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How Do Property Taxes Work, And When Are They Due In 2011?

First, the easy part: your 2011 property taxes are due July 4, 2011. If your property is in the District of Sooke, you can pay in myriad different ways. There is a drop box for your cheque at municipal hall, or you can visit and pay in person. You can pay in person or online with most banks, or you can mail a cheque. If your property is in the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area (Otter Point, Shirley, Jordan River, Port Renfrew, or parts of East Sooke), your taxes are payable to the provincial Minister of Finance and can be paid in person at a Service BC office, dropped off at the Surveyor of Taxes in Victoria, or online or in person at most financial institutions.

Many home owners will have their taxes paid automatically by their mortgage lender. Lenders will estimate your taxes owing and you’ll pay, along with your mortgage payment, into a side account from which the taxes are paid every year. Lenders do this because they want to be sure the taxes are paid – property tax debt takes priority before mortgages should the borrower default!

However, even if your lender pays the taxes, you’ll want to apply for the Home Owner Grant. The Home Owner Grant is a yearly grant from the provincial government to help offset your property taxes. If you qualify, that’s $570 off your property taxes! You’re eligible for the grant if :

  • you are the owner (or spouse/relative of the deceased owner) of the property;
  • you are a permanent resident of British Columbia
  • you occupy the building on the tax notice as your principal residence
  • you have not applied for or received a home owner grant on any other property in the Province during the calendar year; and
  • no other person can have received a home owner grant on the property for the calendar year.

Most property owners in Sooke will qualify as long as it is their principal residence. The grant is less for properties over $1.15M in assessed value. There is also an additional grant for seniors and other groups.

The thing that confuses people the most is the timing of your taxes. Even though you pay your taxes on or about July 2 of every year, you’re paying for that whole calendar year (ie, January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011, not July 2, 2011 to July 2, 2012). Where this can come up is when you sell your house. People sometimes assume that if they sell their home in the spring, they’ve already paid their property taxes. Not true, because they haven’t been levied yet. When you sell your home, no matter what time of year, your lawyer or notary will have to adjust for the taxes on the statement of adjustments at closing.

For example, If you sold your home and it closed on March 31, 2011, the adjustment would be negative (a debit) to compensate the buyer for the time you occupied the house in 2011 (90 days) – since they will be responsible for paying the property taxes in July. If you sold your home and it closed on August 1, 2011, you would have already paid the taxes, so the adjustment would be positive (a credit) with the buyer compensating you for the time the buyer enjoys the house in 2011 (152 days).

Where does your tax money go? In the District of Sooke, it is interesting to note that only 42% of your tax bill funds municipal services directly. The rest is paid on your behalf to other taxing authorities, including BC Transit, Vancouver Island Health Authority, the Capital Regional District, schools, hospitals, and fire and police service. In the Juan de Fuca Electoral area, it depends on which unincorporated community you live in.

Some other Sooke property tax tidbits:

  • Sewer parcel tax is $515, included in the total payable taxes on your property tax notice, if you live within the sewer specified area.
  • Taxes in Sooke remain among the lowest in the Capital Regional District
  • The District of Sooke has a 5-year financial plan which it updates yearly

 

 

 

Secondary Suites in Sooke – Input Needed!

A Basement Suite (complete with The Sopranos on TV)

The District of Sooke is currently investigating the secondary suites issue, and is looking for feedback from residents about suites. At issue is the potential for legalizing secondary suites (also known as basement suites or apartments) in more zones in the District. Currently, suites are only allowed in dwellings on lots with a certain zoning applied to them.

Despite this fact, many property owners in Sooke have created secondary suites to rent out to help with the mortgage, or generate revenue. As the District isn’t in the business of evicting tenants, they’ve for the most part let it slide. It only makes sense for them to regulate and control all suites in the district, allowing them to ensure first that they are properly constructed and safe for habitation, and to collect extra revenue to recoup the additional strain on municipal resources such as sewage, fire, and police services.

Secondary suites are essentially the main type of rental housing in Sooke. There are very few purpose-built rental apartments, and many of the privately-owned condos are subject to rental restrictions. This has become the case in many municipalities in the greater Victoria region, as financial incentive for a developer to build rental apartments has been virtually non-existant since the 70s – instead, they opt to build and sell condos.

Visit the District Of Sooke’s web site to take the survey on secondary suites, and ensure your voice is heard.

