What you need to know about Property Assessment
The Assessor visits a property for one of three reasons:
•There is new construction on the property.
•There has been a recent sale of the property.
•The property is part of a generation re-inspection.
While on the property the Assessor will confirm the information on file is correct and update the file if required. This is done by speaking with the owner of the property. If there is no one home, the Assessor will do an exterior inspection and leave some questionnaires on the property. The Assessor will also be taking digital photos of all sides of the residence as well as any other improvements that may be necessary. The Assessor may also be measuring the exterior of the house or any other improvements necessary.
The Assessor may mail the questionnaires to the owner instead of leaving them at the property if he feels that would be a better method of ensuring the owner receives the questionnaires.
The Assessor visits all properties that have new construction on a regular basis until the construction is complete. While on the property the Assessor will take digital photos of the construction and measure the improvement. The Assessor will also attempt to determine what the improvement will be used for.
The Assessor visits all properties that have recently had an alteration to the name(s) on title. While on the property the Assessor will confirm that the information on file is correct and will document all improvements on the property that were included in the sale of the property.
The Assessment Department is required by the government to do a re-inspection on every property once every five years. This re-inspection is to ensure that the information that the Assessment Department has on file is correct and that the assessed value for the property is both fair and equitable. In the past, this inspection cycle was generally accomplished by a drive by of the property. However, because of the large increases in the assessed value that have occurred in the last few years, the Assessment Department feels that a complete inspection is essential.
It’s important to define and understand this term in relation to your assessment. The MGA defines market value in Section 1(1) of the MGA as follows:
(n) “market value” means the amount that a property, as defined in section 284(1)(r), might be expected to realize if it is sold on the open market by a willing seller to a willing buyer;
The Appraisal Institute of Canada discusses market value at length in the second chapter of “The Appraisal of Real Estate” Canadian Edition Text. It states:
“Market value is inherently a simple concept – it is the objective value created by the collective patterns of the market…”.
Both definitions contain the following assumptions:
•sufficient exposure time in the market
•neither buyer or seller are under any undue pressure
•both buyer or seller are well informed
•payment for the property is typical for the market
Please note that properties bought by auction do not meet the requirements of Market Value.
It’s important to make a distinction between the market value and sale price of a property.
Market value is a range of probable selling prices, not a specific price. If the market is reasonably competitive, prices can be strong evidence of market value. Market value is the value created by the collective actions of the market.
Sale price is the amount a particular purchaser agrees to pay and a particular seller agrees to accept under the circumstances surrounding their transaction. Sale price is a historical fact.
The Regulations require an Assessor to employ mass appraisal techniques – meaning ALL valid sales of similar properties must be used to measure market conditions and prepare assessments. When preparing assessments, the Assessor MUST meet the requirements of the MGA, Regulations, and the Minister’s Guidelines for each property class and use. For example, a Residential property in a Hamlet must meet the standard of market value as determined by the collective sales of similar properties. If the property is a vacant residential lot (used for residential purposes), and other residential lots in the same Hamlet of a similar size are selling in the range of $20,000 to $24,000 you can expect your lot to have an assessment value comparable to that range. The assessment may be $22,000 for instance.
In order to prepare an estimate of value the Assessor needs to know about your property. The MGA allows the Assessor the “Right to enter on and inspect property” so long as the owner/occupier has been given notice and informed that the purpose of inspection is to prepare an assessment of the property. Information typically gathered on a property includes the type, size, age, and characteristics (e.g. heating type, plumbing fixtures, interior finish) of improvements, and the ‘property class’ based use of the improvement/property (e.g. residential, farm, commercial, industrial/manufacturing – a property may have be dual purpose, residential & industrial), etc. Data collection may be in the form of a physical inspection, in-person or phone interview, by mail-in questionnaire or survey or using electronic data available through photos, land titles, etc. The MGA also states an owner has a “Duty to provide information” to the Assessor when it’s requested or he/she may not be able to make a complaint pertaining to that assessment. Your assessment is only as accurate as the information provided to, or gathered by the Assessor when requested.
