City of Somerville Assessor's Portal

The Assessing Department maintains a database of commercial, industrial, and residential property values in the City of Somerville, as well as managing personal property (business) values and motor vehicle excise tax.

Assessor’s Office:

617-625-6600 ext. 3100
[email protected]
somervillema.gov/Assessing

For information on how to pay your taxes, contact the Treasurer’s Office:

617-625-6600 ext. 3500
[email protected]
somervillema.gov/Treasury

Or drop by City Hall at 93 Highland Ave:

Monday - Wednesday
8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Thursday
8:30 a.m. - 7:30 p.m.

Friday
8:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

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 upon 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 Arms 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.

  • FY18 Property Tax Update

  • Quick Links

  • FY18 Changes to Assessing & Tax Rates

  • News & Helpful Tips

  • Important Deadlines

  • Reduce or Defer Your Taxes

  • Frequently Asked Questions

  • Forms & Information

This page contains information about the FY18 Property Tax Update, including:

Fiscal Year 2018 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 2018 have an effective market date of January 1, 2017, and were released to the public on November 8, 2017.

They can be viewed online at the Assessor’s Database. Assessed values will appear on your third quarter actual tax bill issued on or about December 29, 2017. Taxpayers who feel that their property is overvalued must file a formal appeal (abatement) with the Board of Assessors by no later than February 1, 2018, but not before December 29, 2017.

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.

The Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) total assessed value of taxable property in the City of Somerville is almost $13.8 billion, an 8.9% increase over FY17. 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 7.2% and commercial values by 5% due strictly 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 FY18 compared to last year (FY17) by property type.

Average Change in Assessment by Property Type

(Impacted by Market Only)

Property Type
Average Assessment Change from
FY17 to FY18 (Rounded)
1 Family 9%
2 Family 5%
3 Family 4%
Condominium 8%
Apartments, 4+ units 8%
Commercial 5%
Industrial 5%
Personal Property* 6%

It is important to remember that these percentages reflect average changes, which means that 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 2018 Classification Hearing Report.

Factors that can result in a value change different from the average include, but are not limited to:

  • Being located in neighborhoods that had higher or
  • lower sales prices, especially in relation to their assessment
  • in the previous year,
  • Significant improvements to the property, demolition,
  • or an under-construction status,
  • Required data changes due to 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 2017.

The table below shows the number and type of properties by assessment percentage change. The numbers reflect that most increased at a percentage at or near the citywide average for that particular use group.

There are significant valuation changes in FY18 in both the residential and commercial sector, although not quite as high as FY17 which was a revaluation or certification year. Nevertheless, the housing market continues to be an extremely active market with the largest increases for one, two, and three families found in the Union Square, Winter Hill, Magoun Square and Ten Hills areas. The largest condominium valuation changes can be found in the Winter Hill area and East Somerville.

Bidding wars continue to be common.

FY18 assessments have an effective market date of January 1, 2017 with an emphasis on calendar 2016 sale prices. Only calendar 2016 sales were analyzed for single family and condominium properties as there were a sufficient number of sales. However, it was necessary to include calendar 2015 sales to value two and three families to supplement the pool of sales available for analysis.

Valuation Changes by Percent from FY17 to FY17*

*Total parcels in this table = 16,110

% Change
# of 1-, 2-, & 3-Families
Number of Condos Number of 4+ Apartments Number of Commercial & Ind. % of Properties (Rounded)
<0% 81 298 9 38 2.64%
0+% to <5% 1,441 1,171 23 74 16.82%
5% to <15% 7,798 2,827 573 546 72.90%
15% to <25% 202 703 12 6 5.73%
25% to <50% 141 76 12 11 1.49%
50% to <100% 43 4 6 1 0.34%
100+% 9 1 4 0 0.08%

The table below offers an insight into the market volatility we have witnessed most recently with respect to million dollar sale prices for one-, two-, and three-family homes and condominiums. 

Apartment rents for buildings with four or more units were up about 12% from FY17 with average rents increasing about $75 per month. Commercial rents were up about 6% citywide compared to last year (depending on the type of use and location). Expense and vacancy rates were stable and in line with FY 2017 rates. The expected rate of return on income producing property (capitalization rate) increased about 1%. (Source of rent, expenses, and vacancy based upon calendar 2016 information provided by landlords).

Million Dollar Sales

(1-, 2-, & 3-Family Homes & Condominiums)

Calendar Year
Average Assessment Change from
FY17 to FY18 (Rounded)
2005 1
2010 1
2013 21
2014 42
2015 82
2016 122
2017
(Year-to-Date through Sept.)
103
 

 

The Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) total assessed value of taxable property in the City of Somerville is almost $13.8 billion, an 8.9% increase over FY17. 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 7.2% and commercial values by 5% due strictly 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 FY18 compared to last year (FY17) by property type.

