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Appealing a Massachusetts Property Tax Bill

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Appealing a Massachusetts Property Tax Bill

Appealing a Massachusetts assessed home valueChallenging Tax Based Values

Taxes on homes or other property in Massachusetts are typically based on two pieces of information including the towns property tax rate and the assessed value.

Obviously the tax rate is set in stone and is not something that is going to be changed once it is put in place for that particular fiscal year. What does change of course is the assessed value of the home.

If you are a Massachusetts home owner, appealing a Massachusetts property tax bill if something you may want to consider if you feel the assessed value is way off base on your home.

We are going to discuss in brief below on how the taxes are determined on your home. If you feel you are getting over taxed on your home you are going to need to be well armed on how to appeal high property taxes. Know how to file for a tax abatement and win is easy when you understand how your property value is determined. Follow the guide I have prepared and you will have a complete understanding on what you need to do.

How is assessed value calculated

In order to appeal the property tax bill you are going to need to have a good understanding of how the assessed value of your property was calculated by your local tax assessor.

A Real Estate assessed value is typically calculated on a year to year basis in most communities although it is possible it could be every few years for some. What you need to clearly understand is that the assessed value of a property is NOT the same as:

  • An appraised value by a lender
  • A market evaluation by a Realtor which is often called a BPO or broker price opinion
  • The actual market value

It is easy to understand why the general public can get confused on the assessed value vs fair market value issue because even many Real Estate agents don’t know the difference! How do I know this? From some of the crazy statements I hear from hanging around the office water cooler or even some of the silly advertising that you find in the Multiple listing service or other advertisements.

As an example “come take a look at this bargain priced home listed for $100,000 less than assessed value”. I bet you are getting excited already and want to see this place – NOT!

What this tells me is that the agent marketing the property knows very little about property valuation or they think someone else might be stupid enough to believe the property is being given away by the owner. A good buyer’s agent that didn’t just get their license and has a bit of intelligence would be able to point out to a naive buyer that the home has been over assessed by the town and the owner is paying too much in taxes!

Keep in mind that assessed values are nothing more than a yard stick for a municipality to collect an appropriate amount of taxes to sufficiently cover the state and local appropriations chargeable to the city and town.

Towns adjust the tax rate and a properties assessed value to achieve this goal. For a complete explanation see assessed home value v.s fair market value.

Reducing Massachusetts property taxes

So how do you go about checking on whether the assessed value of your home makes sense? The 1st thing you are going to want to do is look over what is called the town assessment field card and check it over for accuracy. The town field card will have pertinent information about your property including the bedroom and bath count, the gross living area, the age,  garage type and size, as well as the amount of land you own. All of these things play a large roll in where your assessment will be figured.

You will want to look over the field card diligently to make sure everything is correct. If there are blatant errors that pop out you may have an easy challenge on your hands.

One would imagine that if you believe you are being over assessed it could be because your neighbor of someone else with similar characteristics to your property is being assessed at a lower amount. This is clearly a possibility and actually happens fairly often.

What you are going to need to do is have someone provide you with what they feel are the most comparable properties to yours that have sold in the town. A skilled local Realtor is usually a good option to help you with this. Armed with this information you can then check the assessed values on those properties. There should be some kind of correlation with these properties. Don’t discount the fact that your home may be in a more attractive neighborhood. If the assessed value of the similar homes are lower you may have a case.

Meet with the local tax assessor

With your research in hand you should schedule an appointment with your local assessors office and file for a tax abatement. The necessary paper work regarding the application process and the deadlines for filing should be made available to you.

Applications for abatement’s are typically due on or before the due date for payment of the first actual tax bill. The towns assessor has up to three months in Massachusetts to act upon an abatement request.

If you are denied your abatement request and do not feel that the assessor made the proper ruling you have the right to appeal to the State Appellate Tax Board.

One other thing to keep in mind is that you may be eligible for other tax exemptions if you are a senior citizen, served in the military or have a disability. For an explanation of these exclusions see Massachusetts property tax relief. These are programs that many Massachusetts residents may not even be aware of.

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About the author: The above Real Estate information on appealing a Massachusetts property tax bill was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at billgassett@remaxexec.com or by phone at 508-435-5356. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 27+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service the following towns in Metrowest MA: Hopkinton, Milford, Southboro, Westboro, Ashland, Holliston, Medway, Franklin, Framingham, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Upton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Northboro, Bellingham, Uxbridge, Worcester and Douglas.