If you’ve recently purchased the property the Assessor may also ask for information about the sale to determine if it can be used as an indication of typical market conditions. This may include asking: What the use of the property was at the time of sale? Was it serviced? Was it purchased from a family member or an inheritance? Was there any personal property (e.g. appliances) included? Have there been any changes to the property since the sale?
Yes, items like air conditioning or granite counters do affect the assessed value of a property. The Assessors’ job is to produce a fair and equitable assessment for all properties within the municipality. This is done by comparing the characteristics of properties that have sold to the characteristics of your property.
To do this the Assessor first receives from the government the cost to build a home. The Assessor then compares that cost to the market value of houses in your area; so if the cost to build a home is $200 per square foot and the sales in your area are for $150 per square foot, the Assessor knows he should be 25% less than the cost to build for other types of homes as well.
Because the cost per square foot to build a house can vary by hundreds of dollars, the Assessor needs to know what features and finishes your home has to ensure the correct cost to build has been established. This cost is then adjusted according to the recent sales in your area.
To ensure fairness and equity the price per square foot to build a house is grouped into ranges. Your house is then compared to houses in the same range that are a similar age. Air conditioning is a minor feature that has very little effect on your assessment. However, granite counters and similar features are major features which may affect which range your house is assessed in.
For the purpose of Assessment and Taxation, properties are classified as one or more of the following: Residential, Non-Residential, Farm land, or Machinery & Equipment based on their use as required by the MGA. The Residential Class may be divided into as many sub-classes as the municipality feels appropriate (i.e. Vacant, Multi-family, Condominium, etc). The MGA allows the Non-Residential class to be further divided into either the Vacant or Improved Non-Residential. The final two classes may not be divided into sub-classes. Tax rates must be set for each assessment class or sub-class. With the exception that Machinery & Equipment must have the same rate as Non-Residential. Tax rates must be set for each assessment class or sub-class and may differ between classes or sub-classes, with the exception that machinery and equipment must have the same rate as Non-Residential
Once the Assessor has gathered all the pertinent data on properties in the municipality he/she will “stratify” or categorize the properties into comparable groups according to their location, use, age, type, characteristics, etc. For example, properties used primarily for residential purposes are classed as Residential, and may be further “stratified” by sub-class such as Vacant or Improved. Further “stratification” may include groupings based on age and type, for instance One-Story, Two-Story, Bi-level, Split-level, etc. This is important to ensure that properties are valued fairly and equitably with other similar properties. Information related to properties that have sold is analyzed and then utilized to ensure that assessments are comparable to typical market values as indicated by sales
In appraisal and assessment theory, there are three approaches to values when valuing real property.
1.The Sales Comparison Approach – evaluations are based on the actual sale prices of other properties that have sold. This approach is most appropriate when the sales of similar properties are plentiful and reflect the typical market conditions. Of the three approaches it is the most easily understood by the public and courts.
2.The Cost Approach – based on the premise that a property’s value is set by the “cost” of replacing an equally desirable substitute within a reasonable time frame. This approach works best for newer improvements where depreciation is less of a factor and special purpose properties which do not tend to sell on a regular basis. It’s important to note that cost and value are NOT necessarily the same: cost is the amount required to produce the item, whereas value is related to how desirable the item is to a potential owner.
3.The Income Approach – based on the premise that a property’s value is related to its ability to produce an income. This approach works best for properties that are typically rental type properties (i.e. apartment buildings, warehouses, etc.).
In Alberta, Non-regulated properties are valued according to the Market Value standard set out in the MGA and Regulations. The Assessor in the Special Areas utilizes both the Cost Approach and the Sales Comparison Approach in evaluating these properties for assessment. Assessments are prepared by applying cost and sales data to the specific details of your property held by the Assessor. Regulated properties such as Farm land and Machinery & Equipment are valued using the appropriate procedures, tables and rates set out by the Provincial Government in Legislation relating to each property class and type of property. For further information on your property assessment calculation please contact an assessor at Special Areas.
