THE ASSESSMENT PROCESS
What is mass appraisal?
Assessors must value all real and personal property in the community to their full and fair
cash value. Mass appraisal is the process used by every Massachusetts City and town to
create the property assessments. Assessments are based on an analysis of Windsor’s entire
real estate market for a specified period of time. This study guides the setting of valuation
parameters that are used to calculate the property values town-wide. It differs from the more
well-known “bank” or fee appraisal. Although the appraisal concepts are the same and the
results similar, the process is different. No particular sale or group of sales is used to
determine the value of your property, but all of a certain calendar year’s sales are included in
the analysis that set the parameters for the next fiscal year.
What is market value?
Market value, or full and fair cash value, is the most probable price for which a property will
sell in an open, competitive market that a willing buyer will pay for a property to a willing
seller, both acting knowledgeably and prudently and neither being under any obligation to
buy or sell. Sales such as foreclosures and family sales are not considered to be “arms-length”
or fair market transactions.
When my neighbor's house sells, will their price determine my assessment?
Not necessarily. As explained in the previous question, sales are analyzed town-wide. An
example of what could be relevant is if there were several sales in an area indicating that the
assessments were too low compared to the sales prices.
How often does the valuation of properties change?
Every year the Assessors subject the arms-length sales that occurred in the prior calendar
year to a statistical examination based on market area, style of house, age of house, effective
area, size of lot and sale price to see what changes the market has shown. The tables used in
the Computer-Assisted Mass Appraisal (CAMA) system are adjusted so that the median
assessment of the sales sample is within 10% of 100% of market value, and the dispersion of
the assessments to sales ratios in the sample are within state guidelines. These new factors
are then applied to all properties for the new Fiscal Year. Every third year the Department of
Revenue (DOR) requires each city or town to conduct a revaluation. This is a year-long
process during which the DOR examines every phase of the assessing operation before
certifying the values. During the two years in between revaluations the Assessors may change
the values if sales activity so indicates. These yearly updates are called Interim Year
Adjustments. The last Re-certification was completed in fiscal year 2016.
How is the calendar year different from the fiscal year?
Massachusetts cities and towns operate on a “Fiscal Year” basis. The calendar year runs from
January 1st through December 31st. The fiscal year goes from July 1st through June 30th.
The assessment date is January 1st preceding the fiscal year. That is, for Fiscal Year 2016 the
assessment date is January 1, 2015.
ASPECTS OF PROPERTY VALUATION
Where can I find the detail on my property?
Property record cards, which contain ownership information, visit history, land and building
details, and other notes, and which display a property’s valuation, are available in the
Assessors’ office, 1890 Route 9. You can also view your record card and many of these details
on-line using the link available on this web site.
What do the assessors look at when determining an assessment?
The assessor collects many data elements about a property in order to develop the total
valuation. The most significant factors in determining the value are location and land area
and style, quality, size, condition and age of the building(s). Other factors include amenities or
detriments as well as features in the building such as number of bathrooms, type of
heating/cooling, interior/exterior finishes, and special features including fireplaces, saunas
and Jacuzzis. Also considered are detached structures.
How do I know if my valuation is fair and equitable?
The best comparisons are to properties that have sold that are the most similar in the most
aspects to your property. You can also compare your property’s assessment to the
assessments of the most similar properties. Although properties will most likely never be a
perfect match, assessments for similar properties should fall in a close range of valuations.
How can my assessed value increase (decrease) when I did not do anything to the property in 5 years and I am not selling the property?
The assessed value represents the estimate of market value of the property. The real estate
market changes constantly. The assessment for FY2016 represents the estimate of market
value as of January 1, 2015. This estimate of market value is determined by examining sales
of properties from calendar year 2013 and 2014 (we use two years due to lack of sales data in
Windsor). Although there may not have been any physical changes to the property, buyers
may be paying more or less for properties than they were in previous years. The assessment
changes reflect the changes in the purchase prices of similar homes in the neighborhood. The
assessments do not predict market value. The assessments reflect (or report) market value.
