House-Hunting-Resources

When looking at properties to buy there are a few items we always look up no matter what.  These items are a little different than what most people might look at and for good reason.  We aren’t most people!

In the BC Assessment report I look for things like:

  • lot size
  • the assessment value
  • comparable properties sold in the previous year

These data points give me a foundation to work from in comparing properties.  This information sometimes differs from the MLS listing info so I use this to establish the true facts of the property.  Sometimes BC Assessments is outdated, sometimes MLS info is incorrect…sometimes they are both wrong…but at least this gives us another set of info to lead us to informed decisions.

Bonus info from BC Assessment – If you want to know what similar properties have sold for in the previous calendar year look up your property and select ‘compare sold properties’.  This will produce a list of properties that fit the same criteria as the property address you looked up.  Now, a few cautions about the BC Assessment information:

  1. this is the value according to BC Assessment which is a good benchmark but not always an accurate reflection of market value of a property.  The assessment may not have been reviewed in a long time and sometimes the last review brought back a really high value which was never challenged.  Use this info as a data point, not as a hard number for market value.
  2. the sold comps are generated based on criteria you cannot control.  Sometimes it brings up great comps and sometimes they are not really comps at all other than they are similar in size and bedrooms.  Takes these comps as another data point again, not hard numbers for market value.

Zoning Maps + Bylaws

Zoning maps can be found online in most municipalities.  These maps are often used by property developers and as such are usually found in the building and development sections.  An easy way to find the zoning map for your city is to google “zoning map for (insert your city name here)”.  I know, not particularly high tech but it usually does the trick.

Easements can also be located on the city maps, sometimes these maps are interactive so you can turn on layers that show if there are sewer pipes running through your yard going to your neighbours (this would be an easement situation) or if there are parts of your land that have streams and protected areas for wildlife which would restrict your usage of the land.

Great, I found my zoning but now what?!?  The zoning type (for example RS1) tells us what part of the city zoning bylaws we need to reference so we know what we can, and more importantly cannot do, with a property from a renovation and development standpoint.

Once you have the zoning type (for example RS1 meaning ‘Residential Single Family 1’) you can then go to the bylaws for your city and look up what you can and can’t do in your zoning area.

Bylaws are a set of guidelines that outline what can and can’t be done within the governing area of a city.  The bylaws for zoning indicate the who, what, when, where, why and how of type of buildings and activities that can take place in specific areas.  Every city has zoning bylaws, every zone has specific uses and restricted uses, make sure when you are buying you know these especially if you plan to do something other than just inhabit your home.

Typical restrictions and allowances that homeowner want to look for in zoning bylaws that will affect their plans or future resale values:

  • secondary suites, laneway housing and duplexes
  • suite locations – carriage houses, garden suites, duplex units
  • parking space requirements
  • building height and size restrictions
  • set backs required for buildings and structures (how far back from your property line you have to be before you can build)
  • home business uses
  • special restrictions or allowances for specified neighbourhood areas

Reading the zoning bylaws will not be a fun and exciting read.  Its dry and boring but important information to know before purchasing.  We find it is easiest to go through and highlight the important information so it is easy to find again.