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Turner Drake & Partners Ltd.
6182 North Street
Halifax, N.S.
B3K 1P5

Tel.: (902) 429-1811
Toll Free: (800) 567-3033
Fax.: (902) 429-1891

Suite 221
12 Smythe Street
Saint John, N.B.
E2L 5G5
Tel.: (506) 634-1811

Suite 11
109 Richmond Street
Charlottetown, P.E.
C1A 1H7
Tel.: (902) 368-1811

35 York Street
St. John's, N.L.
A1C 5M3
Tel.: (709) 722-1811

4th Floor
111 Queen Street East
Toronto, ON.
M5C 1S2
Tel.: (416) 504-1811

E-Mail: tdp@turnerdrake.com
Internet: www.turnerdrake.com

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# Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Municipal Assessment Agency recently mailed out its Year 2016 Assessment Notices dated 5th October for the entire province with the exception of the City of St. John’s.  You have until 4th November 2015 to file your appeal.  (The City of St. John’s will mail out its 2016 Assessment Notices on 1st January 2016 … no doubt hoping that you will be too full of Christmas turkey to notice).  This is the first year of the tri-annual assessment cycle, so a successful appeal now will continue to provide you with tax savings for a full three years.  (If your property is enrolled in our PAMS® Property Tax Manager program, you can relax:  our Newfoundland tax team is already reviewing your assessment and will file an appeal if the opportunity exists to reduce your tax load).

The legislated basis for your Year 2016 Assessment is your property’s market value on 1st January 2014 (the “Base Date”) having regard to its current physical condition.  This then is the first test you should apply.  If your property’s market value is less than its assessed value, it is over assessed and you should file an appeal on or before 4th November 2015.  Market value is the price the property would command if it were sold to an “arm’s length” purchaser (i.e. to a non-related buyer) for cash or subject to conventional financing.  It is not necessarily the price that would persuade you to part with the property but rather the price you could expect if you decided voluntarily to dispose of the real estate.  The best evidence of market value is the sale prices of similar properties that were sold within six months of 1st January 2014.  If your property is assessed at less than its 1st January 2014 market value, you may still be over-assessed because the Assessment Act mandates that your property has to be assessed in a uniform manner.  This provision attempts to ensure that the tax load is spread across the municipality’s property inventory in an equitable manner.  It also discourages the Municipal Assessment Agency from under-assessing property to thwart appeals.  So, if for example, commercial properties are assessed on average throughout the municipality at 70% of their market value, you will have grounds for appeal if your property’s assessment exceeds this percentage.

The Bottom Line:  You should appeal if your property is assessed at more than, (1) its market value on 1st January 2014, or (2) the assessment of other, comparable properties ... or if you harbour any doubt that your property is over-assessed.

Action Required:  None, if your property is enrolled in our PAMS® Property Tax Manager program.  If it is not and you file an appeal, be careful not to restrict your grounds of appeal.  We recommend that you use the following wording: “The assessment is excessive, unfair, not uniform with other assessments, and any other grounds that may appear.”  If you prefer we will file the appeal for you.  If you would like advice on whether to appeal, call our Newfoundland Tax Team, André Pouliot or Mark Turner at (709) 722-1811 (St. John’s) or 1-800-567-3033 (toll free).  If you prefer you can email them at apouliot@turnerdrake.com or markturner@turnerdrake.com

Wednesday, October 7, 2015 4:24:00 PM (Atlantic Daylight Time, UTC-03:00)  #    -
Property Tax
# Thursday, October 1, 2015

Property taxes, like all taxes, are mired in controversy.  We hear from hundreds of owners every year, and the refrain is often the same:  They’re too high”; “We don’t want to pay them”; “They don’t make sense”; “The services that I receive from the Municipality are declining, but my taxes keep going up”…

But still, we need to pay for our municipal services.  Halifax, for example, has historically relied on property taxes to fund approximately 80% of its budget.  Part of the controversy (and discontent!) with taxes stems from misunderstandings of how the property taxation system works.  This blog post will focus on a few of the central tenets of Nova Scotia’s property taxation system.  This primer will (hopefully) help you as a property owner/manager confront your issues with assessments and property taxes in the right place, and with the right people.

