The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) is responsible for the assessed values of all the properties in the province of Ontario. The assessed value of our recreational homes and cottages is located on our tax bill. This value is supposed to be the current market value of the home – why then does this value often differ so much from the list or sale price of cottages? And how do you price your cottage correctly if MPAC’s assessment is questionable? In many cases, cottages and vacant land are selling above or below the assessed value and in some examples, by tens of thousands of dollars.
MPAC comes up with your assessed value by comparing your cottage with cottages that have similar features to yours and have sold in the same general area. For the most part, this is done without anyone looking at your property. And everyone who owns land or a recreational home in cottage country knows that properties vary greatly from one another – even properties on the same lake or neighbouring locations can have completely different shorelines, slopes, access, exposure and elevations. These can have a HUGE effect on value that MPAC’s system would miss.
MPAC’s assessed values and the sale prices of cottages are varied in the Near North. Owners may renovate or landscape their properties. MPAC only knows about those changes through the collection of building permit reports from local municipalities. It can take longer than a year for the information to be reflected in the assessed value. Many townships in the Near North are unorganized meaning that there is no need to get a building permit – making it even harder for MPAC to assess the value of these homes.
As to why some assessments are too high – they are based on recent sales and the value of surrounding cottages. If the market has had a hot stretch of a few years and then as crash, it will take a while for MPAC to catch up. This is often difficult news for people getting ready to sell their cottage property. They do not want to list it below MPAC’s assessment, but in cottage country, especially with a cooler market, this can be a necessary step in selling your cottage. Despite what MPAC thinks your cottage is worth, the market will always dictate the correct price.
Your Realtor will have access to the most recent sales in your area and be able to show you comparable properties and what they sold for. Often times, your Realtor will have visited these properties with other clients or even have been the listing agent. They know what is selling in the area and what potential buyers are willing to pay. My best advice – look at the comparable properties and what the sold for when getting ready to list your cottage or buy one. MPAC can be majorly off the mark and you do not want your cottage sitting on the market with an incorrect value attached to it.
If you are getting ready to sell or buy a cottage make sure you do not take an MPAC assessment at face value – research what has been happening on the lake for a better refection of true market value.