Public meeting of the Board of Assessors
City of Somerville Assessor's Portal
The Assessing Department maintains a database of commercial, industrial, and residential property values in the City of Somerville. We also manage personal property (business) and motor vehicle excise tax. You can find information about your property taxes and assessed values by using the tabs below.
617-625-6600 ext. 3100
For information on how to pay your taxes, contact the Treasurer’s Office:
617-625-6600 ext. 3500
Or drop by City Hall at 93 Highland Ave:
Monday - Wednesday
8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
8:30 a.m. - 7:30 p.m.
8:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
About the Board of Assessors
Under the provisions of Massachusetts General Laws, Chapters fifty-eight to sixty-five C, the Board of Assessors fall under the jurisdiction of the Commissioner of Revenue who may revise rules, regulations, and guidelines, as deemed necessary to establish minimum standards of assessment performance.
In Massachusetts, the property tax is an ad valorem (based on value) tax. In the late 1970s, the Massachusetts Supreme Court in the Sudbury Decision ruled that property values would be based on 100% full fair cash market value. Full and fair cash value is the amount a willing buyer would pay a willing seller under no special circumstances and given a reasonable exposure to the market. Assessors must use accepted Massachusetts’ appraisal techniques to value property.
In order to determine market value, a sales verification process is started by members of the assessing staff. Letters are sent to buyers and sellers to attest to the Arm's Length Nature of the sale to determine if there were special circumstances involved and to determine the condition of the property on the date of sale. Property measurements and current conditions of property are then updated on all sales. A complete statistical analysis is performed and must meet Department of Revenue standards to satisfy the Commissioners Standards of Performance in order to meet annual and triennial certifications before tax bills may be mailed.
The property tax levy is the revenue a community can raise through real and personal property taxes. Under Proposition 2 ½, there are limits on the amount of the levy raised by a city or town and on how much the levy can be increased from year to year.
Assessors annually classify all real property into one of four real property classes either residential, commercial, industrial, or open space. The City may then allocate the tax levy among the classes of real property within prescribed statutory limits. The tax rate applicable to commercial, industrial and personal property may be higher than applied to residential properties. Approximately 100 communities in Massachusetts opt each year to shift the tax burden from residential to commercial, industrial, and personal property classes rather than to apply the same rate to all classes of property.
FY19 Property Tax Update
Reduce or Defer Your Taxes
FY19 Changes to Assessing & Tax Rates
Frequently Asked Questions
News, Tips, & Important Deadlines
Links to Forms & Information
FY19 Property Tax Update
Understanding Your Tax Bill
You may have noticed a change in your assessed property values this year. Below are a few links to help you navigate this page quickly:
- To find your new assessed value for FY 2019, visit the Assessor’s Database.
- To see the proposed FY 2019 tax rates, or see an estimated tax bill for your home, head to the FY19 Changes to Assessing and Tax Rates tab.
- To learn how to reduce or defer your taxes, or see if you qualify for other exemptions, visit the Reduce or Defer Your Taxes tab.
- To appeal your new assessed value, view the Filing for a Property Tax Abatement guide.
- To see how values are calculated and find more information about the property tax update, visit the FAQ section.
Introduction to the FY19 Property Tax Update
Fiscal Year 2019 is a State Department of Revenue (DOR) interim adjustment year for the Board of Assessors. An interim adjustment year requires that the Board adjusts values based upon changes in the market and that DOR standards have been met. While the DOR reviews and approves any adjustment by the Board, the standards are not quite as rigorous and as comprehensive as those in a certification or revaluation year. Assessments for FY 2019 have an effective market date of January 1, 2018 and were released to the public on December 28, 2018.
You can look at the new assessed values online at the Assessor’s Database. You’ll also find them on your third quarter actual tax bill, which was issued on or around December 28, 2018. If you feel that your property is overvalued, you can file a formal appeal (abatement) with the Board of Assessors. You must file no later than February 1, 2019.
With the passage of the “Act to Modernize Municipal Finance and Government,” cities and towns in the Commonwealth will change to a 5-year revaluation cycle. However, to avoid DOR scheduling conflicts, Somerville’s next revaluation will be in FY 2021. Thereafter, the cycle will be in the next 5 years in FY 2026.
Visit the FY19 Changes to Assessing and Tax Rates tab to see the new averages for FY 2019, and to find out what this change means to you.
Reduce or Defer Your Taxes
There are a variety of programs and exemptions available that you can use to reduce or defer your taxes. Be sure to check the eligibility requirements before applying.