Average Change in Assessment by Property Type

(Impacted by Market Only)

Property Type
Average Assessment Change from
FY17 to FY18 (Rounded)
1 Family
9%
2 Family 5%
3 Family
4%
Condominium
8%
Apartments, 4+ units 8%
Commercial 5%
Industrial 5%
Personal Property* 6%

It is important to remember that these percentages reflect average changes, which means that 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 2018 Classification Hearing Report.

Understanding Average Changes

Factors that can result in a value change different from the average include, but are not limited to:

  • Being located in neighborhoods that had higher or
  • lower sales prices, especially in relation to their assessment
  • in the previous year,
  • Significant improvements to the property, demolition,
  • or an under-construction status,
  • Required data changes due to 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 2017.

The table below shows the number and type of properties by assessment percentage change. The numbers reflect that most increased at a percentage at or near the citywide average for that particular use group.

Real Estate & Rental Trends

There are significant valuation changes in FY18 in both the residential and commercial sector, although not quite as high as FY17 which was a revaluation or certification year. Nevertheless, the housing market continues to be an extremely active market with the largest increases for one, two, and three families found in the Union Square, Winter Hill, Magoun Square and Ten Hills areas. The largest condominium valuation changes can be found in the Winter Hill area and East Somerville.

Bidding wars continue to be common.

FY18 assessments have an effective market date of January 1, 2017 with an emphasis on calendar 2016 sale prices. Only calendar 2016 sales were analyzed for single family and condominium properties as there were a sufficient number of sales. However, it was necessary to include calendar 2015 sales to value two and three families to supplement the pool of sales available for analysis.

Valuation Changes by Percent from FY17 to FY17*

*Total parcels in this table = 16,110

% Change
# of 1-, 2-, & 3-Families
Number of Condos Number of 4+ Apartments Number of Commercial & Ind. % of Properties (Rounded)
<0% 81 298 9 38 2.64%
0+% to <5% 1,441 1,171 23 74 16.82%
5% to <15% 7,798 2,827 573 546 72.90%
15% to <25% 202 703 12 6 5.73%
25% to <50% 141 76 12 11 1.49%
50% to <100% 43 4 6 1 0.34%
100+% 9 1 4 0 0.08%

The table below offers an insight into the market volatility we have witnessed most recently with respect to million dollar sale prices for one-, two-, and three-family homes and condominiums. 

Apartment rents for buildings with four or more units were up about 12% from FY17 with average rents increasing about $75 per month. Commercial rents were up about 6% citywide compared to last year (depending on the type of use and location). Expense and vacancy rates were stable and in line with FY 2017 rates. The expected rate of return on income producing property (capitalization rate) increased about 1%. (Source of rent, expenses, and vacancy based upon calendar 2016 information provided by landlords).

Million Dollar Sales

(1-, 2-, & 3-Family Homes & Condominiums)

Calendar Year
Average Assessment Change from
FY17 to FY18 (Rounded)
2005 1
2010 1
2013 21
2014 42
2015 82
2016 122
2017
(Year-to-Date through Sept.)
103

 

 

FY 2018 Proposed Tax Rates and Residential Exemption Changes (Pending DOR Approval)

 
FY 2017
FY 2018
Residential Tax Rate $11.67 $11.31
Commercial Tax Rate $18.81 $18.21
Residential Exemption % 35% 35%
Residential Exemption Tax Savings $2,747 (Rounded) $2,882 (Rounded)

The proposed tax rates for FY18 will be $11.31 per thousand dollars of value for residential properties, and the commercial tax rate will be $18.21 per thousand dollars of value. These rates reflect a decrease of $0.36 or -3.0% for residential and a decrease of $0.59 or -3.14% for commercial. The residential exemption tax savings for owners who reside at their property will increase by $136 from last fiscal year. Somerville (and Chelsea) offers the highest residential exemption in the Commonwealth.

FY18 proposed tax rates will be lower than in FY17. The proposed FY18 residential tax rate will be $11.31 per thousand dollars of property value (down from $11.67 last year), and the commercial tax rate will be $18.21 (down from $18.81 last year).

Change in Residential and Commercial Tax Bills

This year, commercial taxpayers will pay 24.9% of the total property tax levy, after contributing 25.5% last year, and residential taxpayers will pay 75.1% after contributing 74.5% 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 FY17 and the expected or projected tax dollar change from the previous year for each property type.