The first issue that needs to be clarified is the taxation process itself.  Your tax bill is the product of two numbers:  an assessed value and the tax rate (or mill rate).


Lesson 1:  Assessed values are the responsibility of the PVSC.

Assessed values are the responsibility of the Property Valuation Services Corporation, a not-for-profit corporation at arm’s-length from the government.  The PVSC’s has a CEO and a board of directors: these directors are in turn made up of representatives from individual municipalities.  We are experts in valuation, and as a consequence, our Property Tax Division specialises in – you guessed it – assessed values! Any issue with your assessed value is a matter to be taken up with the PVSC.

Assessment in Nova Scotia is done on an ad valorem basis (Latin for “according to value”) meaning property is assessed at its estimated market value.  The PVSC completes a revaluation of all the properties in Nova Scotia on an annual basis: some 612,000 properties.  The valuation of all the properties is compiled into what is called the assessment roll.  This roll is then forwarded to the Municipality, who use it to formulate tax rates.

Lesson 2:  Tax rates (and tax bills!) are the responsibility of the municipality.

Now, to move onto the next item in the equation:  tax rates.  Tax rates are set by municipalities. They are determined by setting a budget, calculating the total value of the assessment roll, and dividing those two numbers:

Now, there is a lot of fine print in this equation (especially regarding commercial versus residential tax rates), but what’s important to recognise is that the PVSC assesses the properties’ values, municipalities determine the tax rates (and what those taxes pay for).  Once the city has set its tax rate, they send out a tax bill to all property owners, and then in turn provide services to the community.  Your elected municipal representatives determine the services to provide and how they will be financed, this in turn creates a budget and voila! a tax rate is born.

Lesson 3:  Property taxes are based on the market value of property, not benefits received or services provided (or anything else!).

Another important takeaway from all of this is that ad valorem taxes are a tax on wealth. They are not a tax on income, and they are not a tax on services rendered. The idea behind the ad valorem tax is that wealth is a proxy for ability to pay: those with a greater ability to pay should pay more. Unlike income tax, property tax is not a tax on earnings: it is a tax on wealth. This is especially important for income producing properties, as income and property value are two very different things. Now that we’ve determined how a tax bill is calculated, let’s look at when:  the ‘base date’ of valuation for assessment is January 1st, two years prior to the current assessment year.  For instance:  the current assessment year is 2015. The ‘base date’ or ‘effective date of valuation’ is January 1st, 2013.  But what does this really mean in practice? It means that PVSC, who are estimating market value, are trying to determine the market value two years ago.

Why is this ‘base date’ issue important or even relevant at all? Because, as property owners, you feel market conditions as they happen.  If you have an apartment building and just can’t keep the units occupied, your vacancy and subsequent cash flow are hurting now.  What this two year ‘base date’ lag creates is disconnect between when vacancies happen and when you (may) feel some kind of assessment relief.  This isn’t to say that your current struggles can’t be considered, but for the most part, what’s happening to you now is going to show up in your assessment (and subsequently your tax bill) in two years.

This blog post is intended as a primer to help you as property manager/owner/operator understand the basic process behind your tax bill.  Property assessment and taxation are complex issues with a lot going on behind the scenes (and I mean a lot).  Turner Drake specialises in the assessment half of the equation: municipalities set tax rates, and there’s nothing we can do about that.  What we can do, however, is ensure that your assessment is fair.  My boss has told me time and time again:  we all have to pay our taxes, but that doesn’t mean you have to leave a tip."

Property assessment and taxation lessons provided by Greg Kerry, Manager of our Property Tax Division and Toronto Operations. If you have any questions about your property tax assessment, feel free to contact Greg at GKerry@TurnerDrake.com, (902) 429-1811 (Halifax) or 1 (800) 567-3033.

Thursday, October 1, 2015 4:16:51 PM (Atlantic Daylight Time, UTC-03:00)  #    -
Property Tax
# Thursday, August 20, 2015

With low fertility rates, an aging workforce, and an increasing dependency ratio, Canadian demographics are transitioning from a tailwind to a headwind on property values. In Atlantic Canada, this is doubly true. The Maritimes are the vanguard of the Canada’s aging population, but generally lack the simulative effect of immigration. This sets us on a collision course with important tipping points in real estate economics.

