Dedham, MA – Norfolk County Register of Deeds William P. O’Donnell reported that Norfolk County recordings in October 2023 show a slight increase in the total real estate activity compared to October 2022 recordings. This tight margin of closeness in October 2023 activity and statistics to October of 2022 activity and statistics can be attributed to a housing market that has been slow for over a year and the ability of Norfolk County to maintain steady real estate transactions despite the challenging conditions.
“Despite the challenges posed by limited inventory and higher interest rates, the Norfolk County housing market has managed to maintain steady activity,” noted Register of Deeds William P. O’Donnell. “The recording for October 2023 compared to October 2022 shows some of the closest margins to each other that we have seen all year.”
The Registry of Deeds recorded 9,214 documents in October 2023. This was 2% more than in October 2022 and a 13% increase compared to September 2023.
“To get these numbers to keep moving in a positive direction, new home construction will need to increase its pace, because what we have in housing inventory is still not enough to keep home prices in check,” said Register O’Donnell. “Particularly when you consider that high interest rates, relative to what they were in 2020 and 2021, makes finding an affordable home difficult for homebuyers in general but especially for first-time homebuyers.”
The total number of deeds recorded for October 2023, which reflects both commercial and residential real estate sales and transfers, was 1299, down 1% from October 2022 but up 4% from September.
“The increase in real estate activity this month compared to last month shows that despite difficult market conditions, Norfolk County remains a desirable community to both live and work in,” noted Register O’Donnell.
The average sale price of commercial and residential properties for October 2023 was $967,836, a 9% decrease compared to October 2022 but an increase of 12% from September 2023. The total dollar volume of commercial and residential sales is down, decreasing 20% from last year but up 12% from last month.
“While prices have come down compared to last year, they are only down 1% compared to 2020 and 2021, when mortgage interest rates were lower than 3%,” said Register O'Donnell. “The lack of available real estate inventory is likely one reason why property prices are still higher than they were before the pandemic.”
“Seasoned homebuyers are doubly affected by current market conditions, as they not only face higher borrowing costs but also have limited options to choose from. Additionally, with home loan interest rates exceeding 7%, these same homeowners are also less likely to refinance, leading to a decrease in the number of mortgages being recorded,” said Register O’Donnell.
For the month of October, lending activity overall continued to decline from last year. A total of 1,165 mortgages were recorded, which is 21% less than last year and 1% less than last month.
“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 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. Also, many potential sellers who would need to borrow to purchase a new property have elected not to sell given the higher interest rates.”
The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds continues to closely monitor the foreclosure market. In October 2023, there were 6 foreclosure deeds recorded as a result of mortgage foreclosures taking place in Norfolk County, whereas in October 2023, there were 4 recorded. However, there were 21 notices to foreclose, the first step in the foreclosure process, less than the 25 recorded this month last year.
“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, “While current market conditions may be frustrating to some, especially for first-time homebuyers, Norfolk County has shown a high level of resilience this month and saw some positive market indicators despite the challenges faced in the housing market. We will continue to track these market trends as we move further into the fall season.”