Dedham, MA – Norfolk County Register of Deeds William P. O’Donnell reports that Norfolk County recordings for 2023 show indicators of less real estate activity as compared to 2022 with decreases in both the total number deeds and mortgages recorded. However, seasonal trends remained consistent, with a decrease in activity during the winter months and an uptick in the spring and summer months.
In 2023, there were 102,188 documents recorded at the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds, a 21% decrease from 2022.
“Looking at the 2023 real estate market, I think most would agree that it was a slow year especially compared to 2021 and 2022's busy home sales. Consumers have been facing a limited inventory of available properties along with rising mortgage interest rates. As an example of these indicators property sales in Massachusetts have dropped 22.5% in 2023,” remarked Register of Deeds William P. O’Donnell. “However, Norfolk County’s decline was less than the statewide average for the year.”
Overall, the County’s lending activity showed a continued downward trend. A total of 14,598 mortgages were recorded at the Registry in 2023, 37% less than a year earlier.
According to numbers from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the median interest rate of a 30-year fixed-rate conventional loan started at 6.42% in January 2023 and grew to 7.79% by October 2023.
Register O’Donnell noted, “Those who locked in lower interest rates in 2020 and 2021 are less inclined to refinance or buy property at current mortgage interest rates, leading to fewer mortgages being recorded and fewer existing homes on the market. Furthermore, buyers looking for new property may be hesitant to take on a new mortgage with average interest rates still above 7%.”
The number of deeds for 2023, which reflect real estate sales and transfers, both commercial and residential, was 15,253 a decrease of 12% from 2022.
"The scarcity of available real estate due to fewer existing homes on the market and new construction not being able to keep pace with demand is making it more challenging for homebuyers in general, but especially for first-time homebuyers who must now deal with the added cost of higher interest rates,” stated Register O’Donnell.
Sale prices for 2023 appear to have decreased slightly compared to 2022. The average sale price for all of Norfolk County, both commercial and residential, this year was $1,083,609 an 8% decrease from 2022. The total dollar volume of commercial and residential sales is also down, decreasing by 26% from one year ago.
“I can understand the frustration some homebuyers may be feeling because right now it is a more complicated process for individuals looking to purchase a home and, especially, first-time homebuyers,” said Register O'Donnell. “It is more expensive for home buyers because prices are still high relative to 2021 and 2020 values, and to add to this difficulty, there may be multiple people competing for the same property as well as higher interest rate costs.”
The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds has been closely monitoring the foreclosure market. In 2023, there were 73 foreclosure deeds recorded, as a result of mortgage foreclosures taking place in Norfolk County, whereas in 2022, there were 68 recorded. Also concerning is in 2023, there were 339 notices to foreclose, the first step in the foreclosure process, compared to the 308 recorded in 2022.
"The increase in the number of foreclosure deeds and notices to foreclose is troubling. This could suggest that more of our neighbors may have financial difficulties in the future," said O'Donnell. “We will continue to monitor these figures in 2024."
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 (617-770-2227) 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.
"If you are having difficulty paying your monthly mortgage, please consider contacting one of these non-profit agencies for help and guidance," said O’Donnell.
Register O’Donnell concluded, “A limited inventory of properties for sale and buyers who have been facing rising interest rates resulted in an overall slow year for the housing market. While current market conditions may be frustrating to some, especially for first-time homebuyers, it may be comforting to know that Norfolk County’s real estate market is doing better compared to state and national averages and remains a desirable place to both live and work in.”
Follow this YouTube link to watch the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds Year in Review segment on Quincy Access Television: https://www.youtube.com/watch/bHXIGI-HAHg