Got an opinion on secondary suites? Post a comment and start the discussion!

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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New Waterfront Hotel, Convention Centre, Public Marina Coming Soon To Sooke

sookeprestigelogosmall

What a difference a good council can make. Since being elected last November, the new Sooke Municipal Council has been busy. They’ve arranged for several provincial government grants for public projects, installed nearly three kilometres of new sidewalks, pushed ahead with plans for downtown revitalization, and now, finally, Sooke is going to get its hotel.

Sooke has long been known for its fabulous bed and breakfast facilities, and the Sooke Harbour House, a world-famous high-end seaside inn, but has always lacked a modern, middle-of-the-road hotel for everyday tourists. That’s all going to change.

Last year, three waterfront parcels along West Coast Road just before Whiffen Spit were put up for sale. The District of Sooke bought one, and the other two were acquired by Prestige Hotels. The District and Prestige have proposed an agreement to build a 122-room hotel, with a 400-person convention centre, full service marina, gym, spa, pool, lounge and restaurant and two ‘bistro-style’ eateries. Construction could start as early as this fall. The District will agree to build a public boat launch and pier on their property, and will pay Prestige $300,000 for five years, which will entitle the District to 12 rent-free days per month in the convention centre, for a total of nearly two years of free usage for the District.

A similar deal was reached in the community of Salmon Arm. District representatives traveled there last year to meet with Prestige representatives and talk to local politicians. While the idea of paying the hotel company was controversial at the time, it has worked out very well for Salmon Arm. Conventions and tourists are coming to town, and the building of the hotel attracted another new hotel to build in the area, and caused another one to undertake a major renovation.

As I see it it, there is no downside to this. A major commercial operation like this hotel will generate a lot of revenue for the District in property taxes, not to mention the ability to host conferences and conventions, weddings, tournaments, and all other events that will generate spending in our town. It takes a lot of people to build a hotel – the jobs will be welcome as residential construction has slowed in the past year. After the hotel is built, there will be jobs for people to work there. Finally, there will be a publicly-owned boat launch in the centre of Sooke and another marina right next to the mouth of the harbour. The fitness facility will be open to public membership, and the convention centre will be available free of charge to community and non-profit groups.

More details can be found in this article from the  Sooke News Mirror. Sooke’s council has accomplished much in their first ten months. They should be applauded for taking the initiative to attract this deal rather than waiting around for some hotel company to eventually find their way out the winding Sooke Road.

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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Sooke Parks and Trails Master Plan Open House Nov 26th

Bravo to whoever designed this - I like it!

Bravo to whoever designed this - I like it!

One of the best things about moving to Sooke is the excellent system of parks and trails our district enjoys. From Ed MacGregor Park and the waterfront boardwalk to the Galloping Goose Trail, there’s always something to do in some beautiful park in Sooke.

Today when I went to grab the best cappuccino on the continent at Sooke’s renowned Stick in the Mud Cafe, I noticed the above brightly coloured flyer. Upon flipping it over, I read that the District of Sooke is holding a public open house to review a draft of the Parks and Trails Master Plan. Residents are invited to share their ideas and priorities for the future of parks and trails in Sooke.

The open house runs Wednesday, November 26th, 2008 from 4:00 until 8:00 in the foyer of the SEAPARC Arena, Philips Road. Light refreshments will be provided.

I encourage all those who love our town and the outdoor recreation opportunities it offers to come out and have your say in the future planning for those amenities. I’m planning on attending, hope to see you there!

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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District of Sooke Launches New Website

Not long after re-directing the old http://district.sooke.bc.ca website to http://Sooke.ca a year or so ago, the District of Sooke embarked on a re-design project for the tired-looking (and content-lacking) site. Earlier this month, the newly-designed Sooke District Web Site was launched.

Pictures And West Coast Colours Feature Prominently

Pictures And West Coast Colours Feature Prominently

The new design looks great, and has an intuitive layout including a search box, with west coast inspired colours and lots of pictures on the front page.

Although the basic content hasn’t changed a whole lot, I’m sure with a modern interface it will be easier for District of Sooke staff to add things like council minutes and agendas, election info, and bylaws.

There is a great section on Sooke history, and a Sooke photo gallery which includes local photography of Sooke beaches, Sooke wildlife, flowers, and even historical photos from Sooke’s past.

Bravo to the District staff for improving an important information resource for residents, businesses, and visitors alike.

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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