City of Somerville Assessor's Portal

As a result of recently passed legislation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Curtatone has authorized a change in the due date for Fiscal Year 2020 Quarter 4 taxes from May 1st to June 1st. Because so many have been negatively impacted by current economic conditions, the Mayor has also authorized the treasury department to waive interest and penalties on tax, water and excise bills that were due on March 10th or later, provided those bills are paid by June 29th. After June 29th interest will be charged on bills as of their original due dates. Because tax revenue is necessary for the continuance of essential City services, residents and homeowners who are able to pay on time are encouraged to do so as that will help make it possible for the City to accept late payments from those who need relief. Mayor Curtatone said, “...if you have not suffered financial impacts, by paying on time, you can help make it possible for the City to accept late payments from those who need this relief right now. So I am also asking that those who can pay on time do their part to support those who cannot.”

Should you have questions, please email the Treasury Department at [email protected]. Calling may be the least effective means of communication given City Hall closure, but the Treasury Department will make every effort to return calls within one business day.

For more updates and information about the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit somervillema.gov/Coronavirus.

 

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.

  • FY20 Property Tax Update

  • Reduce or Defer Your Taxes

  • FY20 Changes to Assessing & Tax Rates

  • Frequently Asked Questions

  • News, Tips, & Important Deadlines

  • Links to Forms & Information

Tax savings for seniors: If you're a senior, you may be able to reduce or defer your property taxes. Learn more at www.somervillema.gov/SeniorTaxHelp. Photo © Ken Teegardin 2011 via Flickr https://flic.kr/p/ahwWjs

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:

Fiscal Year 2020 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 2020 have an effective market date of January 1, 2019 and were released to the public on December 31, 2019.

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 31, 2019. 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 3, 2020.

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 FY20 Changes to Assessing and Tax Rates tab to see the new averages for FY 2020, and to find out what this change means to you.

 

 

Tax savings for seniors: If you're a senior, you may be able to reduce or defer your property taxes. Learn more at www.somervillema.gov/SeniorTaxHelp

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 a residential property tax exemption to all owners who reside at their property regardless of income. In FY20, the residential exemption is set at 35%, allowing for a tax savings of $3,269. 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, 2019, 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, contact Assessing at 617-625-6600 x3100.

Additional Exemptions

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 up to 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 2.5% for FY 2020. 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 $79,350 or below. The limit for non-seniors is $63,450 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 Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) total assessed value of taxable property in the City of Somerville is almost $17.9 billion, a 14.95% increase over FY19. Residential values saw the greatest gains this past year, while commercial property values increased a bit less. On average, citywide residential values increased by 12.2% and commercial values by 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 FY20 compared to last year (FY19) by property type.

Average Change in Assessment by Property Type

(Impacted by Market Only)

Property Type
Average Assessment Change from
FY19 to FY20 (Rounded)
1 Family 9%
2 Family 14%
3 Family 15%
Condominium 10%
Apartments, 4+ units 13%
Commercial 5%
Industrial 5%
Personal Property* 11%

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 2020 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 2019.

The table below shows the average valuation changes for FY19-FY20 for Market & Growth and Market only:

Average Valuation Changes FY19 to FY20*

Style
Market & Growth
Growth
1 Family 8% 1%
2 Family 14% 1%
3 Family 14% 9%
Apartments 4+ 13% 4%
Condominiums 7% 15%
Commercial 5% 2.9%
Industrial 5% 1.4%
Personal Property 11% 17%

There are significant valuation changes in FY20 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 2020 assessments have an effective market date of January 1, 2019, with an emphasis on calendar 2018 sale prices. Only calendar 2018 sales were analyzed for single-family and condominium properties as there were a sufficient number of sales. However, it was necessary to include calendar 2017 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)

Calendar Year
Average Assessment Change from
FY17 to FY18 (Rounded)
2010 1
2013 1
2014 21
2015 42
2016 82
2017 122
2018 196
 

2019
(Year-to-Date through Nov.)

236

Apartment rents for buildings with four or more units were up about nearly double from FY19 with average rents increasing about $165 per month. Commercial rents remained stable except Retail Strip, Convenience Store, R&D, Large Industrial and Warehouse over 25,000 SF, which all increased 6-7%. Expense and vacancy rates were stable and in line with FY19 rates. Expected rate of return on income producing property (capitalization rate) decreased by about 4% on average. A declining cap rate means an increasing value. (Source of rent, expenses, and vacancy based upon calendar 2018 information provided by landlords).

Source of rent, expenses, and vacancy based upon calendar 2017 information provided by landlords.

The proposed tax rates for FY20 will be $10.09 per thousand dollars of value for residential properties, and the commercial tax rate will be $16.32 per thousand dollars of value. These rates reflect a decrease of $0.67 or -6.2% for residential and a decrease of $1.01 or -5.8% for commercial. The residential exemption tax savings for owners who reside at their property will increase by $164 from last fiscal year. Somerville (and Chelsea) offers the highest residential exemption in the Commonwealth.

