Concentration, not Distribution: British Columbia's Most Expensive Residential Properties

David Baxter, Andrew Ramlo & Ryan Berlin

The Urban Futures Institute


Much public interest attends the annual release of assessed values for residential properties in British Columbia. Upon learning the assessed v alue of a property, shock, joy and dismay are frequent reactions, sometimes all from the same people. Beyond the personal, there is also an interest in what other properties are worth and, given the general fascination with wealth, what the most valuable properties are worth. As our annual municipal tax bills are function of value, there is also interest in how much these properties pay in property tax each year.

Acknowledging this interest, earlier this year British Columbia Assessment (BCA) published on its web site lists of the residential properties in British Columbia that had the highest assessed value in each assessment region. While interesting from a within-region perspective, these region-specific lists cannot be combined to find where the most expensive properties in the province are. More recently, BCA published a list of the residential properties with 500 highest assessed values [1] which, with a bit of cleaning, moves a step in the direction of mapping the location of the most expensive residential properties. In this brief bulletin we consider the pattern shown in these data. Further to this, for the geographically minded, we have mapped the properties to show the concentration (rather than the distribution) of these properties throughout BC.

The Data. What we are looking for is properties that are homes, and hence whose value comes from being residences, not from development/redevelopment activity or potential. To get this focus, BCA removed from its list of highest valued properties with residential use codes those with improvements valued at less than $50,000 in order to remove expensive residential properties where the value was all from the land, and posted this list to its web site. We took this list and did a bit more work on it, again with the intention of having a list that included only homes. It is important to keep in mind that the BCA records are for parcels of land, and hence the list comprises single lots; if an expensive home sits on two or individual parcels of land, it may not make the list because its value could be divided by two or more.

The first step in our work was to remove 13 development sites that, while still in single title, were determined to be offered as, ready for, or in the process of being developed as multiple residences. As well, we removed two properties that, while in single title, were developed for multiple residences by way of leasehold or share related tenancy. In this vein, we also removed four islands under single title as their ownership was often in the multiple shareholder/leasehold category. This work was conducted by searching addresses and examining maps using Google to verify location and level of development. Finally, eight properties in the $7,469,600 to $7,498,000 range were removed to give a clear cutoff at $7.5 million in assessed value.

The result was, out of a list of 500 properties, 473 had a value of $7.5 million or greater that were, as far as we were able to determine, homes (Table 1). These 473 properties with 2013 assessed values in excess of $7.5 million are referred to as the province’s most expensive residential properties; their distribution, both by value and location, are considered next.


The Results. These 473 properties, ranging in assessed value from $7,503,000 to $39,269,000, had a total aggregate assessed value of $5,059,479,800 and would generate $18,714,789 in tax revenue for various municipal, regional, and provincial governments and agencies through the 2013 taxation year (an average of $39,566 per property).[3] 

There were 271 properties (57 percent of the total) between $7.5 and $10 million, 156 (33 percent) between $10 and $15 million, 33 (seven percent) between $15 and $20 million, and 13 properties (three percent) above $20 million.

Of the 473 properties, 31 were strata units (all of which were in the City of Vancouver), accounting for seven percent of the most expensive properties. The value distribution of these units was, as might be anticipated, different from that for single detached units; 71 percent (22 units) of the strata units were assessed at between $7.5 and $10 million, with an additional 23 percent (seven units) between $10 and $15 million, six percent (two units) between $15 and $20 million, and none above $20 million.

Almost three-quarters of the most expensive residential properties (72 percent, 341 out of 473) were in the City of Vancouver[4], with a total assessed value of $3,731,708,000. These properties collectively generated $13,869,900 in property value based tax revenue for the City.  A further 22 percent (105 units) were located in West Vancouver, with 12 more (2.5 percent) in Whistler, six (1.3 percent) in Victoria, four (0.8 percent) in Surrey, and one each in White Rock, Burnaby, Central Saanich, North Saanich, and Nanoose Bay.

All of the 46 properties valued at $15 million or more were in the City of Vancouver or in the District of West Vancouver; fully 94 percent of all of the most expensive properties were in these two municipalities. Adding in the Resort Municipality of Whistler, these three municipalities collectively served as the location of 97 percent of the province’s most expensive properties. Thus, the narrative of expensive residential property in BC is one of concentration rather than distribution, a narrative focused specifically on three locations in the province. To broaden the picture beyond these municipalities it will be necessary to await BCA’s publication of the top 2,000 properties. Stay tuned!

[1]–%202013%20Revised.pdfNote that the BC Assessment file only includes Single Family Residential, Strata Residential, and Acreage property types.

[2] Note that some addresses may not be precise in their mapped location.


[4] Includes the University Endowment Lands.