Dedham, MA – Norfolk County Register of Deeds William P. O’Donnell reported that Norfolk County recordings for July show a significant increase in average property sale prices compared to both the previous year and the previous month. This surge can likely be attributed to having limited housing inventory in a competitive market.
“Average property prices are up significantly this month, and while this may be good news for sellers and investors, it makes it increasingly difficult for first-time homebuyers and homeowners looking to move, especially with high interest rates relative to what they were in 2020 and 2021,” stated Register of Deeds William P. O'Donnell.
The average sale price of commercial and residential properties for July 2023 was $1,452,378, a 19% increase compared to July 2022 and an increase of 40% from June 2023. However, the total dollar volume of commercial and residential sales is down, decreasing 7% from last year but up 7% from last month.
“Based on prior years and trusted economic theory, we know that even when demand remains the same but the supply of an item decreases, the price will increase,” said Register O’Donnell. “Unfortunately, when prices rise without a corresponding rise in inventory, it may result in increased competition among buyers. This makes it harder for homebuyers in general but especially for first-time homebuyers who must now deal with the added cost of higher interest rates to afford homes and properties.”
Notwithstanding the increase in average property sales prices the total number of deeds for July 2023, which reflects both commercial and residential real estate sales and transfers, was 1,272, down 18% from July 2022 and decreased 26% from June.
Register O'Donnell noted, “Higher interest rates have a particular impact on first-time homebuyers, especially given that the average price for commercial and residential property is 43% higher than the value in 2021 and 74% higher than the value in 2020. Higher interest rates also affect seasoned homebuyers' eagerness to refinance and willingness to sell, which results in fewer mortgages being recorded.
For the month of July, lending activity overall continued to decline. A total of 1,258 mortgages were recorded, which is 47% less than last year and 14% less than last month.
“Overall real estate activity is on a downward trend, driven by two likely factors: limited inventory and high interest rates, which reduce the number of deeds and the number of mortgages, which make up a large portion of the total document volume at the registry,” said Register O'Donnell.
The Registry of Deeds recorded 8,620 documents in July 2023. This was 21% less than in July 2022 and 18% less than in June 2023.
“On a positive note, for the first time this year, we are seeing a reduction in both the number of foreclosure deeds and the number of notices to foreclose compared to last year,” said Register O'Donnell.
The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds continues to closely monitor the foreclosure market. In July 2023, there were 5 foreclosure deeds recorded as a result of mortgage foreclosures taking place in Norfolk County, whereas in July 2022, there were 9 recorded. Additionally, this month, there were 18 notices to foreclose, the first step in the foreclosure process, less than the 21 recorded in July 2022.
“There is no question that these foreclosure numbers are good news. With that said, we cannot forget that foreclosure activity has a human face associated with it, and there are still a number of our neighbors who have lost their homes, and even more are dangerously close to losing their homes,” said Register O'Donnell. “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, “We have seen some good news in regard to the decrease in foreclosure activity only to be tempered by a limited housing inventory creating an increasingly competitive market. We need to increase new home construction and housing initiatives in order to increase the supply and make homeownership more attainable.”