The Special Areas encourages citizens to contact your Assessor at any time with general inquires about your assessment. We are always available to address your questions or concerns. Under the MGA you are entitled to see or receive any information regarding the preparation of your property assessment that the Assessor possesses or controls. You may also request a summary of the assessment of any assessed property in the municipality as long as confidentiality is not breached. If you are making an official request you may be asked to submit your request in writing so the municipality is clear what information you are asking for and can return it to you within the timelines prescribed in the legislation. You may be required to pay a fee before your request can be processed.
Note: It is YOUR responsibility to contact your municipal office and check your property record to make sure the details are accurate.
Your Assessor is available Monday through Friday 8:15am – 4:30pm (Closed from 12-1pm)
•Call (403) 854-5632
•Fax (403) 854-5627
•In person at:
Special Areas Assessment Office
212-2nd Avenue West
You may wish to phone ahead and confirm that the Assessor will be in the office, not out inspecting properties, the day you plan to come in.
Review your property information with an Assessor to make sure the description of the property is accurate. This is an important step. If you believe information about your property is not correct, arrange a meeting with your Assessor to discuss any problems that might affect your property’s value. The Assessor may ask to re-inspect your property and correct the information if necessary. Remember that the value shown on your assessment notice is based on the estimated value of your property on July 1 in the previous year.
If after reviewing the information about your property and any comparative properties you are unable to come to an agreement about your assessment with the Assessor, you may file a complaint with your municipality’s assessment review board clerk. If you wish to file a complaint with the clerk of the assessment review board, you have 67 days from the date your assessment or tax notice was sent. An assessment complaint must be filed using the Government of Alberta “Assessment Review Board Complaint Form”. This form is available at the Special Areas Office, you may also download it at the bottom of this page under Forms Available for Download or from the Municipal Affairs website. The complaint form asks for specific information about the property and the reasons for the complaint. You need to explain why the information is incorrect (e.g. the square footage on your property record is wrong), what the correct information should be, and what the requested assessed value is. You may also be required to pay a fee to file the complaint with the assessment review board this information can be found on the back of your assessment or tax notice. If someone will be acting on your behalf regarding your complaint you will also need to fill out an “Agent Authorization Form". This form is also available at the Special Areas Office, you may also download it at the bottom of this page under Forms Available for Download or from the Municipal Affairs website. This form will verify that you, the assessed person, authorize the party to act on your behalf in regards to the complaint submitted to the assessment review board. You will be asked for specific information about your property and the person representing you.
Your Assessment is the estimated value of your real property for the purpose of providing a basis for a municipality to levy a property tax. Taxes are the amount of money a municipality collects from each assessed person in order to pay expenditures and transfers set out in its annual budget and meet any requisitions from various other sources (i.e. Alberta School Foundation Fund, School Boards, Subsidized Seniors housing, Recreation Associations, etc). You may NOT make a complaint against your taxes.
The information detailed on this site is largely a summary of the applicable legislative requirements contained in the Municipal Government Act, The Regulations, and the Minister’s Guidelines. For further information on these Statues and Procedural Guides please go to the Alberta Municipal Affairs Website:
The Municipal Affairs website also contains general information about assessment in Alberta including links to the “Guide to Property Assessment and Taxation in Alberta”, Assessment Complaints and Appeals, Publications, and Reports.
Or if you wish you may contact Alberta Municipal Affairs by phone, fax or mail at the following address:
Alberta Municipal Affairs
18th Floor, Commerce Place
10155 - 102 Street
Phone: (780) 427-2732
Dial 310-0000 for toll-free connection
Fax: (780) 422-1419
The Department’s hours of operation are: 8:15am – 4:30pm, Monday through Friday.