The real estate market can change dramatically from year to year. Buyers and sellers
determine the market value of properties. The assessments reflect what the buyers and
sellers are doing as of the assessment date.
What will happen if I put an addition on my property? Are the actual construction costs of a new home used to determine the new assessment?
Historical sales have indicated that larger properties sell for more than smaller properties
with all other factors being equal. If an addition is put on a home, the house becomes larger.
The assessors would then have to see what similarly sized properties were selling for in the
neighborhood. It is highly likely that the assessed value of your property will increase once
the addition is put on the property. Generally speaking, improvements that increase the
market value of a property will increase the assessment.
Why did my valuation change from the prior year's valuation more (less) than my neighbor's?
Market value changes occur in many forms. From year to year economic conditions and local
factors change and influence the values of different classes of property in different ways.
Buyers have different requirements and these requirements sometimes change from year to
year. Renovations may have been performed on a property that would cause a change in
assessed value different from a similar property that did not undergo renovations. A recent
inspection by the Assessor’s office also may have contributed to a change in assessed value,
perhaps adding something that had been missed or reducing something that was overstated.
Your style or size or land area or other factor(s) may differ from your neighbor’s and that
caused the valuation changes to differ.
I think my assessment is out of line with my neighbor's property, whose property is assessed lower. I want my assessment to be as low as theirs.
The first step in comparing properties is to examine the factual components of each property.
Many times properties that appear larger are in fact much smaller than people think. Quality
characteristics should also be examined when making comparisons. Ultimately, the assessors
have to determine if the assessment represents market value on the subject property and also
if the assessed value on the neighbor’s property represents market value. If a neighboring
property is too low in relation to surrounding properties, the assessors cannot compound
their low assessment by also lowering surrounding properties. The resolution may be that
the assessors have to raise the neighboring property’s assessed value to make it more in line
with the surrounding properties. The most important criterion the assessors examine in an
abatement request is the market value of the property of the person filing the abatement and
the market value of any property that the person filing the abatement mentions on the
I recently purchased my home for a price which is different than the valuation for this year. How is this possible?
The real estate market is not a “perfect market” and price is not always equal to value. Similar
properties usually do not sell for exactly the same price because the motivations of buyers
and sellers are not always similar. Similar properties usually tend to sell within a “value
range” rather than for one specific price. According to the definition of fair market value,
your value represents “the most probable selling price” and tends to be the middle of the
range of what similar properties have recently sold for. Therefore, your appraised value
could be higher or lower than what you actually paid for your property.
In addition, state laws (statutes) require that real estate be assessed at 100% of market value
as of January 1st immediately preceding the current fiscal year. This is the assessment date.
The sales considered in order to determine the market value are those that took place during
the calendar year prior to the assessment date. If your sale took place subsequent to the
assessment date, it will be in the group of sales analyzed in the preparation of the following
year’s valuations, and is not relevant to the current year’s valuation.
Why does the Assessor need to enter my house?
A total inspection of all factors that influence the value results in the most accurate
assessment of a property. We request the inspection in order to be as fair and accurate as
possible. Items such as condition of the rooms, quality of the finish, areas of finished versus
unfinished, can only be confirmed with an interior inspection. Without actual information,
estimates of the interior information have to be made.
Will an inspection change the value of my house?
Depending on the accuracy of the current data about the property, it may or may not.
However, the valuation for the current fiscal year will not be changed mid-year unless your
property meets the strict qualifications for a supplemental tax bill (usually only major new
construction), which Windsor does not currently have the authority to do.
What happens if I refuse to allow the property lister to enter my home?
You do not have to allow the assessors into your home. However, if an assessor is denied
entrance, property owners give up their ability to challenge the assessed value.
Will I be penalized if I allow the assessors in and my neighbor does not?
