Real Estate Assessment Process


Real estate is the physical land and improvements affixed to it. Massachusetts statutes require Assessors to assess all property at its full and fair cash value as of January 1st each year.

Full and fair cash value is also known as market value, or the price a willing buyer will pay a willing seller for property when both are considered knowledgeable about the market and under no outside influence to buy or sell.

from the Massachusetts Board of Assessors

Assessors do not create the market. Assessors analyze and review actual property transactions to determine assessed values. By law, the real estate market determines property assessments.

Property Assessments are listed each year on the tax bill. The Assessors strongly encourage every taxpayer review this assessment annually. This is the only period when an appeal can be filed.

Property Inspections - Assessors regularly inspect homes to update property records. Taxpayers should allow Assessors to inspect their property. If an Assessor visits at a bad time, explain that it is a bad time and contact the Assessors Office to arrange an appointment for an inspection. Failure to allow an inspection will bar appeals under Massachusetts statutes and force the Assessors to estimate the quality, condition, and contents of the property.

Who are the Assessors? Assessors are elected or appointed locally in Massachusetts’s cities and towns. The Assessors are required by Massachusetts Law to list and value all real and personal property. The valuations are subject to ad valorem taxation on the assessment roll each year. The “ad valorem” basis for taxation means that all property should be taxed “according to value”, which is the definition of ad valorem. Assessed values in Massachusetts are based on “full and fair cash value”, or 100 percent of fair market value.

Who do Assessors submit Values to? Assessors are required to submit these values to the State Department of Revenue for certification every three years. In the years between certification, Assessors must also maintain the values. The Assessors review sales and the market every year and thereby reassess values each year. This is done so that the property taxpayer pays his or her fair share of the cost of local government, in proportion to the amount of money the property is worth, on a yearly basis rather than every three years.

In addition, the Department administers the Motor Vehicle and Boat Excise taxes and betterments.

Assessors and Taxes. The Assessors do not raise or lower taxes. The Assessors do not make the laws, which affect property owners. The Massachusetts Constitution requires that direct taxes on persons be proportionately and reasonably imposed. In addition, the Declaration or Rights, Part I, Article 10, requires each individual to bear his fair share of the public expenses.

The Assessors are required to annually assess taxes in an amount sufficient to cover the State and Local appropriations chargeable to the City/Town. These taxes assessed will include State and County assessments which have been duly certified to the Board and local appropriations voted by the City Council or Town Meeting.

The Assessors Office has nothing to do with the total amount of taxes collected. The Assessor’s primary responsibility is to find the “full and fair cash value” of your property, so that you may pay only your fair share of the taxes. The tax rate is determined by all the taxing agencies within the community, and is the basis for the budget needed to provide for services, such as schools, roads, fire, law enforcement, etc.. The tax rates are simply those rates, which will provide funds to pay for those services.