Real Estate FAQs

Real Estate

What do the Assessors do?

Real and Personal Property:

  • Assessors are governed by Massachusetts General Laws to value all real and personal property.
  • The Assessors perform the duties of valuing property with in office staff and on occasion with the assistance of an outside appraisal firm who may assist in completing the field review of the community.
  • Every year the Assessors are required to submit a tax rate recapitulation summary (recap sheet) for approval by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue prior to mailing the actual tax bill at the end of each calendar year.
  • Every three years the Massachusetts Department of Revenue visits the Community to recertify the value of the town by doing a field and data review of the community in an attempt to maintain equitable values.

Motor Vehicle Excise:

  • Assessors are responsible for committing the motor vehicle excise tax bill to the Collector of Taxes.
  • The motor vehicle excise information which generates the bill originates with the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles who updates their records according to the registration of the vehicle.
  • Assessors are responsible for abating motor vehicle excise (click here for Motor Vehicle FAQs).

What the Assessors can NOT do?

  1. The Assessors do not make laws but are governed by them.
  2. The Assessors do not determine the tax amount of a real or personal property tax bill but do establish assessments based on current market value.
  3. The Assessors do not have discretion in who is entitled to an Exemption of property tax but do review exemption applications in accordance with Massachusetts General Laws chapter 59 § 5 which states the qualification requirements for exemption.

Who to call if I question the real estate tax amount?

Questions about your current tax payments, unpaid tax balances and/or overpayments contact the Collector's Office at (508) 747-1620 x10291.

Who to call if I question the assessed value of my property?

If you have any questions, about your assessment please call the Assessors Office at (508) 747-1620 x10296.

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Ownership and Mailing

I am a new owner and the previous owner's name is on my tax bill what do I do?

Massachusetts State Law requires the bill to be issued to the record owner as of each January 1.

Massachusetts General Law chapter 59 section 11 reads, "Taxes on real estate shall be assessed, in the town where it lies, to the person who is the owner on January first....."

Example:  Purchase date January 2, 2021, the bill will be issued in prior owners name care of the new owner until June 30, 2022.  The July 1, 2022 preliminary bill will reflect the new owners name for the first time.

Note: Contacting the Assessors office will aid us in putting your name on as a "care of".
Exception: Current recorded subdivision plan.  All subdivision plans are assessed as they are on January 1 each year.  We are unable to make any changes to the ownership or division of the lots until the following fiscal year.

How do I change my mailing address on my bill?

One of four ways:

  1. Submit your request in writing to the Assessors Office.
  2. Download the change of address form (click here to download form).  Once complete return form to the Assessors Office.
  3. Come into the Assessors Office to complete the change of address form.
  4. Call the Assessors Office to change the address.

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Determining Assessment Values

What is the Assessment?

The assessed value (or assessment) is the value of property to be used for local taxation, as determined by the Assessors according to Massachusetts law and regulations set by the Commissioner of Revenue.

How is the assessment determined?

Valuation in Massachusetts is based on "full and fair cash value," the amount a willing buyer would pay a willing seller on the open market. Assessors must collect, record, and analyze a great deal of information about property and market characteristics in order to estimate the fair market value of all taxable properties in their communities. Properties such as churches and educational institutions are also valued even though they are exempt from taxation.

Assessors first inspect each property to record specific features of the land and building(s) that contribute to its value. Size, type, and quality of construction, number of baths, fireplaces, type of heating system – all are examples of the data listed on individual property record cards before the valuation process can begin.

Finding the full and fair cash value or market value of a property involves discovering what similar properties are selling for, what the property would cost today to replace and what financial factors, such as interest rates, may be affecting the real estate market.

Valuation techniques for commercial and industrial properties also include analysis from an investment point of view, since the purchase price the buyer is willing to pay depends in part on the return he expects to receive.

The Assessor does not create value. Rather, he/she has the legal responsibility to discover and reflect the changes that are occurring in the marketplace.

Why Assessments go up when a property has changed?

Since assessments must be set at market value, rising real estate values in the community will be reflected in generally higher assessments. All properties, however, do not change in value to exactly the same degree. Many factors influence values and the value of some properties – for example, those with water views may increase more rapidly than others.

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Real Estate Abatement Questions

What if you disagree with the Assessed value?

If, in your opinion, the assessment of your property is too high, by all means discuss this with the Board of Assessors. When you receive notice of a new value, you may make an appointment to talk with the Assessors. In meeting with them, you will want to be specific about why you disagree. Is there some misinformation on the property record card? Do you find values of comparable properties lower than yours? If so, it is helpful to cite specific examples.

Information on all the assessments in the community is available in the Assessors’ Office. The appeal process is described on the tax bill.

What is the process to file an overvaluation abatement application?

