Welcome to Hamilton, the new “sleeper” destination for waterfront home-seekers.
Property values near the harbour and along Lake Ontario have shot up in Burlington and parts of Hamilton since 2008, despite low or flatlining increases for waterfront homes elsewhere in Ontario.
The latest data from the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) shows startling increases in Burlington, where waterfront home values skyrocketed 50 per cent east of the Skyway, many into the $2-million-plus range. To the west, a 30 per cent increase pushed average values to $1.3 million.
Climbing values aren’t confined to posh harbour hangouts, either.
Hamilton’s Beach Strip home values jumped an average of 20 per cent, into the $200,000 to $300,000 range. The average value of semi-detached North-End homes near the harbour has also increased 23 per cent, with prices still typically under $200,000.
EDITORIAL: MPAC data paints a bright picture overall
“The word is out: we have an affordable waterfront,” said Conrad Zurini, a real estate broker who recently co-authored a report on housing prices. “If you want the sleeper market, it’s the Hamilton and Stoney Creek lakefront.”
Despite pockets of fast-rising property values on the water, near the core and in rural areas, Hamilton as a whole isn’t keeping pace with the provincial average of 18.5 per cent. The average city home is now valued at $290,981, compared to $368,903 for Ontario.
That’s not a bad thing, said Larry Hummel, MPAC’s chief assessor. “Hamilton’s average increase is 12.6 per cent, which still above the rate of inflation,” he said. “Hamilton has some bright spots.”
There’s also good news in having homes below the provincial average for city taxpayers, because the share of education taxes you pay should drop, said taxation director, Larry Friday.
Most of the 161,000 homeowners across the area now getting assessment updates will see property value increase, he said. But that doesn’t necessarily mean your taxes will go up.
If your assessment increase was less than 12.6 per cent, you might end up paying less tax. If your property value shot up above the city average, you’ll probably pay more, but MPAC is also phasing in increases over four years, Friday said.
Education taxes and looming city budget decisions will also factor into your final tax bill.
If you disagree with your assessment, complain before your tax bill arrives — not after. “So many people wait until they get the tax bill, but by then it’s too late,” he said.
The Spectator’s neighbourhood analysis showed above-average increases in waterfront areas, west Hamilton and in an L-shaped band hugging the downtown.
Below-average increases stand out in Ainslie Wood West, the area east of the Red Hill Parkway and two blocks of Mountain land near Upper James Street and the Linc.
Zurini fingered student housing for much of the increases in areas around Westdale, adding the popular investment puts “price pressure” on single-family home buyers.
But he also pointed to “gentrification” of North-End areas, particularly along James Street North, and the spreading “Locke Street effect” as proof of a “trickling” core renaissance.
Zurini noted the findings of his recent report, which suggested 17 per cent of all new real estate buyers in Hamilton and Burlington are from the GTA. “People see value here,” he said.
Ryan Moran figures the slow-but-sure growth in property values corresponds with a gradual increase in the number of people both living and working downtown.
“I think we’re on the way up downtown,” said Moran, chair of the Hamilton Hive network of young professionals. He said at the group’s fall conference, participants were asked during a downtown renewal workshop if they lived or planned to live in the core.
“It was a resounding majority, when you combined all the hands together,” he said.
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