While much has been said about the effect of a stagnant and aging population on economic growth and social services, we find little consideration has been given to its impact on real estate.  This is an enormous oversight; not only is real estate generally the largest single asset held by private citizens and often businesses, but it is by far the largest driver of both revenues and expenses for local government.

On September 17th 2015, from 7:30 am until 9 am, we will host a breakfast seminar at the Halifax World Trade and Convention Centre on the demographic changes sweeping the region, and their impact on real estate values in Atlantic Canada. Experts from our Economic Intelligence Unit and Planning Division will outline the implications of Nova Scotia’s demographics for real estate, and discuss how the way we plan and develop our communities should adapt.

This breakfast seminar will be of interest to decision makers with property portfolios in Nova Scotia as well as municipal planners and professionals active or advising clients in real estate; lawyers, commercial loans officers, accountants, developers. To reserve your hot breakfast contact Gen Lecour at glecour@turnerdrake.com or (902) 429-1811 Ext. 345. There is no charge but we will accept donations to the Salvation Army and Oxfam at registration. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015 10:40:41 AM (Atlantic Daylight Time, UTC-03:00)  #    -
Economic Intelligence Unit | Planning
# Thursday, August 6, 2015

There is a common misconception that valuing unimproved parcels of land (i.e. not built on or cultivated land) is fairly straightforward.  Although there is no shortage of land sales to draw from … the sheer number of variables involved with value and mixed nature of the sales makes valuing unimproved property, which includes islands, one of the most challenging exercises in real estate valuation and appraisal. Over my career I have become familiar with the most important variables to consider when valuing land and briefly share them below. This is by no means a complete list but does demonstrate the complexity involved with valuing land.

It all begins with a conversation with a client regarding their unimproved property. A typical conversation will usually go something like this:

“I am looking to have a valuation completed on my property for sale purposes.  I have received an offer and I want to know if it’s reasonable.  They are offering me $375,000 for 250 acres which is $1,500/acre.  Does that sound reasonable to you?”

This is a difficult question to answer without knowing the details of the property.  In our profession the accepted method for valuing land is to determine an appropriate per unit rate, which is based on similar properties that have sold, and then applying that to the property being valued. However, this approach is often flawed due to the number of input variables involved with value.  For example, you could have two parcels of land that are the same size located adjacent to one another, with one of those parcels having extensive waterfrontage and the other having very little.  So does it make sense to value both of these parcels using an overall per acre rate? Let’s take a look at the most crucial variables …


The type and amount of access can be a large contributory factor to value.  The property, for example, might have enough linear road frontage to be subdivided thus creating several lots.  However, if the road is only maintained and accessible for a portion of the year it can have a significant impact on value.  Alternatively, the property may be accessible by way of a right-of-way.  If that’s the case it would be necessary to review the right-of-way documents to understand what the restrictions are for use of the right-of-way.

Size, Shape and Topography

The overall size, shape and topography of the parcel are also variables which need to be considered.  The parcel may be very long and narrow, short and wide, or have steep terrain or be fairly level, which can have a significant impact on its use and value. 


Location, location, location  If the parcel sits adjacent to a developing residential area it would likely attract a higher value than a property situated in a more rural setting with little development.  Location of the property is very important to consider.


Does the property have extensive waterfrontage to a river, a lake or the ocean?  If so, is it susceptible to flooding during certain times of the year?  Is the shoreline badly eroding or is it permanently in a state of wetland?  What is the depth of the adjacent water and does the water level drop significantly during the summer months?  All of these factors affect value and must be explored.   

Cover Type

Another critical variable is the type of land cover.  If the likely use of the property is for forestry harvesting than the cover type would be a critical input variable.  Often times we are asked to value property which contains unique cover types including old growth forests or hemlocks. 

Zoning and Other Restrictions

Even in rural areas where properties are not typically subject to the same level of land controls, there are often restrictions on the use of the property.  For example, the property may be located within a designated wilderness area or within an area designated as a watershed.  These types of restrictions can severely limit the use of the property and thus impact its value.    