FY17-FY18 Average Changes to Assessed Values and Tax Bills by Property Type

Property Type
Avg. FY17 Assessed Value
Avg. FY17 Tax Bill* Avg. FY18 Assessed Value Avg. FY18 Tax Bill Tax Dollar Change from FY17-FY18 % Change in Tax Bill from FY17 to FY18
Condo $484,900 $2,912 $530,800 $3,121 $209 7.2%
1-Family $633,200 $4,642 $695,200 $4,980 $338 7.3%
2-Family $682,700 $5,220 $731,700 $5,393 $173 3.3%
3-Family $802,700 $6,615 $853,600 $6,772 $157 2.4%
4-8-Family $1,019,000 $9,145 $1,131,900 $9,919 $774 8.5%
9+ Apts. $4,382,700 $51,146 $4,874,500 $55,131 $3,985 7.8%
Comm./Ind. $2,126,100 $39,992 $2,227,500 $40,563 $571 1.4%
*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 FY17, Somerville experienced more new growth than any other year in its history with a tax levy growth of $4.3M. FY18 now establishes another new high with tax levy growth at almost $4.6M. New growth is the value added to homes and buildings by improvements or new construction. In FY18, new growth in Somerville was valued at $338.9M. Of this, $88.1M is new commercial and industrial growth as well as personal property, of which $21.4M (24.3%) 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. 

The following table shows the tax increases on residential properties that were avoided due to the savings to residential property owners generated solely by Assembly Row development. It should be noted that Assembly Row is not yet complete and, along with other areas such as Union Square, Boynton Yards and the Green Line Extension station areas in general, is expected to produce more new commercial growth in the coming years.

FY18 Residential Taxes Avoided Due to Savings From New Assembly Row Development

Property Type*
Tax Increase Avoided
Average Condo -$56
Average 1-Family -$91
Average 2-Family -$99
Average 3-Family -$124
Average 4-8-Family -$182
*All property types include the residential exemption

In FY18, the tax increase on the average two family home would have been $269 had there been no new development at Assembly Row. But thanks to this new development that increase will be only $178 or less than $15 per month, instead.

Are You Taking the Residential Tax Exemption?

Somerville offers the highest residential exemption in the Commonwealth. In 2018, the 35% exemption will yield a savings of up to $2,883. Contact the Assessors’ Office for more information, and watch for a possible increase in the exemption in later years as the City is exploring options to raise the exemption to 40%.

Additional Exemptions Available for Eligible Owners

Seniors, veterans, widows, individuals with disabilities and other persons facing hardships may be eligible for a number of additional exemptions and opportunities to reduce your tax bill. Please see this link for more information, or contact Janneke Donovan at 617-625-6600 x3522.

Deadline to Appeal Your Assessment: Feb. 1, 2018

The FY18 deadline to file an appeal with the Board of Assessors is no later than Thurs., Feb. 1, 2018. Hand-delivered applications must be received in the Assessors’ Office by 4:30 p.m. Mailed applications must be postmarked by the U.S. Post Office by no later than Feb. 1. Applications are available at the Assessors’ Office or by clicking here.

How to Find Your Approved FY18 Property Valuation

All approved values will appear on the tax bills mailed to owners on or about Dec. 30, 2017, and can be obtained by:

  • Calling the Assessors’ Office at 617-625-6600 x3100 during business hours
  • Visiting the Assessors’ Office, or any Somerville Public 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

December 31
Third quarter actual
tax bills are mailed with
new fiscal year assessment
and tax rate
December 31 to
February 1
Official appeal period
to request changes to
FY17 valuations
February 1
Third quarter actual tax
bill due and deadline for
filing appeal (4:30 p.m.
sharp)
April 2
Deadline to file for
(4:30 p.m. sharp)

 

Residential Exemption

The City of Somerville offers a residential property tax exemption to all owners who reside at their property regardless of income. As of FY18, the residential exemption is set at 35%, allowing for a tax savings of approximately $2,883. Both the percentage and tax savings are the highest in the Commonwealth (Chelsea is also at 35%). All residential taxpayers who own and occupy their Somerville property as their principal residence as of January 1, 2017, may apply for the FY18 residential exemption. 

Exemptions for Qualifying Seniors, Persons with Disabilities, Disabled Veterans, Widows, and Others

Qualifying seniors, persons facing extreme hardship, persons with certain disabilities, Disabled Veterans, Widows and minors with deceased parents may apply for additional exemptions. The City allows up to double the allowed amount for statutory exemptions, meaning, for example, that homeowners age 65 or older may qualify for a tax exemption of up to $2,000 rather than the state designated $1,000 (which was increased from $750 for FY16) depending upon how much their tax bill increased from the previous year. 

Senior Work-off

All seniors over 60 may also opt to work off up to $1,500 (amount increased for FY 2018) of their tax bill. For FY16, income limits were increased to encourage participation. Please contact the Council on Aging for details at 617-625-6600 ext. 2300. 

