selected addresses (area, number of bathrooms, bedrooms, storeys, and so on).
There’s a significant amount of property information available both online and at BC Assessment for research. If you have any further tips on using these systems, please leave a comment or let us know via email.