FY 2020 Proposed Tax Rates and Residential Exemption Changes (Pending DOR Approval)

 
FY 2019
FY 2020
Residential Tax Rate $10.76 $10.09
Commercial Tax Rate $17.33 $16.32
Residential Exemption % 35% 35%
Residential Exemption Tax Savings $3,105 (Rounded) $3,269 (Rounded)

This year, commercial taxpayers will pay 24.22% of the total property tax levy, after contributing 24.05% last year, and residential taxpayers will pay 75.79% after contributing 75.96% 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 commercial in the past year than residential. The table below reflects average valuation changes since FY19 and the expected or projected tax dollar change from the previous year for each property type.

 

FY19-FY20 Average Changes to Assessed Values and Tax Bills by Property Type

Property Type
Avg. FY19 Assessed Value
Avg. FY19 Tax Bill* Avg. FY20 Assessed Value Avg. FY20 Tax Bill Tax Dollar Change from FY19-FY20 % Change in Tax Bill from FY19 to FY20
Condo $570,835 $3,038 $624,756 $3,035 -$3 -.09%
1-Family $784,434 $5,336 $854,994 $5,358 $22 .4%
2-Family $822,001 $5,740 $940,890 $6,224 $484 8.4%
3-Family $1,020,259 $7,873 $1,174,039 $8,577 $704 8.9%
4-8-Family $1,338,176 $11,294 $1,587,380 $12,747 $1,453 12.9%
9+ Apts. $5,667,019 $60,977 $6,397,258 $64,548 $3,571 5.9%
Comm./Ind. $2,486,023 $43,083 $2,889,898 $47,163 $4,080 9.5%
*Condo, 1-family, 2-family, 3-family, and 4-8-family include the residential exemption.

In FY19, Somerville experienced more new growth than any other year in its history with a tax levy growth of $7.3M. FY20 now establishes another new high with tax levy growth of $8.375M. New growth is the value added to homes and buildings by improvements or new construction. In FY20, new growth in Somerville was valued at $605,007,114. Of this, $283,980,089 is new commercial and industrial growth as well as personal property, of which $33.8M was generated by new commercial buildings at Assembly Row and 96.2M from new buildings at Cambridge Crossing.

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, is expected to produce more new commercial growth in the coming years.

Who determines the tax rate and why can’t it simply be lowered to reduce 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 straightforward mathematical exercise as follows::

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 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. FY20 assessments were established based upon market value as of January 1, 2019.

What if I disagree with my assessment?

The FY20 deadline to file an appeal with the Board of Assessors is by no later than Monday, February 3, 2020. Applications must be received in the Assessors by the close of business at 4:30 p.m. Mailed applications will also be accepted if they are postmarked by the U.S. Post Office by no later than February 3. You can pick up an application at the Assessor’s Office or print one here.

Can the Mayor or my City Councilor somehow 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 Frequently Asked Questions the Assessors according to State DOR regulations. Assessments cannot be arbitrarily lowered to reduce the tax liability. Only the Assessors have the 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 qualify for the residential exemption? 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. You can pick up an application at the Assessor’s Office or print one here. Applications are due in the Assessor’s Office by no later than April 1, 2020 at 4:30 p.m. 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 tax savings programs to help reduce my taxes?

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. 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 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 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.

What is Classification and how does it affect my taxes?

Classification is a system under State law that allows cities and towns to have one tax rate for commercial property and a different rate for residential property. Whether or not a municipality will classify is a decision recommended by the Mayor and approved by the Board of Aldermen. Somerville has a long history of approving classification, which allows a greater percentage of the tax liability (an additional 175%) to be shifted to the commercial sector. For FY20, commercial value is 13.8373% of total value. However, with classification, instead of the commercial sector covering only 13.8373% of the property tax levy, their contribution is increased to 24.2153%. The more commercial value we have, the greater the commercial tax levy contribution and the smaller the residential share.

Why is my residential exemption valuation deduction less than 35% of my full assessed value?

The 35% valuation deduction is based upon the average residential value in the City not an individual property. In other words, to calculate the average residential value, the value of all residential parcels is added and then divided by the number of residential parcels. The valuation deduction allowed is equal to 35% of that average value and is subtracted from the full valuation of those eligible for the exemption.

Don’t Forget to Apply for The Residential Tax Exemption!

Somerville offers the highest residential exemption in the Commonwealth. In 2020, the 35% exemption will yield a savings of up to $3,269. 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 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 Assessing at 617-625-6600 x3100.

Deadline to Appeal Your Assessment: Feb 3, 2020

The FY20 deadline to file an appeal with the Board of Assessors is Feb. 3, 2020. 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. 3. Applications are available at the Assessor's Office or by clicking here.

How to Find Your Approved FY20 Property Valuation

Approved values will be included on tax bills, which are mailed to owners on or around December 31, 2019. You can also obtain them by:

Upcoming Important Dates

December 31
Third-quarter actual tax bills are mailed with new fiscal year assessment and tax rate
December 31 to
February 3
Official appeal period
to request changes to
FY20 valuations
February 3
Third-quarter actual tax
bill due and deadline for
filing appeal (4:30 p.m.
sharp)
April 1
Deadline to file for
Residential and/or
(4:30 p.m. sharp)