ALAN Campbell lives on the east side of Sutherland Avenue.
And that, he says, has made all the difference when it comes to a recent assessment of his property value.
Campbell said after reading that home assessments on the North Shore had started to slip this year, he was surprised to discover his own assessment had gone up by about seven per cent - from $866,900 to $923,700.
Campbell says his house is nothing special. "It's old and it's small," he said. "It's a basic rectangle built around 1960" - with less than 1,000 square feet on the main floor.
"There's no way anyone would pay $924,000 for this lot," he said.
Campbell said he talked to friends in the real estate business, who advised him realistically his house would probably have sold for around $820,000 last July.
That put his assessment about $100,000 too high, in his estimation.
But the real surprise came when Campbell started looking into the value of properties on the other side of the street - and realized they had actually dropped in value.
One house across the street from him fell one per cent in value in the past year.
Campbell said he doesn't understand that. "They'll always go up or down in lockstep," he said of the assessed values on his street.
Sutherland Avenue is an anomaly. The west side of the street is within the boundaries of the City of North Vancouver while the east side is within the District of North Vancouver.
The two sides of the street also theoretically sit in different neighbourhoods - Grand Boulevard on the west and Calverhall on the east - at least as defined by assessors and real estate agents.
But Campbell said the reality is homes on the street are very similar. "They draw a line to create an arbitrary submarket," he said. "Which makes no sense whatsoever."
Campbell reckons the increase could cost him as much as $400 extra in property taxes this year. He plans to appeal his assessment.
Campbell isn't the only person surprised to find their property values up in a supposedly slumping market.
Keith Collier, who lives on West Windsor Road near Delbrook said he was also surprised to find the assessment for his 1940s-era home up by about 15 per cent.
"We haven't done any changes," he said of his home. "We know for a fact house prices haven't jumped 15 per cent," he added.
Jim Gill, who lives nearby at 502 West Kings Rd. in a two-bedroom bungalow, said he's talked to about a dozen neighbours, who have all had increases of about 14 per cent. That translates into property values going up by anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000.
Worried about a disproportionately high tax increase, at least half a dozen neighbours in his block are planning to appeal, he said.
But even that presents challenges, he added, because it's difficult to determine exactly how assessors come up with their numbers.
Paul Borgo, deputy assessor for the area with B.C. Assessment, said in the Sutherland Avenue case, being in different legal communities could have an impact on property values on different sides of the street.
Assessors do look at sales in different sub-markets to come up with values, he said.
"At the end of the day, the real question the owner should be concerned with is could they sell their home at the number the assessment is," he said.
"If the owner feels they couldn't sell their home for that value of July 1, they may have a point."
Owners have until Jan. 31 to speak with appraisers and decide to file a formal appeal.
When coming up with assessed values, assessors look at sales in the nearby area, municipal permits and zoning changes, and photographs similar to Google's street view, taken by a private contractor.
Assessors will also sometimes drive by properties to check on their condition, he said. "We do leave the office."
But figuring out which recent sales their properties are being compared to is often confusing for homeowners, said Gill.
For instance, a house next door to him sold for $1.3 million in May. But "it's a very large custom house," he said.
"I'm sort of at a loss as to how they come up with these numbers."
Generally fewer than two per cent of owners appeal their assessments. So far, that trend is holding in North Vancouver, said Borgo.
Although most homeowners protest their assessments are too high, a small number also appeal saying their assessments are too low, said Borgo. Those may be people looking to sell their property, or borrow money against its value, he said.