In instances where the assessors do not get into a property, estimates are made about the
condition of the interior of the property. Accurate assessments are based on accurate
information. By allowing the assessors to view the interior and exterior of your property,
your assessed value is based on accurate information. If a person does not allow the
assessors to view the interior and exterior of a property, estimates are made about the
condition of the interior of the property, the kitchen and bath qualities, and where there is
finished attic space and finished basement space. If the estimates are overstated, property
owners may contact the assessor’s office to arrange an interior and exterior inspection of
TAX RATE/TAX BILL
How is the tax rate calculated?
The tax rate, in its simplest form, is the tax levy divided by the town’s taxable valuation. This
is called the Uniform Tax Rate. At the May Annual Town Meeting residents vote
appropriations for the upcoming Fiscal Year. This is called the tax levy. The Assessors’
primary responsibility is to find the “full and fair cash value” of your property so that the
taxpayer may pay only his/her fair share of taxes.
How will the new valuation affect my tax bill? If my assessment went down, how can my tax bill go up?
Individual assessments may rise or fall depending on the characteristics of the property. The
purpose of mass appraisal is to value all property by the same standards at the same time to
create an equitable distribution of the tax levy. If the same amount of money is to be raised
for the current year after a valuation update from the previous year, and each assessment has
doubled, the tax rate would be cut in half; and vice versa, if each assessment decreased by
20%, and the same amount of money was to be raised, the tax rate may increase by 20%.
Increases or decreases in assessed values to not cause a tax increase or decrease.
How can my tax bill go up more than 2.5%? Doesn’t Proposition 2 ½ limit the tax increase?
Proposition 2 ½ limits the amount of taxes Massachusetts communities can raise for the
current year from the previous year’s levy limit. To this a town may add new growth
(increased valuations caused by new construction, renovations or land use changes) and
overrides voted by the town.
I cannot afford this tax bill (on fixed income, lost my job, have financial issues). Can’t the Assessors lower this assessment to accommodate this situation?
By law, the Assessors must value all property at 100% of full and fair cash value, using methodologies approved by the DOR applied consistently to every property. Properties need to be valued without regard to the owner’s ability to pay the taxes. (See exemption section below for some programs that are available for some tax relief.)
EXEMPTIONS & ABATEMENTS
What's the difference between an abatement and an exemption?
An exemption is a discharge from the obligation to pay all or part of a real estate tax based on
certain age, income, military, or disability status as set forth by the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts. An abatement happens as a result of an adjustment that lowers a property’s
valuation after the actual (not preliminary) tax bill has been issued. Exemptions are available
for seniors, low income seniors, surviving spouse or surviving minor child, veterans with
disabilities, and blind persons.
Are there other ways to reduce my taxes?
There is also a tax deferral program available for older citizens. Please contact the Assessors’
office for further information.
Does the property record card reflect any exemptions to which I may be entitled?
Property tax exemptions are available to qualifying taxpayers according the eligibility
requirements determined by state law. Exemption information is not displayed on the
property record card. Information on exemptions is available on the town’s web site or in the
What if I feel the value of my property value is overstated?
This is when an owner would file for an abatement. There are three basic reasons for
granting an abatement: data error(s), overvaluation, or inequitable assessment. An
abatement application is not a complaint about taxes or how much your assessment has
increased. It is an attempt to prove that your property’s estimated market value is inaccurate
or unfair based on recent sales of comparable properties.
Do I have to apply for an abatement every year if I received one in the past?
Not necessarily. If a data correction or adjustment has been made that should be permanent,
it will carry forward to the next and following years until such time as there is a change in the
property and/or a change in the valuation methodology that affects that property. Therefore,
it would not be necessary to reapply the following year(s). If, however, a one-time adjustment
were granted just for the current year, the assumption is that the adjustment does not carry
forward into the next year. If the property owner then feels that the valuation is overstated in
the following year, he/she must submit a new application.
What if I am not satisfied with the result of the abatement hearing?
A property owner may submit an appeal to the Massachusetts Appellate Tax Board (ATB).
Information for the Appellate Tax Board is available online by searching on www.mass.gov.