The City of Somerville offers a residential property tax exemption to all owners who reside at their property regardless of income. In FY19, the residential exemption is set at 35%, allowing for a tax savings of $3,105. Both the percentage and tax savings are the highest in the Commonwealth (Chelsea is also at 35%). If you’re a residential taxpayer and you own and occupy your home as of January 1st, 2018, you’re eligible to apply for the residential exemption!
Exemptions and Deferrals for Seniors
Learn more about programs available to seniors, including tax exemptions, deferrals, and the Senior Work-Off Program at somervillema.gov/SeniorTaxHelp. To make it easy for you to find out if you are eligible, our Tax Assistant, Janneke Donovan, is happy to take your calls and walk you through any options you may have. She can be reached at 617-625-6600 x3522.
You may be able to apply for additional exemptions if you’re any of the following:
- A qualifying senior
- Facing an extreme hardship
- A person with an eligible disability
- A disabled Veteran
- A widow
- A minor with deceased parents.
The City allows double the amount that you’d get for a statutory exemption. For example, a homeowner who is 65 could get an exemption of up to $2,000 instead of the standard $1,000, depending on how much their tax bill went up from last year. You can find a full list of exemptions, eligibility requirements, and application links here. You may also contact the Assessing Department for more information by calling (617) 625-6500 ext. 3100.
Hardship Exemptions and Temporary Tax Deferrals
You may be able to reduce your taxes due to age, infirmity, and income level (you’ll need to meet qualifying criteria for all three, so be sure to read the eligibility requirements before you apply). Taxpayers who don’t meet age or infirmity requirements but who are unable to pay might instead qualify for a temporary deferral of up to 100% of their tax payments for up to three consecutive years. The interest rate decreased to 3% for FY 2018. You can learn more about hardship exemptions and deferrals here.
Deferrals for National Guard Members and Reservists
National Guard members and active reservists may now qualify for deferrals while serving, and for 180 days afterward. Click here to learn more about deferrals.
Community Preservation Act (CPA) Exemptions
Seniors and non-seniors may qualify for full exemptions from the CPA surcharge, depending on income. The income limit for seniors age 60 and over is $72,400 or below. The limit for non-seniors is $57,900 or below. Keep in mind, income limits vary depending on household size, and there is a deduction allowance for dependents and medical expenses. Learn more and apply here.
To learn more about exemptions, your eligibility and deadlines for application, please contact the Assessing Department at 617-625-6600 ext. 3100
FY19 Changes to Assessing & Tax Rates
FY19 Total Assessed Value of Taxable Property
property in the City of Somerville is almost $15.7 billion, a 13.5% increase over FY18. Residential property values saw the greatest gains this past year, while commercial property values increased a bit less. On average, citywide, residential values increased by 14.2% and commercial values by 9.5%, primarily due to market changes. The overall increase in property values reflects continued strong market demand in Somerville, new construction of both residential and commercial properties, and increased value created by investment in and renovation of existing properties, among other factors. The table below depicts average assessment changes in FY19 compared to last year (FY18) by property type.
Average Change in Assessment by Property Type
(Impacted by Market Only)
Average Assessment Change from
FY18 to FY19 (Rounded)
|Apartments, 4+ units||7%|
It is important to remember that these percentages reflect average changes. Some properties have changes that are either higher or lower than the average. For more detailed information, readers are encouraged to view the Chief Assessor’s FY 2019 Classification Hearing Report.
Why is My Assessed Value Change Different from the Average?
- There are a number of reasons why your value change might be different from the average percentage. Some of these include:
- Being located in a neighborhood that had higher or lower sales prices, especially in relation to the assessment from the previous year.
- Significant improvements to the property, demolitions, or having an under-construction status.
- Required data changes from a discovery during inspection or estimate due to lack of entry (for example, property condition, number of bathrooms, measurement changes, etc.)
- Having received an abatement in FY 2018.
The table below shows the average valuation changes for FY18-FY19 for Market & Growth and Market only:
Average Valuation Changes FY18 to FY19*
Market & Growth
Real Estate Trends
There are significant valuation changes in FY19 in both the residential and commercial sectors. The housing market continues to be an extremely active market with the largest increases for one, two, and three families found in the East Somerville, Winter Hill North, and West Somerville areas. The largest condominium valuation changes can be found in the Ten Hills and Winter Hill and Magoun Square areas.
FY 2019 assessments have an effective market date of January 1, 2018, with an emphasis on calendar 2017 sale prices. Only calendar 2017 sales were analyzed for single family and condominium properties as there were a sufficient number of sales. However, it was necessary to include calendar 2016 sales to value two and three families to supplement the pool of sales available for analysis.
