The role of the Assessors Office is the valuation of all real and personal property throughout the entire community. The Department of Revenue requires that all property is valued at full and fair cash value which ensures that all property owners pay their fair and equitable share of the yearly tax burden. This office is responsible for meeting and adhering to strict certification requirements of the State Department of Revenue. To meet these requirements, the assessors are obligated to revalue all properties yearly and, once every five years, undergo a state recertification audit. In addition to its appraisal duties, the Assessors Office responsibilities include the processing of property tax abatements, personal exemptions, excise tax issues as well as various real estate related inquiries.
Why Valuations Change
State law requires assessors to estimate the fair market value of all properties within their jurisdiction. With this mandate comes the requirement that assessors conduct annual revaluations. Revaluations not only respond to the ever-changing real estate market, but are opportunities for assessors to improve the quality of property data and the underlying valuation methods used to estimate values.
If you observe a change in your valuation, the difference can be attributed to one or more of the following:
- Market appreciation of depreciation
- Building permit related construction and improvements
- Inspections made as part of our periodic data inspection program in which features listed on assessment records are updated
- Internal data quality reviews designed to insure consistent recording of property features
- Changes resulting from our annual assessment studies that identify areas where our valuation models and underlying tables must be adjusted to improve assessment uniformity
- Re-balancing of land and building values
- Response to new legislative enactments and Department of Revenue guidelines
Assessed valuations are not intended to predict what a property might sell for in the future. Assessors are only concerned with what properties are worth on the assessment date, the January 1st preceding the fiscal year of taxation. Properties having sold in the 12 to 24-month period preceding the assessment date influence our valuation model. Our office monitors the correlation between assessments and sale prices on sold properties to ensure that all property owners are assessed fairly and that no class of property is over or under assessed.
All assessments are estimates that approximate market value. Many factors influence what a buyer might pay for a property, but only those that are readily quantifiable are used in estimating your valuation. For example, your assessment is based on features like location, land area, building area, type and grade of construction, age and condition, and amenities like garages, swimming pools and finished basements. Examples of property features not considered in your assessment include curb appeal, home décor, landscaping, and even annoying neighbors. We recognize that these latter features might well impact on sale price, but are not readily measured and difficult to defend.
Quarterly Taxes Explained
Many taxpayers owning properties in Massachusetts’ cities and towns that bill real estate taxes quarterly find the process confusing. The confusion often results in miscalculations of the extent of property tax increases. A brief explanation follows.
Fiscal years for Massachusetts’ municipalities run from July 1st to June 30th. The 1st and 2nd quarter tax installments are each based on one-quarter of the prior fiscal year’s total taxes. These bills are referred to as “estimated bills” or “preliminary bills”. Some towns may chose to increase estimated bills if they anticipate a large tax increase. With the issuance of 3rd quarter bills in January, new assessed valuations and tax rates appear. Also stated is the newly computed property tax for the year. Essentially, the total tax for a given fiscal year is known midway through that fiscal year. Estimated payments made in the 1st two quarters are subtracted from the total computed tax and the remainder is billed over the 3rd and 4th quarter installments. It is important to note that tax increases for the year are generally born on the final 2 installments.