Homeownership Bar Too High, Too Few Homes Brings Decreased Sales in Second Quarter

Dedham, MA – Norfolk County Register of Deeds William P. O’Donnell reported that Norfolk County recordings for the second quarter of 2023 indicate a continued decrease in overall real estate activity impacted by interest rates along with a lack of inventory. The increased costs of carrying the purchase of a home, along with limited inventory and high real estate costs, are setting the homeownership bar too high for some individuals.

“It is not a secret, and I believe most people can feel it, that the economy is experiencing a downward trend, driven by two factors: limited inventory and high interest rates, relative to what they were in 2020, which makes finding a home difficult for homebuyers in general but especially for first-time homebuyers who must now deal with the added cost of higher interest rates,” stated Register of Deeds William P. O’Donnell.

In the second quarter of 2023 (April, May, and June), the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds recorded 27,374 documents. This was 23% less than the second quarter of 2022.

“Looking at the statistics, we can see that fewer properties are being sold. The likely factors that are contributing to this are that while new home construction has increased, it is not enough to keep up with the demand, and we need to increase the supply of new homes,” said Register O’Donnell. “The other factor is that existing homes remain off the market, possibly because individuals that want to sell may be struggling to find a suitable home to move into within their budget, and for those individuals who took advantage of lower interest rates in the past, they may be hesitant to exchange that for a higher rate.”

The total number of deeds for the second quarter of 2023, which reflects both commercial and residential real estate sales and transfers, was 4,193, down 16% from the second quarter of 2022.

“Higher interest rates affect seasoned homebuyers in terms of eagerness to refinance and willingness to sell, but first-time homebuyers are particularly impacted, especially considering average prices for commercial and residential property are 16% above 2021 values and 32% above 2020 values,” said Register O’Donnell. “This means that homebuyers in 2023 are paying higher property prices and a higher interest rate, resulting in a monthly mortgage payment that may not be economically feasible, particularly for first-time homebuyers who may not have the financial resources to overcome this obstacle.”

The average sale price for the second quarter of this year was $996,394, a 23% decrease compared to the second quarter of 2022. The total dollar volume of commercial and residential sales is down, decreasing 42% over the same period in 2022.

For the months of April, May, and June, lending activity overall continued to decline. During these months, a total of 4,084 mortgages were recorded, which is 40% less than the same period last year.

“Those who took advantage of the lower interest rates in 2020 and 2021 are also less likely to refinance at current rates, and with property sales going down, this results in a more pronounced decline in the number of mortgages recorded,” said Register O’Donnell. “For individuals who are struggling to keep up with payments now, refinancing at a higher interest rate is not going to help, which is one factor contributing to the increase in notices to foreclose and foreclosure deeds.”

The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds continues to closely monitor the foreclosure market. In the second quarter of 2023, there were 26 foreclosure deeds recorded as a result of mortgage foreclosures taking place in Norfolk County, whereas in the second quarter of 2022, there were 16 recorded. Additionally, there were 86 notices to foreclose, the first step in the foreclosure process, significantly more than the 66 recorded in 2022’s second quarter.

“We cannot begin to know all the causes that have contributed to these foreclosures and notices to foreclose, but what we do know is that a number of our neighbors have lost their homes, and even more are dangerously close to losing their homes,” said Register O’Donnell. “We all experience unforeseen events in our lives, and sometimes events beyond our control can have devastating emotional and financial effects, so I would urge anyone struggling to pay their mortgage or who knows someone who is struggling to contact one of the non-profit organizations listed on our website, www.norfolkdeeds.org.”

For the past several years, the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds has partnered with Quincy Community Action Programs (617-479-8181 x376) and NeighborWorks Housing Solutions (508-587-0950) to help anyone facing challenges paying their mortgage. Another option for homeowners is to contact the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Consumer Advocacy and Response Division (CARD) at 617-727-8400.

Register O’Donnell concluded, “Overall, the housing market has slowed, especially compared to 2022’s busy home sale market, but remains relatively stable. While there may be fluctuations in certain areas and in the country as a whole, the demand to live in and own property in Norfolk County remains high, and the housing market in Norfolk County has shown resilience and continues to provide opportunities for both buyers and sellers.”

The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds will be closed on Thursday, July 4th in celebration of Independence Day. We are open Friday, July 5th.

The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds is closed Today, July 4th in celebration of Independence Day. We are open Friday, July 5th.