The table below offers insight into the market volatility we have witnessed most recently and in the recent past with respect to million dollar sale prices for one, two, and three family homes and condominiums.
Million Dollar Sales
(1-, 2-, & 3-Family Homes & Condominiums)
Average Assessment Change from
FY17 to FY18 (Rounded)
Apartment rents for buildings with four or more units were up about 14% from FY18 with average rents increasing about $85 per month. Commercial rents were up about 7% citywide compared to last year (depending on type of use and location). Expense and vacancy rates were stable and in line with FY 2018 rates. Expected rate of return on income producing property (capitalization rate) increased about 1%.
Source of rent, expenses, and vacancy based upon calendar 2017 information provided by landlords.
Tax Rate Changes
The proposed tax rates for FY19 will be $10.76 per thousand dollars of value for residential properties, and the commercial tax rate will be $17.33 per thousand dollars of value. These rates reflect a decrease of $0.55 or -4.9% for residential and a decrease of $0.88 or -4.8% for commercial. The residential exemption tax savings for owners who reside at their property will increase by $222 from last fiscal year. Somerville and Chelsea offer the highest residential exemption in the Commonwealth.
FY 2019 Proposed Tax Rates and Residential Exemption Changes (Pending DOR Approval)
|Residential Tax Rate||$11.31||$10.76|
|Commercial Tax Rate||$18.21||$17.33|
|Residential Exemption %||35%||35%|
|Residential Exemption Tax Savings||$2,883 (Rounded)||$3,105 (Rounded)|
Changes to Residential and Commercial Tax Bills
This year, commercial taxpayers will pay 24.1% of the total property tax levy, after contributing 24.9% last year, and residential taxpayers will pay 75.9% after contributing 75.1% last year. The assessed values for residential and commercial properties reflect market demand as well as increased value created by renovations and improvements to existing properties, which were moderately higher for residential in the past year than commercial.
The table below reflects average valuation changes since FY18 and the expected or projected tax dollar change from the previous year for each property type.
FY18-FY19 Average Changes to Assessed Values and Tax Bills by Property Type
Avg. FY18 Assessed Value
|Avg. FY18 Tax Bill*||Avg. FY19 Assessed Value||Avg. FY19 Tax Bill||Tax Dollar Change from FY18-FY19||% Change in Tax Bill from FY18 to FY19|
|*Condo, 1-family, 2-family, 3-family, and 4-8-family include the residential exemption.|
New Growth and New Development Prevented Larger Tax Increases
In FY18, Somerville experienced more new growth than any other year in its history with a tax levy growth of $4.6M. FY19 now establishes another new high with tax levy growth of $7.3M. New growth is the value added to homes and buildings by improvements or new construction. In FY19, new growth in Somerville was valued at $531,015,586. Of this, $188,669,565 is new commercial and industrial growth as well as personal property, of which $41M (22%) was generated by new commercial buildings at Assembly Row.
It is the long-term strategy of the administration to promote new commercial growth/development according to SomerVision goals to help reduce the residential tax liability and bring other community benefits. Though not yet creating tax decreases, commercial growth is now helping to reduce the size of residential tax increases.
Union Square, Boynton Yards, and the Green Line Extension station areas in general are expected to produce more new commercial growth in the coming years.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who determines the tax rate and why can’t it simply be lowered to reduce taxes?
By law, values must be determined by the Assessors according to State DOR regulations. Assessments cannot be arbitrarily lowered to reduce the tax liability. Two factors dictate property tax rates:
- The assessed value for all property (minus exemption values from the previous fiscal year) and,
- The City’s financial obligations (AKA the property tax levy) for the current fiscal year.
With these two factors, we can calculate the classified tax rate using the following equation:
Classified Tax Rates = Property Tax Levy/Property Values Minus Exemption Values
Who determines my property value, and how is it done?
The Board of Assessors calculates values based on real estate market conditions in accordance with the Department of Revenue (DOR) regulations. The Assessors use three appraisal methods: replacement costs, sales comparisons, and a review of income generated by the property.
What if I disagree with my assessment?
You can file an appeal with the Board of Assessors no later than February 1, 2019, by 7:30 p.m. You can pick up an application at the Assessor’s Office or print one here.
Can the Mayor or my Alderman somehow get my assessment reduced?
No, that is prohibited by law. Elected officials cannot decrease an assessment based upon hardship or for any other reason. Only Assessors are allowed to assess values, and they must do so according to State DOR regulations. They cannot arbitrarily lower assessed values to lower tax liability. However, Assessors (and only Assessors) have the authority to grant abatements, but only if the additional information proves that the value should be lowered.