Back to the original question; is this offer reasonable?  Well that all depends on a number of factors that need to be investigated before providing any input ... 

The morale of my blog post: Nothing is ever as straightforward as it seems, especially when it involves valuing land.  

If you have questions regarding the value of your property or are interested in learning more, feel free to contact Nigel Turner, Senior Manager of our Valuation Division, at (902) 429-1811 or NigelTurner@TurnerDrake.com.

Thursday, August 6, 2015 9:39:18 AM (Atlantic Daylight Time, UTC-03:00)  #    -
# Monday, June 22, 2015

I joined Turner Drake in 1981, just about the same time the Space Shuttle successfully returned from its inaugural flight to usher in the use of manned reusable spacecraft to return to Earth. Upon landing, I believe astronaut John Young hyped on adrenaline, proclaimed “that was a ride of a lifetime”. While my time with my colleagues at Turner Drake has been more grounded, I also consider it a ride of a lifetime; ushering in new challenges, adventures and innovations along the way.

Operating throughout Atlantic Canada and beyond, we have valued a diversity of properties from airports to smelters; pulp mills to fish plants; convents to quarries and vast tracts of moose pasture … and just about everything in between.    Valuation of real estate is not a simple task or an exacting science: it has always been a combination of art and science.  With a predominance of the former in the years gone by,  giving way to the latter as a plethora of data and technology has,  and continues, to become available. As the saying goes … everyone has an opinion on value. However it is certainly more than just producing fluff and a leap of faith.  As valuers, we have to use the tools developed to capture, analyse and make sense of demographic, economic and market factors that drive real estate values. Clients of real estate practitioners expect and deserve accurate conclusions based on sound analysis and interpretation of the evidence available.

To meet this expectation, it is incumbent on valuers to be leading the wave, not just riding it.  As more and more real estate data becomes available, i.e. published sales data, online property zoning, assessment data, financial analytical tools, etc.,  the valuer’s  time is not so much spent working as an old time private investigator travelling the region and unearthing spotty evidence but more so assimilating the available data and recognising what is relevant and applying the correct analytical tools to interpret it to produce a creditable result.  The tools we use at Turner Drake include our Compuval® Database assembled over the past 35 years comprising over 200,000 detailed property records including sales, assessment, income and expense data on properties throughout Atlantic Canada and across the country; Geographic Information Systems (GIS) databases that focus on demographic trends, land use, spatial connectivity, development patterns and the physical aspects of property; and financial analysis and projection software.  These tools together with the knowledge and skill sets of my colleagues at Turner Drake make the challenge of valuing properties a rewarding experience and as I indicated at the onset … a ride of a lifetime.


Rick Escott, Vice President of our Valuation Division and Newfoundland Operations, reflects on his last 34 years at Turner Drake.  To find out more about Rick and his adventures, check out our Facebook page!

Monday, June 22, 2015 10:43:28 AM (Atlantic Daylight Time, UTC-03:00)  #    -
# Tuesday, May 26, 2015


The Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) released its first Standard Method of Floor Measurement for Office Buildings in 1915.  A lot has changed in the past 100 years: there were two world wars, man landed on the moon, and an underground unicorn lair was discovered in North Korea (yes, the Korean Central News Agency actually reported this in 2012…).  BOMA has evolved with the times and now offers measurement standards for a multitude of property types including office, industrial, retail, multi-unit residential and mixed use.


The BOMA Office Standard is by far the most recognised and implemented standard in the market.  It provides a logical and uniform method for measuring office space, including the proportionate allocation of all floor and building common areas in a building.  The existence and general idea of the standard is fairly well known in the industry but what is far less understood is the huge financial impact that a BOMA space certification can have on your asset. 


For years I have been telling clients that you are not buy a building – you are buying an income stream … and your income stream is rooted in your rent roll. Therefore if your building has not been certified in accordance with the appropriate BOMA Standard, chances are that the area on your rent roll is wrong.  How wrong you ask?  Well we undertook an audit of office buildings in Atlantic Canada and found the average area shown in the lease was off by 10.1% (!!!).  The financial implications are enormous. An 80,000 ft.2 office building sitting in a market where net rents are running at $12.00/ft.2 could be undervalued by as much as $1,100,000; simply because it had not been certified.