If you believe that your value is too high, and need to file an overvaluation abatement in the Assessors Office by the due date of the 3rd Qtr. Tax Bill. If your application is received any time after the due date, it is considered late with the following exception. Note that abatement applications will be considered as filed timely if they are received in the mail after February 1 but have a postmark on the envelope of no later than February 1. This “postmark” rule applies only to those applications mailed to the proper address of the Assessors, first class postage prepaid, with postmarks made by the United States Postal Service.

If the application is late, the Board of Assessors loses its jurisdiction to abate the bill. At that point, nothing can be done for the year in question. There are no exceptions.

After you file, you will be contacted by the Assessors Office to arrange for a complete interior and exterior inspection of your property. The inspection is an important part of our review of your application. If you refuse the inspection, the Board of Assessors will simply disallow your application. You will receive written notice regarding your application no later than three (3) months after you file your application in the Assessors Office.

Please note that the tax bill is due and payable by the payment due date noted on the tax bill even if you file an overvaluation application. If you do receive an overvaluation abatement, the full amount will show as a credit on the fourth quarter or as a refund.

How do I file an abatement application?

You must file an application by the due date of the 3rd. qtr. Actual Tax Bill at the Assessor's Office on the second floor of Town Hall. Before you file, you should ask yourself three questions:

  • Is the data on my property correct?
  • Is my value in line with others on my street?
  • Is my assessed value in line with sale prices in my neighborhood for the relevant time period?

Remember that dissatisfaction with the amount of valuation increase and the resulting tax dollar increase, is not grounds for receiving an overvaluation application. Filing an overvaluation application, does not stay the collection of taxes. You must still pay your tax bill by the due date.

You may mail your application to: Plymouth Board of Assessors – 26 Court Street – Plymouth, MA 02360.

Where do I get a form to file overvaluation application?

Please visit the Assessors Office to apply for an abatement or download the appropriate form (click here for form).

What happens if my abatement application is approved?

You will receive a notice indicating the amount of the abatement and a credit will show on your next (4th Qtr) tax bill.

What happens if my abatement application is denied or I do not agree with the Boards decision?

You can file an appeal within 3 months from the date the Board acted on your abatement:
State Appellate Tax Board
Saltonstall Building
100 Cambridge Street
Boston, MA 02202
You must pay your taxes pending your appeal.

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General Questions

How is the Department of Revenue involved?

Through its Division of Local Services, the unit that has regulatory and assistance responsibilities for municipal finance and taxation, the Department staff certifies both valuations and tax rates for the cities and towns.

The Division of Local Services functions through four (4) Bureaus:

  1. Local Assessment,
  2. Property Tax,
  3. Municipal Data Mgmt / Technical Assistance,
  4. Accounts

In order to certify valuations, the Bureau Of Local Assessment reviews data submitted by the Assessors and conducts field reviews to assure that the valuations are properly derived and equitably applied.

To certify a tax rate, the Property Tax Bureau looks over the various items that make up the estimated municipal revenue base and makes certain that the calculations for each category fall within the requirements of various laws, including Proposition 2 1/2.

The Municipal Data Management/Technical Assistance Bureau prepares the annual Cherry Sheets (estimates of local aid and state aid county assessments for the next fiscal year) for Assessors and other local officials. It also coordinates the Division’s technical assistance program, working with all fiscal officers.

The Bureau Of Accounts oversees and provides technical assistance in municipal audits, accounting, and financial reporting. The Division provides guidelines that inform local officials of new and updated laws and prepares specialized publication for municipal use. It also conducts training courses for fiscal officials, offers workshops, training course and seminars throughout the year, and participates actively and cooperatively in local officials’ organizations such as the MAAO and the IAAO.

What does 100% of full and fair market value mean?

Current Market Value:

  • Typically motivated buyer and seller
  • Both parties well informed or well advised and acting in what they consider their best interests
  • A reasonable time being exposed to the open market
  • Payment made in terms of cash and/or in terms of financial arrangements
  • The price represents the normal consideration for the property sold unaffected by special or creative financing or sales concessions

What is Proposition 2 1/2, and how does it affect my assessment?

Under Proposition 2 1/2, a municipality is subject to two property tax limits:

  1. Ceiling:  The total annual property tax revenue raised by a municipality shall not exceed 2.5% of the assessed value of all taxable property contained in it.
  2. Increase limit:  The annual increases of property tax cannot exceed 2.5%, plus the amount attributable to taxes that are from new real property (new growth).

These limits refer to the entire amount of the annual tax levy raised by a municipality.  The property taxes are the sum of: (a) residential real property; (b) commercial real property; (c) industrial real property; and (d) business-owned personal property.

In practice, it usually limits the tax bills of individual taxpayers, but only as an indirect result.

How do I check property information?

You can search online (click here to search) or call or visit the Assessors Office for ownership information.

Can I view assessors property maps?

Yes, you can view the maps in the Assessor's Office or online (click here to see maps).

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Please note that this summary serves as a guide and is not intended to answer every question or address every issue.
Please feel free to call the Assessors office at 508-747-1620 x10296.