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Although the majority of properties are not for sale, Massachusetts General Laws require an assessment, or an estimate of market value, on every property. Sales of similar or comparable properties within a neighborhood are the best indicator of market value.
Assessment changes are always based on the real estate market. For example, if a property sells for $500,000 in calendar year 2017, there is no limit or minimum price it would sell for in calendar year 2018 or beyond. It could sell for $600,000, $700,000, $1,000,000, or $400,000. The sale price would be based on the real estate market at that time. Assessments do not predict market value, they reflect (or report) market value.
Assessors examine many qualities and conditions and then look for comparable properties that have sold in the neighborhood. Since no two houses are identical, adjustments are made for differing characteristics to determine the assessment. Thus the assessment is an estimate of market value.