If a full scale building certification is more than you need, you should at the very least consider getting individual units certified during lease renewals/roll overs.  For “one off” units of 5,000 ft.2 or less, a space certification costs only a few hundred dollars and is often turned around in less than 24 hours: a small price to pay for the peace of mind which comes with a properly certified unit will last you a lifetime (or at least the term of the lease).  Space measurement provides you with tremendous bang-for-buck as the floor plans generated during the space certification can also be used for marketing the unit, as a fire exit plan, or for space planning purposes.  Most importantly, an accurately measured building will ensure better performance of your building.


At the end of the day, the rent roll for a building that hasn’t been certified is about as reliable as a news report about North Korean unicorns.



Questions regarding space measurement? Feel free to contact Mark Turner, Vice President of our Lasercad Division at (902) 429-1811 or MarkTurner@TurnerDrake.com. 


Don't forget to check out Mark's Featured Consultant piece on our Facebook page!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 3:36:22 PM (Atlantic Daylight Time, UTC-03:00)  #    -
# Wednesday, May 13, 2015

I recently had the pleasure of presenting to the New Brunswick Association of Real Estate Appraisers (NBAREA) at their Annual General Meeting in Saint John, NB.  Working with Alexandra Baird Allen of our Economic Intelligence Unit, we took the room through an exploration of regional demographic trends and their influence on real estate values.  We illustrated that we are at the cusp of a demographic sea-change; things are going to be fundamentally different in the future from what we’ve seen in the past.  Be wary of making decisions based on past trends!

One of the hallmarks of this demographic transition is that it is impacting us faster than we think.  The stagnation and slow decline in population projection for Atlantic Canada is not the primary concern.  Rather, it’s the rapid change in population composition as a wave of boomers starts cresting over the age of retirement.  This increase in our population dependency ratio is happening much faster than the lethargic economic/demographic pace we are used to in Atlantic Canada.

Planning and Economics

In the second part of our presentation, I argued that the way we plan our communities needs to adapt.  To give us the best chance of success, our planning system needs to become more agile and responsive, more sophisticated in the use of fiscal analysis and tools, and offer more tangible involvement to our citizens.  I suggested that our approach to economic organisation holds some lessons for our approach to planning.

If you boil down planning and economics as social sciences, they’re really both about the same thing: making the best use of the resources we have to improve our overall conditions.  Planning talks about the disposition of land, economics talks about the transaction of goods and services.  Planning talks about the public good, economics talks about the welfare of society.

It’s really not surprising that they are so analogous since economies and communities themselves are similar.  Both are a complex system of numerous and interrelated actors, simultaneously pursuing their own independent goals.   The final outcome is the cumulative result of these individual behaviours; it emerges from the bottom-up.   Our approach to economic organisation, the free-market, is successful largely because it works with the nature of the problem; it uses price signals, subsidies and taxes to influence individual behaviour and leaves markets to allocate the resources accordingly to create emergent results.  However, in planning we still rely heavily on a coercive, centrally-organised approach that attempts to will a desired outcome into existence through policy and regulation.  As a result, planning is susceptible to fads, and risks failure when there is a disconnect between the ideas of decision-makers, and the realities of the complex community.

An Economics Approach to Planning

So how can planning emulate some of the most successful properties of our economic system to help us build communities that are resilient in an uncertain and resource-limited future?

(1)    Better Information

Markets allocate resources efficiently when provided with complete and accurate information. It’s the reason we have access to the accounting of publicly traded companies and protections against false advertising. Municipalities derive nearly all of their revenue from taxes and fees levied on private real estate. At the same time, nearly all their expenses are generated in providing services to the occupants of private real estate. Thus the location, use and form of land development (a domain over which they have nearly complete control) is central to a municipality’s sustainability, and their capacity to adapt to changing circumstances. Yet, where is the fiscal analysis in the plan-making or development approval process? Under present practice, municipalities are making long-lasting decisions with, at best, a vague idea of whether those choices enhance or undermine their long term viability.

