Single-Family Home Values, Condo Conversions on the Rise in Somerville

Assessed values on single-family homes are rising across the city, and there's a mini-boom in condo conversions, according to the city's chief tax assessor.

If you own a single-family home in Somerville—and about 2,361 of you do—the assessed value of your home is likely going up, according to Marc Levye, Somerville's chief assessor.

Levye spoke to the Somerville Board of Aldermen on Nov. 20 about property taxes for fiscal-year 2013.

"Generally speaking, citywide, folks that own a single-family home are going to see a valuation increase. That is across the board," Levye said.

One of the reasons is that tax assessors, when valuing properties, take into consideration sale prices over previous years, Levye explained. In recent years, those records included home sales from 2009, which was a low point in the real estate market. However, "Calendar [year] '09 is no longer in the time period that we're looking at," Levye said.

There was a steep increase in sale prices from 2009 to 2010, according to Levye's presentation. The average sale price of a Somerville single-family home was $441,800 in 2009 and $539,100 in 2010—a 22 percent increase. That's getting reflected in assessments.

The long and short of it is that the average single-family homeowner in Somerville will see a property-tax increase of $253 per year.

Number of condos increasing

Every year Somerville adds condos to its tax rolls, often when developers convert apartment buildings to condominiums, but the city is expecting even more condos in the upcoming fiscal year, according to Levye's presentation.

Somerville added 121 condos to its tax rolls in fiscal-year 2012 and 120 in fiscal-year 2013, but "we're poised to add 184 more condo units" in fiscal-year 2014, Levye said.

"The evidence is clear that developers again have confidence in the market. They're starting to make the conversions," he said.

That increase still doesn't compare to fiscal-years from the past decade, when even more condos were being created in Somerville. In fiscal-year 2008, 286 were added, and 275 were added in fiscal-year 2009.

"I don't know if we'll see quite the boom we had going back five years ago," Levye said in regard to the increase in condo development.

Looking at the increase in condo conversions and the rise in assessed home values—"homeowners again feel it's time to make renovations," Levye said—the city's chief tax assessor commented, "The recovery is well under way."

Tax rate

The tax rate for fiscal-year 2013 is $13.42 per $1000 of a property's assessed value, according to the presentation. In fiscal-year 2012 it was $13.09, and in fiscal-year 2011 it was $12.71.

The residential exemption, for those who live in the Somerville homes they own, will diminish one's tax bill by $1,885.97.

Taking that into consideration, homeowners will see increases to their annual tax bills as follows:

  • Average condo: $63 increase
  • Average single-family home: $253 increase
  • Average two-family home: $288 increase
  • Average three-family home: $241 increase
AHM November 29, 2012 at 11:27 AM
What a nice Christmas present. We do all this new Assembly Square stuff and so called promote new business here for mre revenue and here is our reward. I have nothing left to give up to make this up. Thank you Joe for your wondeful leadership. Enjoy your raise while us working people are making less. Homelesness has already increased in SOmerville and this will sure help.
Jason November 29, 2012 at 12:29 PM
Whiskey tango foxtrot. The single family numbers are outrageous. I bet even money that those 440k single family homes where dumps and had some pretty mayor Reno done to them, and where sold for that 100k difference.... Go figure you do the neighborhood a favor by investing your private money to enhance and better the 'Ville and the city cant even neaten up the crappy street you live on and they turn the screws on you. That's has got to be the biggest line of BS I have read in a while. I can't wait to see where this "new money" gets represented...!
Jason November 29, 2012 at 12:32 PM
And, they are going after, HOME OWERS, RESIDENTS! Not land lords or non residents. This will certainly have zero effect on the slumlords that own half of e properties on my street and yours.
Jason November 29, 2012 at 12:35 PM
Oh and one more thing, those condo numbers, inventory increase...they would be well explained by looking at maxwells green... Not conversions but Brand New construction.
Somerville Home Owner November 29, 2012 at 01:00 PM
I don't understand these comments. Who is going after what?? The market prices have increased. Most consider that good news. But even if you don't, are you really trying to blame someone??! Smh Btw: Maxwell are apartments as far as I know.
Paula Woolley November 29, 2012 at 02:00 PM
A "conversion" should refer to pre-existing houses that are converted to condos, not to new construction of condos. I've been very concerned about the large number of 2- and 3-family homes being converted into condos for a number of reasons. Briefly, they're often harder for families to live in long term; couples who used to buy the 2-families and rent out one unit to help pay their mortgage could later rent at a lower than market price (or for free) to their own kids, or to long-term tenants, whereas condos are seldom rented out at below market rates (when the owner lives in the same building as the tenant there's more of an incentive to get and keep long-term tenants). This means there will eventually be fewer affordable apartments in Somerville. I'm also concerned about how condo conversions usually go hand-in-hand with ripping up green space to create one or two parking spaces per unit. Sandy at least showed us that we need less asphalt, and I hope the city will crack down on developers who are paving over what little green space remains around houses. What's good for developers is not good for Somerville residents.
Matt C November 29, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Yes, Maxwell is all rental. Increase in property value is a good thing as if you own your home, you have an asset that you own! if it gains value you gain wealth. The way Now Taxing is something different the fact the tax base is going up and the tax rate is going up should be something we get upset about. There is on average an extra ~ 100k /sfh added to the tax base (which would have added an average of $127 to your tax bill instead of the $131 we will be charged.) The tax rates in Somerville have been as follow: In 2012: $13.10 ($1,885.exemption [140k]) In 2011: $12.71 ($1,801 exemption) In 2010: $12.30 ($1,738 exemption) At the end of the day, the increase in value is something we cannot control nor should we as home owners try to constrain. The rise in the tax rate is something we should try to restrict. With the enormous growth in property value there should be no need to increase rates (2.9%)
Matt C November 29, 2012 at 02:08 PM
appologies, my tax rate increase was for 2011-2012. 2012-2013 = (2.4%)
AHM November 29, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Yes, but when our houses were worth more and prices went down our tax bills did not. We are headed back up to their original values so the tax increase makes no sense. If anything we should be getting a refund. Hope I explained this right.
Matt C November 29, 2012 at 07:48 PM
AHM, I understand what you are saying, but I am pretty sure when the assessor visited me after I finished a building project they explained that they did reduce the value of my assessment due for tax purposed because of the depressed market. the reason why it is confusing is because they use a trailing valuation (your 2012 tax are based upon your 2010 valuation) I just looked at my 2010 and 2011 1098s and either i am reading them wrong or I paid more in 2010 than in 2011 which would confirm this. Again - I could be reading it wrong, but the system appears to be working.
AHM November 29, 2012 at 10:12 PM
Wish I had a better filing system so I could find mine. I am pretty sure, not positive that mine had never gone down. I have planned to go up to city hall and see if they had any discounts for over 65 low income so I can continue to pay my taxes.
John Murray December 20, 2012 at 12:55 PM
I could accept a property tax increase in Winter Hill if the Mayor invested Somervile's taxes into Winter Hill development. I pay the same property taxes as homeowners in Davis Sq. and Union Square but Winter hill continues to be neglected by the mayor and Board of Alderman. Drive up Brosdway and look at the dumpy signage and tell me if anybody feels like stopping and shopping in Winter Hill.


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