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{ 28 comments… add one }

  • Jen Wilson November 5, 2010, 5:33 pm

    Bill I have to tell you that you offer some of the most valuable information that I have ever seen on a Real Estate website. I am sure there are many people who will be considering challenging their assessment when the time comes at the beginning of the year. I know a few of my neighbors have got an abatement on their taxes in years past. Keep the great articles coming!

  • Bill Gassett November 5, 2010, 5:39 pm

    Jen – Thanks for visiting my Massachusetts Real Estate Blog. Challenging a towns assessment and ultimately the taxes that a home owner ends up paying always seems to be a topic worth covering as I get lots of questions on it every year.

  • Alfred February 24, 2011, 9:42 am

    Hi Bill, my property taxes in Framingham, MA are $5,200, I have plenty of family in Boston, Ma who pay aprox $3,500. How can Framingham, Ma be so high?

  • Bill Gassett February 24, 2011, 12:14 pm

    Hi Alfred – The taxes you pay are strictly based on what a particular town needs to generate for revenue in order to operate properly. So when market values drop and assessed values follow suit, the town just raises the tax rate in order to compensate. In Massachusetts anyways we don’t often see our taxes go down.

  • James Hall April 18, 2011, 2:31 pm

    Bill,

    Can the tax assessor take a piece of property with a structure on it and make assumptions on how that parcel MAY be subdivided into more parcels and asses each parcel individually? Without them knowing the possiblity about perc tests wetlands etc.

    Tx
    Jim

  • Bill Gassett April 18, 2011, 4:00 pm

    James as I understand the law an assessor can only base the value on your property by other like properties that have sold. Without facts/certainty I do not see how an assessor could value your property as individual building lots unless there was an approved subdivision plan in place.

  • tom April 21, 2011, 8:36 pm

    if a house is torn down in the second quarter and not replaced do you have to pay the full year in taxes on a non existing building in massachusetts

  • Bill Gassett April 21, 2011, 9:50 pm

    Tom I believe you would because the assessment would not change until next year.

  • Christine June 20, 2011, 7:29 pm

    Tom,

    Is it possible to use my neighbors’ assessments as comps when I do my abatement application? I live in the neighborhood full of multi-levels from the same time period. My neighbor’s houses are all assessment about $50-70K lower than mine. I believe the conditions of our houses are similar. However, I just bought mine last year while they have been there for 5+ years. Also, does the quality of the land matters? For example, my yard is full of trees and has a very sleep slope while others do not.
    Thanks,
    Christine

    Thanks!

  • Bill Gassett June 20, 2011, 11:11 pm

    Hi Christine – What you are going to need to do is show the town similar sales that have taken place like yours in the most recent time span (6 months). You can also show that your neighbors similar properties are all being assessed for less.
    Assessors will not take into consideration the contour of your lot. They are more concerned with the size than anything else as a general rule.

  • Gerry L. January 9, 2012, 5:22 pm

    I will be seeking an tax abatement for my condo in Uxbridge. I purchased it in 2010 which is the year currently being used by Uxbridge to establish assessments. If I paid $40,000 less than the assessed value for my condo, then shouldn’t that be the primary source for valuation?

  • Bill Gassett January 10, 2012, 7:38 pm

    Gerry the purchase price is a factor however what will be more important is what are similar properties in the town are being assessed for.

  • Jeff P January 23, 2012, 1:42 pm

    I recently sold my property (Mid December) for 40K less than the assessed value. I also checked recent sales (last 6 months) and found that generally properties were selling 30-70K less than assessed values. Should I get abatement for the last year since clearly the market has softened and prices are dropping?

  • Bill Gassett January 23, 2012, 3:40 pm

    Hi Jeff – Unfortunately you can not get an abatement for prior years taxes. You can only attempt to get an abatement typically at the beginning of the year while you still own the home.

  • Chuck Barnes October 6, 2012, 8:47 pm

    Bill
    Our area in Coastal Alabama went through a period of time in the late 2000’s when appealing your property tax bill was an annual event. You had to appeal due to the price escalation from the mid 2000’s and the County Tax Appraiser was reluctant to adjust values down as the prices dropped. One year we had as may as 13,000 appeals when a normal year there would be less than 300. By the way great article!

