From time to time, properties are sold or ownership is transferred. To identify which properties have been sold, assessors review deeds received by the Registry of Deeds and monitor real estate transfer publications and/or internet sites. To gather information about sales, the assessors send sales verification questionnaires to the new buyers.
When the Board of Assessors is notified of the deed transfer, they must "qualify" the sale. The assessors analyze the information gathered to determine the transaction type, financing arrangements, and any special circumstances to confirm that the sales are arms-length.
A qualified sale is an arms-length sale that can be used for establishing value for other properties. A sale may be considered "non arms-length" for many reasons such as:
Buyer and seller are business partners
Buyer and seller are family members
Property has a substantial change after the sale date
Property has been foreclosed upon
Sale is a result of a court order, such as divorce settlement
An arms-length transaction is defined as a sale between 2 unrelated parties, each of which is reasonably knowledgeable of market conditions and under no pressure to buy or sell.
Since recent sales represent the most current data regarding the local real estate market, it is crucial that the assessing office also inspect the interior and exterior of all sold properties. If a sale property has been upgraded without a permit or allowed to deteriorate, the assessors files will not accurately describe the true condition of the property.