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Joyce defends home renovations

The home of Brian Joyce.
The home of Brian Joyce.(Jonathan Wiggs/globe staff)

State Senator Brian A. Joyce said in a statement that he obtained the necessary town permits for extensive renovations to his Milton home, and denounced a Boston Globe story last week raising questions about whether the work was reflected in the home’s assessed tax value.

The story examined the disparity between the listed tax value of his home — $867,500 — and its current asking price of $1.725 million, contained in its real estate marketing brochure.

Joyce, in the written statement posted Tuesday, said a permit issued in 2002 covered the renovations described in the brochure marketing his house.

At a special meeting of the assessors on Tuesday to discuss Joyce’s property, Joyce’s son criticized the Globe for what he said was an unfounded attack on Joyce. His son suggested the Globe ignored or misread the permits — which were described in detail in the news organization’s original story.

In a written statement provided to other media after the story was published, Joyce called it “the worst form of irresponsible journalism.” Joyce and his representatives have consistently declined to respond directly to the Globe on the issue.

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Town tax officials, meanwhile, have said they will revalue Joyce’s home, based on the information gleaned from the real estate brochure.

Joyce has declined, as of Wednesday, to allow the town tax assessor to go inside his home, to personally view the interior renovations and determine the house’s tax value.

“We’ve asked for an interior visit and he has denied our request,” Robert Bushway, the town’s assessor, said Wednesday. “We’ll do the best we can. If information comes to light that we deem reliable, we make appropriate changes to the property record card.”

Under Massachusetts law, home owners can refuse to allow tax officials to enter, but William Bennett, a member of the town’s Board of Assessors, said Joyce is taking a risk by not letting an appraiser inside.

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“It’s in his best interest — in the best interest of any homeowner to get a true picture of what’s in the property. When a homeowner doesn’t let us in, we use public data and estimates,’’ Bennett said.

Joyce did not respond Wednesday for a comment on the access issue.

After the Globe’s initial story, town officials have noted, in interviews with various media outlets, that real estate sales brochures sometimes exaggerate the value or amenities a property offers, which could account for some of the disparity between the listed tax value of Joyce’s home and the asking price, which is roughly twice as large.

The brochure describes a 13 room house with 6,444 square feet of living space on four levels. Town records describe an eight room house on two floors. The brochure lists 5½ baths; the town knows about 4½.

Some of the added space — in the finished basement and the finished third floor — would not be counted as living area for tax purposes, assessors said this week. The space may increase the home’s assessment, but not as much as first- or second-floor living space, they said.

Another possible explanation is that building permits issued in 2002 — the date on the one Joyce said covers his later extensive renovations — might have been less detailed than the ones issued today, town officials said, making it unclear exactly what improvements it permitted.

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The Globe noted that town records showed no permits for interior renovation, except for plumbing, since Joyce bought the house in 2003.

The real estate brochure by Coldwell Banker states, “Extensive renovations began in 2003 to add every modern amenity while maintaining its abundant historic character.” It mentions a “chef’s dream kitchen” and “architecturally designed home office wing” — neither of which are detailed in the 2002 permit Joyce cites in his statement.

The 2002 permit, which listed the estimated cost of all the work at $110,000, mentioned these specific projects: “to install new HVAC, electrical and plumbing. Also to insulate the walls, re-side part of the house, driveway, plastering and painting. New roof installed. New sewer and water lines.”

Bushway, the town’s assessor, and Bennett, a professional appraiser, said Wednesday that it is unlikely the original permit covered all the work done in the house, but they won’t know for sure unless they are allowed in.

The officials would not estimate how much the assessment will change after they review the records, including the broker’s brochure. Bushway said the new valuation will come out in December.

Another member of the Board of Assessors, Jim Henderson, also declined to predict the new value before the review is completed.


Andrea Estes can be reached at andrea.estes@globe.com.