  • Bill Gassett October 7, 2012, 11:36 am

    Wow Chuck that is incredible! Thanks for the compliments I appreciate it.

  • becky January 2, 2013, 11:58 pm

    We just re mortgaged our house and now we received our new property taxes and they drastically went up but none of our neighbors taxes went up. Did they go up because we remortgaged and our accessment was higher than the town had it appraised for. Can we file an abatement? They are also back charging us for the previous quarter. Can they do that?

  • Bill Gassett January 3, 2013, 1:29 am

    Becky I am confused by what you are asking me. Remortgaging your home has nothing to do with property taxes. An assessed value by the town also has nothing to do with the appraisal you may have received from your lender during the re-finance process. You can always challenge the towns assessment.

  • Sheila B. Lindsay January 31, 2013, 7:07 am

    Dear Mr. Gassett:
    I live in Rhode Island and own a home. My mother died and I have been trying to sell
    her home in a Wrentham , MA for two years now. I tried to take the exemptions due to me on the Wrentham property, but they said that you can only get exemptions on one property not two. Since I get exemptions in R.I. , they said I cannot get any in MA. Is this true??? Please advise.

    Thank you

    Sheila B. Lindsay
    Executrix of My Mother’s Estate

  • Bill Gassett January 31, 2013, 12:54 pm

    Hi Sheila – It is a very good question that I am not qualified to answer. Your best bet would be to speak to a qualified attorney. How did they even know you got exemptions in another state?

  • Doug February 14, 2013, 10:15 pm

    Bill,

    I live in Rutland, Mass. My assessed value of my adjoining back lot (undeveloped) just almost tripled this year from last. It went from $13,300.00 to $34,200.00. The land has no usable frontage as it is wetlands so it is unbuildable. I just filed for an abatement and was denied. I filed an abatement on that lot 15 years ago and it was granted but now obviously they have changed the rules or need the money more than they think I do. What information would help me most in my appeal?

    Thanks for your help,

    Doug

  • Bill Gassett February 14, 2013, 10:28 pm

    This is a real tough one Doug because it is going to be hard for you to find comparable sales for low value land such as that. I am not even sure it would be worth the effort in fighting it. If there are some “comps” this is what you would use as your basis to appeal the assessment.

  • rami October 9, 2013, 5:29 pm

    Hi Bill, I’m buying a house in Stoughton MA for $280,000.00 and the assessed value is $335,000.00
    the taxes on this house is over $5000.00. It is a split house and I don’t think I will be using the lower level because it does need a lot of work that I am not planning on doing. Can I challenge the towns assessment? Thank you for any help.

  • Bill Gassett October 9, 2013, 6:27 pm

    Hi Rami – Yes you can challenge the assessment but not until you are the owner and probably after January of next year by which time the assessment will have changed. Keep in mind you need to prove that are like homes in the town are being assessed for less.

  • Rob January 17, 2014, 11:21 pm

    Hi Bill,

    Great article. I live in 7 year old development in Wrentham. Our entire neighborhood has just experienced a 70k increase to our land assessment this year. It is across the board and unique to neighborhood only. In fact we can’t find any town comparables that show property tax increases. All comparables show literally a zero dollar change in value. The explanation we are getting from the assessor thus far is that the neighborhood is “desirable”. We are obviously filing an abatement. Have you seen anything similar to this in the past? Advice on the appeal process?

  • Bill Gassett January 18, 2014, 1:16 pm

    Rob that is a new one on me. It sounds like the town has instructed the assessor to find new means of revenue. In terms of an appeal there are special attorney that handle abatement cases like these. You will want to find one.

  • Bee June 17, 2014, 1:26 pm

    I live in a 18 home development and we are all accessed the same because all of the homes were built with 2300sq ft of living space. However, there is one home who is under assessed due to adding 1200 sq ft of additional living area in their basement. They should be paying more taxes. Is this a valid reason for an appeal?

  • Bill Gassett June 17, 2014, 2:34 pm

    Hi Bee – unfortunately it would not be a valid reason. As you have indicated it is one person who is probably being under assessed and not an error for the rest of the residents assessed value.

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