As a result, our communities often find themselves in a self-made pyramid scheme, justifying present development on expectations of future growth, or suddenly collapsing when reality turns out different from the version that was supported by “accepted wisdom.”

(2)    Price Based Incentives

Markets allow the collective choices of individuals to find the optimal balance of supply and demand at a given price. Governments step in to influence this price when the market fails to account for negative and positive externalities. Municipalities are often challenged to encourage or control certain types of development in different locations. The typical approach to this is to implement static policy and regulations; boundaries and targets. These only work to the extent that they are congruent with the market-based needs of the development industry. Using price signals, such as development charges, more prolifically and accurately (marginal cost rather than average cost) works with the market to determine the optimal mix of development required to satisfy demand. Rather than creating rigid regulatory limits that exist outside of the context of land development economics (and which are prone to becoming out-of-date), affecting price allows the market to self-regulate without restricting choice.

(3)    Managing Change – Leveraging Self-Interest

How tall should a new building be? Depending on who you ask, there will be a multitude of correct answers, but if you ask the person who lives beside it, chances are they’ll say “no larger than my house.”

One of the most challenging aspects of planning is managing the process of neighbourhood change, and the public reaction to it. Environmental psychologists tell us that satisfaction with one’s neighbourhood is better than satisfaction with one’s socio-economic status as a predictor of overall life satisfaction. This sense of contentment with your residential environment can be effectively undermined by making you feel excluded from the forces affecting it, or feel a lack of personal investment in it. In essence, to rob you of your agency to exercise control over your interest in the neighbourhood.

In response, good planning often includes some form of public engagement. A process that treats the community with respect and offers opportunity for direct input goes a long way to engendering acceptance of change. However, this can be further improved through the addition of policy tools which translate change into direct local benefit. Adding policy tools like density bonusing or community amenity contributions allow a community to trade increased development on a site for direct funding of public benefits such as park space, public art etc. It is a way of ensuring new development has a wider direct benefit for the residents that have to accept it.

Going one step further, a governance mechanism that sees a fixed percentage of all property tax reserved for investment in the area it is collected according to resident’s priorities would transform the public’s relationship with change and new development. If we are going to ask the public to help guide the use, appearance and scale of development in their neighbourhood (and we should), the more of their skin in the game the better. “How tall should a new building be?” becomes a much different question if a neighbour can imagine what they might stand to gain, rather than only what they risk to lose.


For more on the impact of changing demographics on real estate values, please contact the Manager of our Planning Division Neil Lovitt at 1 (902) 429-1811 or  nlovitt@turnerdrake.com.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015 2:57:24 PM (Atlantic Daylight Time, UTC-03:00)  #    -
Atlantic Canada | Planning
# Monday, March 30, 2015

Your current office space is no longer working for your organisation.  You are busting at the seams, unable to hire any help, otherwise setting up shop in the nearest broom closet.  Fortunately, your lease is nearing the end of its term and a refresh is in order.  You are currently located in an older, tired building, so you start the search for a new space… and somehow you got stuck taking the lead on this project with little real estate experience.


You decide you are out of your comfort zone so you turn to NAI Turner Drake for help.  After reviewing your space wish list, you are provided with a list of potential locations.  Some are currently built out with full offices, boardrooms, meeting rooms, kitchens, washrooms etc., but there is not one that completely suits your needs.  You feel the best location is in a brand new building, fresh on the market, so you can achieve the exact layout to maximise efficiency in your space.


You walk into the empty bay, typically with an unfinished concrete floor, exposed ceiling, unpainted gyproc walls and the HVAC, plumbing and electrical only running to your unit, not throughout.  The landlord provides a space planner to help you layout the office based on your requirements.  You reflect back on your recent kitchen renovation and think “Hey, this won’t be so bad”.  The space plan comes back and now it’s time to determine the budget… how much is this going to cost and how will it be paid? You are shocked, feeling rather light headed and fearing for your job when the quote comes back from the general contractor… “I could build a new house for that price!”.


