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.

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.

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.

  • FY18 Property Tax Update

  • Reduce or Defer Your Taxes

  • FY18 Changes to Assessing & Tax Rates

  • Frequently Asked Questions

  • News, Tips, & Important Deadlines

  • Links to Forms & Information

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:

During interim adjustment years, the State Department of Revenue (DOR) requires the Board of Assessors to adjust property tax values based on market changes. Assessments for FY 2018 have an effective market date of January 1, 2017, and were released to the public on November 8, 2017.

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 29, 2017. 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, 2018.

Under the “Act to Modernize Municipal Finance and Government,” cities and towns in the Commonwealth now have a 5-year re-evaluation cycle. Somerville’s next re-evaluation will be in FY 2021, then FY 2026, and so forth.

Visit the FY18 Changes to Assessing and Tax Rates tab to see the new averages for FY 2018, and to find out what this change means to you.

 

 

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.

Residential Exemptions

The City of Somerville offers residential property tax exemptions to all owners who live at their properties, regardless of income. This year, the residential exemption is 35%, which means homeowners can save about $2,883. Both the percentage and tax savings are the highest in the Commonwealth (Chelsea’s is also 35%). If you’re a residential taxpayer and you own and occupy your home as of January 1st, 2017, you’re eligible to apply for the residential exemption!

Exemptions for Seniors and Others

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.

Senior Work-Off Program

If you’re over 60, you may be eligible to work-off up to $1,500 of your tax bill. We recently increased the income limits so that more people can take advantage of this program. If you’d like to learn more, call the Council on Aging at (617) 625-6600 ext.2300.

Senior Tax Deferral

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

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 

The FY18 total assessed value of all property in Somerville is almost $13.8 billion, which is an 8.9% increase from last year. Residential properties saw the biggest gains this year, while commercial properties saw slightly smaller gains. On average, citywide, residential values increased by 7.2%, and commercial properties increased by 5% due to market changes. The overall increase shows a continued strong market demand in Somerville. It reflects new construction of both residential and commercial properties, as well as increased value created by property investments and renovation. The table below shows assessment changes based on 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. 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.

  • 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 2017.

The table below shows the number and type of properties by the percentage of how much the assessment value changed for each category. The numbers show that most properties increased by a percentage that’s at or near the citywide average for that group.

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%

There are significant valuation changes this year to both residential and commercial properties, though not quite as high as FY2017, which was a reevaluation or certification year. Nevertheless, the housing market continues to be an extremely active market. The largest increases were seen in one, two, and three family homes in the Union Square, Winter Hill, Magoun Square, and Ten Hills areas. The largest condo valuation changes were in Winter Hill 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. We analyzed calendar 2016 sales for single-family and condo properties, as there were a decent number of sales. However, we had to include 2015 sales for two and three family homes to supplement what was available for analysis.

The table below offers insight into the market volatility we’ve seen in homes with million-dollar sales prices.

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
 

Apartment rents for buildings with four or more units went up by roughly 12%, with average rents increasing by about $75 per month. Commercial rents were up by about 6% citywide compared to last year (depending on the use type and location). Expense and vacancy rates were stable and in line with FY17 rates. The expected rate of return on income properties (capitalization rate) increased by about 1%.

Source of rent, expenses, and vacancy based on calendar 2016 information provided by landlords.

Proposed tax rates for FY18 will be $11.31 per thousand dollars of value for residential properties, and $18.21 per thousand dollars of value for commercial properties. These rates reflect a decrease of $0.36 (-3.0%) for residential properties and $0.59 (-3.14%) for commercial properties. Residential exemption tax savings for homeowners who live in their properties will increase by $136 from the FY17. Somerville and Chelsea offer the highest residential exemptions in the state.

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)

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 show an increase in market demand as well as increased values from renovations and improvements to existing properties, which were moderately higher for residential than commercial.

The table below reflects average valuation changes since FY17 and the projected tax dollar change 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.

In FY17, Somerville saw more new growth than any other year in history, with a tax levy growth of $4.3 million. FY18 hits another new high with tax levy growth at almost $4.6 million. New growth is the value added to homes and building with improvements or new construction. In FY18, new growth in Somerville was valued at $338.9 million. 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’s the long-term strategy of the administration to promote new growth and development according to SomerVision goals. This helps reduce the residential tax liability and brings other community benefits. Though commercial growth hasn’t started creating tax decreases yet, it has helped make residential tax increases smaller.

The following table shows how residential properties avoided tax increases because of the Assembly Row development. Keep in mind; Assembly Row is not yet complete, and, along with other developments in Union Square, Boynton Yards, and the Green Line Extension, is expected to produce even more 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 development at Assembly Row. But, thanks to that development, the increase will only be $178, or less than $15 per month.


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, 2018, 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 2nd, 2018 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.

Don’t Forget to Apply for 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 Assessor's 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 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, 2018

The FY18 deadline to file an appeal with the Board of Assessors is no later than Thurs., Feb. 1, 2018. If you bring your application to the Assessor’s Office, you must do so by 4:30 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 FY18 Property Valuation

Approved values will be included on tax bills, which are mailed to owners on or around December 30, 2017. 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

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
Residential and/or
(4:30 p.m. sharp)