Real Estate and Personal Property Assessment and Valuation FAQs
There is a physical distinction to be made to determine whether property is Real or Personal.
Real Estate is the physical land and appurtenances, including structures affixed thereto in addition to the interest, benefits and rights inherent in the ownership of real property known as the bundle of rights.
Personal Property is generally those items not permanenty affixed to real estate. Personal property is movable and can be removed without serious damage to either the real estate or the item being removed. The three categories of taxable personal property are:
- Business and professional furnishings
- Household furnishings, in property other than a principal residence
- Personal property of public utilities.
Q. What is the Valuation Criteria?
A. The DOR requires communities to value all property each year. Every fifth year is a complete re-certification. Both a recertification and an interim year adjustment (the four years in between full recertifications) include a detailed analysis of the appropriate sales data as a basis for adjusting the property values. The goal is tohave values represent market value and avoid an excessive swing in the assessments in any given year. A recertification year includes intense examination by the DOR of all the community’s assessment policies and procedures. Fiscal Year 2019 is the next recertification year in Boxborough.
Q. What changes are made each year?
A. Many of the changes are explained below as each section of the property record card is explained. The CAMA (Computer Aided Mass Appraisal) system is used to calculate the values. CAMA tables with the factors used to calculate the values are updated each year based on sales analysis. The factors are adjusted so that the median assessment-to-sale-price ratio is within 10% of what is deemed to be fair market value. The computer model created is then applied to all the properties in town to arrive at a new value for each property. Changes are typically made to costs-per-square-foot for different building styles and land values for different neighborhoods.
Q. Why do different property assessments go up (or down) in different proportions?
A. The characteristics of your property will determine how the adjustments to the factors will affect your valuation. Items such as location, style, size, quality of construction, age and condition of the house, and lot size of the properties that were sold in the applicable calendar year are analyzed to derive multipliers which are then applied to all properties town-wide. The relative importance of these characteristics in the marketplace determines whether an owner’s valuation changes.
A field review is done to check the application of these characteristics for consistency and uniformity. Properties with renovations or new construction between July 1st and June 30th will usually show an increase in their valuation.
Q. When my neighbors house sells, will their price determine my assessment?
A. A single sale does not establish the market value of all the properties in that area. It is only by examining ALL of the arms-length sales (a willing buyer and a willing seller acting in an informed manner in the open market) that the Assessor can begin to discern the characteristics of the market. If the sale of your neighbor’s property is an arms-length sale and if it occurred in the appropriate year, it will be included in the analysis of all sales town-wide and will be part of the data that determines the multipliers to be used to arrive at the new valuations.
Q. How will this new valuation affect my tax bill?
A. The total tax levy is the amount required to fund the budget approved at the Annual Town Meeting. The levy is what determines the tax rate each year. The Assessor does not determine how much the Town will spend for the many services it provides, but apportions the share of these costs fairly among all property owners in town.
The actual tax rate is set after the values are finalized and certified by the DOR, and the Selectmen vote on the classification of the rate. The rate calculation is then approved by the DOR and bills are issued reflecting the new values and rate. The value and rate certification usually take place in October and November each year, after the first two quarterly bills for the fiscal year have been issued. The new valuations and rate form the basis for the third and fourth quarter bills, which take into account preliminary payments already made in August and November. The remaining amount due is split between the actual bills, which are due in February and May.
Q. How can I get more information?
A. Detailed information is available on this site. Additionally, there is a computer terminal in the Assessor’s office from which you can obtain copies of property cards. Maps reflecting assessment information are also available. These are computerized in the Geographical Information System (GIS) and they are available on the Town’s website by clicking on the WebGIS link on the top banner. Through this link, parties can obtain a property record card as well.
