3D Vision: BC Assessment's Cool New Tools

Elizabeth Wilson
June 2, 2014

Right about now, municipal property tax notices are arriving in the mail and home owners are wondering in their heart of hearts if maybe the municipality got it wrong.

Actually the municipality doesn't have that much to do with what you pay. It just sets the rate at which your home is taxed. It's BC Assessment that determines the value of your home.

And when it comes to determining values, BC Assessment is going high-tech. It's the first in the world to use sophisticated new technology that allows appraisers to pay a virtual visit to a property without leaving their desks. The Assessment Analyst 3D program makes data visual. This will make it easier and quicker to do accurate assessments, and will prevent mistakes that lead to disputes.

This past January BC Assessment in partnership with Esri Canada started testing Assessment Analyst 3D to calculate the value of strata condominium properties in Vancouver's downtown core. The technology is billed as the world's first geophysical 3D assessment analysis solution.

"We need current information in order to do our job well: how big a unit is; does it have a balcony; what is the view?" says BC Assessment's vice-president of business innovation, Hart Mauritz. "These are major drivers of value in the downtown area. Assessment Analyst 3D creates an electronic map of a building. Each building is made up of LEGO-like bricks, each of which represents an individual unit that can be clicked on."

The technology gives appraisers a better way to see trends and anomalies and also offers a more complete set of data.

 Visualizing assessment value changes with Esri's 3D Assessment program.

While this has the potential to save the corporation a significant amount of time and resources, Mauritz also believes the technology has the potential to spark better conversations with home owners regarding their assessments.

"They may have a different opinion regarding the view from their home for example," he says. "With this technology, we can send them a link to our information, which could result in a different discussion. We are already producing extremely accurate assessments; this is one more tool with great promise."

Assessment Analyst 3D also provides BC Assessment with a new method to spot and locate errors. "It's a visual tool that helps us look at our data differently," adds Mauritz. "It shows us information in 3D models rather than on spreadsheets. It's like having a map rather than trying to get somewhere by reading directions."

Assessment Analyst 3D tool for visualizing views from apartments

The software developer, Esri Canada, is a global leader in geographic information system (GIS) technology.

"We're getting great feedback on the pilot project from BC Assessment staff and we're incorporating their needs into the technology," said Esri's Director of Assessment, Michael Lomax. "While the pilot has focused on Vancouver's downtown area, the technology can be used in all regions of the province. It is best suited to multi-unit buildings but can be applicable for single-family homes where topography and views are large value considerations."

Lomax points out that 3D models and analysis can be used for numerous purposes. Real estate agents and emergency services are just two groups that would also find Assessment Analyst 3D valuable.

Elizabeth Wilson
As content editor, Elizabeth spends every day immersed in real estate news and opinion so she can deliver fresh, relevant articles to REW.ca’s visitors. She comes from a varied background in Internet marketing, book publishing, multimedia writing and radio, but what prepared her best for this position is her experience as a renter, seller and buyer in the Vancouver real estate market.