Zoocasa pilloried over Ontario property tax report

by Neil Sharma09 Aug 2019

A recent report from Zoocasa about property taxes in Ontario cities is catching flack from all corners, and according to Claude Boiron, it speaks to a larger, disquieting trend in the real estate industry.

“What I find scary is Zoocasa doesn’t have any idea how property taxes are calculated in Ontario, which is terrifying because they’re supposed to represent properties,” said Boiron, a real estate broker, author, university instructor, and founder of Boiron Group. “The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation has a phase-in system, which is the exact opposite of what Zoocasa says in their report. MPAC intelligently set things up so that if you buy a property today that was valued three years ago at, say $1 million, if you buy it at $2m, you won’t feel that massive increase next year.”

In fact, the increase kicks in every four years and, Boiron added, is designed to soften blows that would otherwise reverberate throughout the real estate market.

“I take issue with the stupid idea of property taxes surging a year after you buy,” he said. “You’re babied into paying the taxes; it’s designed for you to stomach the increases and it happens over a minimum of four years. In fact, the whole cycle actually takes up to eight years.”

The Zoocasa report said:

“In fact, according to calculations from Zoocasa, an Ontario homeowner living in Windsor, the city with the highest tax rate at 1.789394%, would pay $5,873 more per year in property tax on a home assessed at $500,000 than one in the City of Toronto, which has the lowest tax rate in the province at 0.614770%.”

However, MPAC says the average Windsor property is valued at $164,000 and the property tax would be just over $2,900.

"You really need to consider the property tax rates as well as the assessment values. In municipalities that have higher assessment values ... naturally, the tax rate is going to be set at a lower level,” Joe Mancina, Windsor’s chief financial officer told the CBC.

Boiron says Zoocasa’s gross misstep speaks to the fact that, like many other so-called virtual office websites (VOWs), it’s a tech start-up first and foremost, not a realty brokerage.

“These discount and online brokerages are in the business of engineering visits to their websites and they’re not experienced real estate experts. They’re fantastic website engineers and SEO experts, but they’re not top-quality real estate experts,” he said.

“There are a few VOWs I know of that are run by great real estate brokers who hired tech geniuses to drive online traffic—and I love that. But a lot of these guys are guys raising money publicly, or are financed by deep pockets, and to them it’s just another tech start-up. The issue I have is if you don’t have real estate experts behind the scenes, you get misleading advice like this.”

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