How do I qualify for the residential exemption? Do I have to file every year?
If you owned property and used it as your primary residence as of January 1 of the previous year, you can apply for the residential exemption (tax discount). You can pick up an application at the Assessor’s Office or print one here. Applications are due at the Assessor’s Office no later than April 1, 2019 by 4:30 pm. You will not need to file a new application each year, though the Assessor’s Office occasionally sends out notices for taxpayers to recertify their eligibility. You’ll need to notify the Assessor’s Office if you move.
I’m over 65, a widow, or have limited income. Are there any tax savings programs to help reduce my taxes?
There are a number of state-sponsored tax discounts (known as statutory exemptions), as well as options for seniors to work off a portion of their tax bill or defer payment. Exemptions can be granted for seniors, widows, veterans, and others based on eligibility factors like assets and income. See a list of all exemption and deferral programs here. You can also contact the Assessor’s Office for more information. Walk-ins are welcome during business hours, or you can call us at (617) 625-6600 X 3100.
My assessment and resulting taxes went up more than 2 ½ percent. How can the City exceed Proposition 2 ½?
Proposition 2 ½ caps the annual percentage increase in total property tax dollars for all properties in the city combined. In other words, without an override, a city may not collect property taxes in total from all sources that exceed 2 ½ percent more than the previous year. However, this limit does not apply to individual properties.
Some properties undergo improvements other situations that may increase the value by more than 2 ½%. For example, a $400,000 two-family that undergoes improvements that raise its value to $600,000 increased in value by $200,000 or 50%. That $200,000 increase is what is known as “new growth.” The additional values created by new growth and the resulting tax dollars are exempt from the limits of Proposition 2 ½. In Somerville, new growth can be captured up to the June 30th before the start of the new fiscal year on July 1. Any improvements are assessed as if in existence on the prior January 1 and are not part of the 2 ½ percent limit.
Do I have to allow the Assessors to inspect my property?
There are several reasons why the Assessors inspect properties, including:
- To verify the sale of a property
- To review a building permit
- To remeasure or relist a property that hasn’t been inspected in a while.
While property owners are not required to allow an inspection, failure to do so means that the Assessors will have to estimate your property’s interior condition and features. The estimate might result in an incorrect or misleading assessment. In other words, you could end up paying more in taxes than you would with a proper assessment.
If you filed an appeal, the Board will not allow the appeal unless you’ve permitted an inspection. The Assessors rely on the cooperation of taxpayers to ensure a fair and equitable process leading to the development of fair and equitable assessments. Therefore, the assessment process is vital to both Assessors and taxpayers. Inspections can also be helpful to the property owner by correcting estimates that led to overvaluation.
News, Tips, & Important Deadlines
Don’t Forget to Apply for The Residential Tax Exemption!
Somerville offers the highest residential exemption in the Commonwealth. In 2019, the 35% exemption will yield a savings of up to $3,105. Both the percentage and tax savings are the highest in the Commonwealth (Chelsea is also at 35%). All residential taxpayers who owned and occupied their Somerville property as their principal residence as of January 1, 2018, may apply for the FY19 residential exemption. Exemptions
Additional Exemptions for Eligible Homeowners
Seniors, veterans, widows, individuals with disabilities and other persons facing hardships may be eligible for a number of additional exemptions and opportunities to reduce their tax bills. Please see this link for more information, or contact Janneke Donovan at 617-625-6600 x3522.
Deadline to Appeal Your Assessment: Feb 1, 2019
The FY19 deadline to file an appeal with the Board of Assessors is no later than Fri., Feb. 1, 2019. If you bring your application to the Assessor’s Office, you must do so by 12:30 p.m. If you mail it, it’ll need to be postmarked by no later than Feb. 1. Applications are available at the Assessor's Office or by clicking here.
How to Find Your Approved FY19 Property Valuation
Approved values will be included on tax bills, which are mailed to owners on or around December 28, 2018. You can also obtain them by:
- Calling the Assessor’s Office at (617) 625-6600 X 3100 during business hours
- Visiting the Assessor’s Office or any Public Somerville Library during business hours
- Visiting www.somervillema.gov/AssessedValues
Janneke Donovan is the City’s Tax Assistant and can help with reviewing your account, explaining exemptions, and work with you to establish payment plans.
Upcoming Important Dates
Third quarter actual
tax bills are mailed with
new fiscal year assessment
and tax rate
January 2 to
Official appeal period
to request changes to
Third quarter actual tax
bill due and deadline for
filing appeal (4:30 p.m.
Deadline to file for
(4:30 p.m. sharp)
Links to Forms & Information