Hardship

Taxpayers may have their taxes reduced due to age, infirmity, and income (all three conditions must be met). 

Tax Deferral for Seniors

Qualifying seniors 65 and over may opt to defer up to 100% of their tax payments. The interest rate decreased to 3% for FY 2018.

Temporary Tax Deferral for Non-Seniors

Taxpayers with a demonstrated inability to pay may defer up to 100% of their tax payments for up to three consecutive years. The interest rate decreased to 3% for FY 2018. 

Tax Deferral on Property Tax and Auto Excise for National Guard Members and Reservists

In FY16, deferrals were approved for National Guard members and reservists on active duty while serving and for the next 180 days after that service. 

Community Preservation Act (CPA) Exemptions

Full exemptions from the CPA surcharge are available to Seniors age 60 and over with an income at or below $72,400 and for low-income taxpayers under age 60 with an income at or below $57,900. Income limits are adjusted based upon household size and there is a deduction allowance for dependents and medical expenses. 

To learn more about exemptions, your eligibility and deadlines for application, please contact the Assessing Department at 617-625-6600 ext. 3100 

Who determines the tax rate and why can’t it simply be lowered to lower taxes?

Property taxes are a direct result of two factors: the assessed value for all property (minus exemption values for the fiscal year in question) and the City’s financial obligations (the required property tax levy) as determined in the adopted budget for that fiscal year. Once these two factors are known, the setting of the tax rate is not discretionary. It becomes a straight-forward mathematical exercise as follows:

Classified Tax Rates = Property Tax Levy/Property Values Minus Exemption Value

Who determines my value and how is that process completed?

The Board of Assessors calculates values based upon real estate market conditions in accordance with State Department of Revenue (DOR) regulations. The Assessors thus use the three accepted appraisal approaches to value including replacement cost, sales comparisons, and a review of income generated by the property. FY18 assessments were established based upon market value as of January 1, 2017.

What can I do if I disagree with my assessment?

The FY18 deadline to file an appeal with the Board of Assessors is by no later than Thursday, February 1, 2018. Applications must be received in the Assessors by the close of business at 7:30 p.m. sharp. Mailed applications will also be accepted if they are postmarked by the U. S. Post Office by no later than February 1. Applications can be obtained at the Assessor’s Office or by clicking here.

Can the Mayor or my Alderman get my assessment reduced?

No. The law prohibits this. Elected officials cannot decrease an assessment based upon hardship or for any other reason. By law, assessments must be determined by the Assessors according to State DOR regulations. Assessments cannot be arbitrarily lowered to reduce the tax liability. Only the Assessors have authority to grant abatements under Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 59 and reductions are granted only if additional information indicates that the value should be lowered.

How do I file and qualify for the residential exemption and do I have to file every year?

All residential property owners who occupied their property as their primary residence as of the previous January 1, may apply for a residential exemption, which is in effect a tax discount. Applications can be obtained in the Assessor’s Office or by clicking here. Applications are due in the Assessor’s Office by no later than April 2, 2018 at 4:30 p.m. sharp. Taxpayers need not file a new application each year although the Assessors periodically send out notices for taxpayers to recertify their eligibility. Taxpayers who move should notify the Assessors of a change of address.

I’m over 65, a widow, or have limited income. Are there any other tax savings programs I can apply for?

State law affords a number of property tax discounts or what are known as statutory exemptions as well as options for seniors to work-off a portion of their tax bill or, if eligible, to defer payment. Exemptions can be granted for seniors, widows, veterans and others based upon, in most cases, asset and income guidelines. Please contact the Assessor’s Office to discuss your situation and how to apply. Walk-ins during business hours are always welcome or call 617 625-6600 X 3100. Applications can also be downloaded at the links below:

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 percent increase over the previous year in total property tax dollars collected 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, the limit does not apply to individual properties. Some properties undergo improvements or require adjustments due to inspection that increase an individual property’s value by more than 2 ½ percent. 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 prior to 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 sales verification for properties that have sold, building permit review, and remeasure-relist for properties that have not been inspected in some time. While no property owner is required to permit an inspection, failure to do so will require that the Board of Assessors estimates your property’s interior condition and features. The estimate could lead to an incorrect or misleading assessment. If the property owner has filed an appeal, failure to grant the inspection will require that the Board disallow the appeal. The Assessors rely on the cooperation of taxpayers to ensure a fair and equitable process leading to the development of fair and equitable assessments. The inspection process is therefore of vital importance to both the Assessors and taxpayers. Inspections can also be beneficial to the property owner by correcting bad data that caused an overvaluation.