The average cost to build out a typical office space is $60 per square foot.  This figure obviously fluctuates with the market and inflation; however we can use it as a starting point.  Typically, a landlord will include a tenant improvement allowance within the asking net rent to help offset these costs.  The remainder is to be paid by the tenant.  There are a few options: a tenant can cut a cheque for the entire amount (this can have an accounting benefit), the tenant may amortise the amount over the lease term and pay back to the landlord as part of the rental payments (this helps spread the costs over the lease term, but the landlord typically charges interest on this amount) and/or a combination of both options. The landlord will make these concessions based on the strength of the covenant of the tenant.


Construction items to consider when building a space from a raw state:


Partition Walls (Metal Studs and Gyproc):  Even in an open concept space, washrooms, meeting rooms, etc. must be partitioned from the main space.


Flooring:  Flooring can range from carpet tiles to laminate flooring to ceramic tiles and anything in between. Carpet tiles can be among the more cost effective flooring options, while ceramic and porcelain tile are among the more expensive flooring types.


Paint: Fortunately, paint is paint.


Ceiling Tiles: A suspended T-bar ceiling grid can help improve sound nuisances within an office.


Lighting: There are many lighting options available today, including more efficient LED lighting.


Electrical Distribution: In a new build, the landlord typically brings electrical into the unit, but in some cases it is the tenant’s obligation to install a transformer and then distribute the electrical throughout the unit (outlets, drops, etc.).


HVAC Distribution: Again, the landlord will run HVAC to the unit, but it then becomes the tenant's responsibility to distribute the HVAC throughout the unit. This will depend on the unit layout, an open concept office will require less distribution and diffusers than a fully built out space with all private offices.


Plumbing: The landlord will have a plumbing stack to the unit, but it then becomes the tenant’s responsibility to distribute throughout the unit. It is more cost effective to keep all plumbing in the same vicinity, as to avoid cutting into concrete to run pipes, significantly driving up construction costs.


Millwork (Kitchen, storage, etc.): Millwork comprises of kitchen cabinets, storage cabinets, washroom counters, etc. These items will depend on the space design.


All of these items add up.


Remember: the stronger your tenant covenant, the more concessions you can negotiate with a landlord.




Leasing and Sales Consultant, Ashley Urquhart, assists both landlords and tenants meet their space requirements, and vendors and purchasers optimise their property portfolios.


To learn more about Ashley, visit our Facebook page to see her Featured Consultant article!

Monday, March 30, 2015 2:50:38 PM (Atlantic Standard Time, UTC-04:00)  #    -
# Thursday, March 19, 2015

If you own real estate in New Brunswick, you will have received your annual 2015 Assessment Notice and Tax Bill by now. Notices were mailed on March 2nd and there is a 30 day request for review period that expires on April 1st. This is the only opportunity for a property owner to reduce their taxes this year!

Property taxes are a significant burden on businesses and typically account for anywhere from 40% to 50% of a building’s total operating costs. Owners of commercial property in New Brunswick typically pay the equivalent of the entire value of their property over approximately 22 years… In many cases before they’ve paid off their mortgage! 

Although property taxes are significant, many owners lack the tools and data to effectively manage their property taxes. The assessment of commercial property is a complicated process. Many properties, especially large retail properties, are purpose built for the owner or occupant and may not appeal to a broad array of potential purchasers. Even though they may have a significant “cost” a purpose built or branded property may in fact have very little value if there isn’t a captive market for it. 

Assessment Act requires that property be assessed at its Real & True Value (aka market value) as of January 1st of the year in question. This definition seems transparent but the devil is in the details. The Act is silent on what constraints should be considered when determining a property’s value so one must have an understanding of precedent setting decisions, best practices, and the valuation expertise to correctly determine how a property’s unique attributes affect its value. The case law holds that Real and True Value is not the subjective test of “value to the owner” but rather the objective test of “value in exchange”. It’s important to ask the right question. Don’t ask at what price you’d be willing to sell, ask at what price a purchaser would be willing to buy!

Although not mandated in the Act, it is also important that assessments bear a fair relationship to others in the same taxing jurisdiction. Seasoned assessors recognise the importance of treating property owners fairly. The best way to do this is to compare your assessment per square foot to similar properties in your area. 