Q. Why are the tax amounts on my bill different from what I paid last quarter?
A. Boxborough issues quarterly real estate bills throughout the fiscal year, which runs from July 1st through June 30th. The typical due dates are August 1st, November 1st, February 1st and May 1st. The first and second quarter bills, which are due in August and November, are preliminary only, and calculated by taking the total net tax paid in the prior fiscal year and dividing it by four, with one-fourth paid on each bill. Once new values and a new tax rate are certified, the actual tax amount due for the fiscal year is calculated. From this new total amount owed for the year, the total of the preliminary payments is subtracted, and the new net amount due is split between the third and fourth quarter bills. Typically the amounts due on the first and second quarter bills will be the same, and the amounts due on the third and fourth quarter bills will be the same, but all four bills are not usually in the same amount.
Q: My property value appears to be a little high, but I'm not sure if I'm over assessed. What should I do?
A: Visit the Assessor's Office and ask to see your property record card. Review the card to see if there are any errors, such as lot size, living area, number of baths, etc. If you find errors, make an appointment for a property inspection by the Assessor. If your data is incorrect, or your valuation is significantly out of line with sales of similar homes, or with the valuations of neighboring properties, you may have just cause for filing an abatement request. When reviewing sales of comparable properties, bear in mind that each fiscal year's assessment is based on market conditions of at least 18 months prior. For example, property values for Fiscal 2018 are based on sales that occurred during Calendar Year 2016.
Q: How do I file for abatement?
A: To download an abatement request form, click here. You may also obtain a form by calling (978) 264-1720, writing or stopping by the Assessor's office during regular office hours. Applications must be received in the Assessor's office no later than February 1st, or 30 days from date of mailing of the actual (3rd Quarter) tax bill, whichever is later. The Assessor has no legal jurisdiction to act on any application that is received beyond the deadline. The Assessor will review and respond to your abatement request within 90 days of your filing. Please call if you have any questions regarding the Abatement process.
Q: If I file an abatement request, do I have to attend a hearing with the Assessor?
A: No. If you wish to meet with the Assessor regarding your application, you may schedule an appointment; if the facts warrant a change in value, it will be changed, whether you meet with the Assessor or not.
Q: What is a revaluation and when does one occur?
A: State law requires that all property be assessed at fair market value. As the market changes, property values change. Every three years, the state does a lengthy review of property values and certifies that they meet Department of Revenue requirements. There are usually changes to value during this certification year, but assessors may also update values in the interim years to reflect changes in the real estate market. Fiscal 2016 was the most recent revaluation; the next scheduled full revaluation will be Fiscal 2019.
Q: Why do some assessments increase more than others after a revaluation?
A: Some common reasons are:
Changes to the property data due to additions, updates, or damage due to fire or other disaster. Field reviews of property triggered by building permits, sales, or cyclical inspection can result in changes being made to the record.
Parcels with acreage for potential additional lots increase more than the average when land prices increase.
Sales indicate certain neighborhoods or housing styles have had a significant change of desirability
If you have concerns about the change in your assessment, you should contact the Assessor to discuss reasons for the change.
Q: If assessed values rise, do taxes have to rise?
A: NO. The Assessor calculates the total assessed value of all taxable property in Boxborough. The tax rate is simply a mathematical equation that divides the amount approved at Town Meeting to be raised through taxation (called the LEVY), by the total value of taxable property. For example, if the total taxable value is $800 million, and the approved levy amount is $10 million, the tax rate would be $12.50 per thousand: 10,000,000/800,000,000 = .0125 x 1000. If your property is valued at $400,000, your tax bill would be $5,000. If values rise the next year by 20%, the total value for the town would be $960 million. Assuming the same levy amount to be raised, the tax rate would drop to $10.42 ($10 million divided by $960 million x 1000). Your new assessed value would be $480,000 with the 20% increase, and your new tax bill would be $480,000 x .01042 or $5,000.
Q: Does the assessor need to inspect my house?
A: The State requires that assessors conduct cyclical inspections of all property in order to ensure the accuracy of data used to calculate value. You have the right to refuse entry; however, if the assessor does not have access to your property, certain aspects that may affect value will be estimated.