Why is This Home The Most Valuable in Newton?

David Bates / February 7, 2012-5:41 pm

     After deriving my formula for Super High Assessments, I was curious
as to how it pertained to the Newton home with the highest assessed value, 48 Sargent, Chestnut Hill (Super High Assessment: $14.5 million) While this home undoubtedly has all the characteristics that lead to super high valuation — great location, sizable lot, very large living area and pristine condition — I wondered just which one of the characteristics in the formula turbocharged it’s valuation so the home left the valuations of all its peers in its dust.
     It certainly wasn’t the lot size. The 2.1-acre lot on Sargent, although impressive by Newton standards, is smaller than the lots of a number of other super-high-assessed Newton homes. Could it be living area? At 17,802 square feet, Sargent is the largest single family home in all of Newton. Still, this impressive living area makes it only about 25 percent larger than the second- and third-highest-assessed single family homes in Newton, yet its assessed value is more than twice those homes. So the law of diminishing marginal returns suggests the difference in size isn’t equal to the difference in super high assessment.

Could the past public sales have impacted the current value assessments? Apparently not. The buyer of Sargent paid significantly less than the buyers of the second- and third-highest-assessed Newton homes, yet, obviously was assessed significantly more. So location, location, location wasn’t the reason that Sargent’s assessment trumped all other Newton homes.
What is the town’s key characteristic for Sargent’s super-duper high assessment? The answer can be found in a folder in city hall. It’s a building permit showing that after buying the existing 29-room brick colonial for $2.7 million, the owner knocked it down and spent at least another ‘$16 million building a dream home. While assessors will tell you that costs do not equal value, that’s about seven to eight times more than the $2 million or so other super-high-assessed Newton homes spent on renovations.