Many owners successfully navigate the appeal process on their own but our experience has shown there is a business case in seeking professional assistance when dealing with any commercial assessment. Although there is an investment required in obtaining a professional, it can be structured to eliminate the risk of the owner incurring a fee without obtaining a corresponding tax savings and typically the associated tax savings are 2-3 times the first year’s tax savings!

If you have questions concerning your property tax assessment, feel free to contact our New Brunswick tax team, Andre Pouliot or Chris Jobe (506) 634-1811 (Saint John) or 1-800-567-3033.

Thursday, March 19, 2015 2:23:23 PM (Atlantic Standard Time, UTC-04:00)  #    -
Property Tax
# Wednesday, March 4, 2015

June 28th, 2013 marked my twenty-year anniversary at Turner Drake.  At the time of writing this post, I’m almost two years closer to my golden anniversary. 

Originally hired, trained and educated as a commercial appraiser, I’ve spent the majority of my career in our Property Tax Division.  True to our in-house training program, which hires graduates directly from University, I started as a trainee valuer. Six years later I moved into a Manager’s role, and then, in 2006, became divisional Vice President.  As Vice President, I lead a team of seven that assist hundreds of owners every year in mitigating their tax burdens. 

Twenty-two years in property tax translates into tens of thousands of appeals filed and, over the course of addressing those appeals, some recurring themes have emerged.  I will discuss these themes below… and in the process, try to do a bit of property tax myth-busting.

Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbour’s Assessment.

If you own property in Nova Scotia,  it’s tempting (and, with the information available online,  relatively easy) to compare your assessment to competing properties.  For some owners I’ve encountered, logging on to assessment sites and feverishly clicking on surrounding properties has become sport… in some cases, bordering on an obsession.

Comparable assessments are undeniably a useful benchmark and helpful tool to identify an over-assessment (we do it too!). While some assessors will consider assessments on similar properties as grounds for reducing an assessment at the (relatively informal) initial appeal review stage, the fact that your assessment compares unfavourably to others will carry no evidentiary weight before Nova Scotia’s administrative Tribunals, Boards, and Courts.

Nova Scotia’s Assessment Act requires uniformity of assessment… but legislated uniformity is achieved across entire classes of property in a Municipality (and there are only two such classes: residential and commercial).  Sadly, ensuring that your property’s assessment is consistent with similar properties does not ensure uniformity.  This is one of the most common misconceptions that we encounter in dealing with property appellants.

The Best Opportunity to Reduce Your Assessment (and Taxes) is NOT on Appeal.

In every province in which we operate, assessing authorities are willing to discuss assessments prior to those values being inserted onto the official assessment rolls.  In our experience, such preliminary consultations often produce better results – at lower cost – than waiting to file formal appeals.  A number of provinces, including Nova Scotia, fully embrace the opportunity to discuss proposed values and to make changes, where required, at the “pre-roll” stage.

Of course, it’s not always possible to do so, as values may not be available with sufficient “lead time” in advance of the filing of the roll.  But where the opportunity presents itself, my advice is to always be proactive, and to address a problem before it becomes one.  A stitch in time saves nine.

Not Every Property is Over-assessed.

There, I’ve said it. 

It’s the truth – not every property offers the opportunity for tax relief.  My colleagues and I take many, many calls where we have to break that unwelcome news to owners… sometimes in spite of a double digit increase, or an assessment that exceeds its neighbours by a considerable margin.   In fact, for every appeal we file, there is probably a second property that was reviewed and its value accepted. 

Assessors – They’re Just Like Us.

They wonder about going gluten-free.  They drive their kids to countless sport practices  and extracurricular  activities.  They think about work while they’re walking the dog.  They worry about getting enough fibre.  And, for the most part, they are well educated and professional, and open to reasoned argument.  That’s not to say that we don’t take the gloves off from time to time: positions do become polarised.  But professional relationships built on mutual respect with assessors from across the country have allowed for the settlement of hundreds of appeals every year without the need for Board and Court appearances.


Property assessment myth-busting brought to you by Giselle Kakamousias, Vice President of Turner Drake's Property Tax Division. For more on Giselle, check out her Featured Consultant piece on our Facebook page.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015 1:33:00 PM (Atlantic Standard Time, UTC-04:00)  #    -
Property Tax