Dedham – Norfolk County Register of Deeds William P. O’Donnell reported that Norfolk County recordings for the month of March 2023 indicate a continued decrease in overall real estate activity, with significant drops in mortgage activity and the average property sale price as compared to March 2022.
“Spring has arrived, ushering in a new home-buying season, which is reflected in March's rise in real estate activity over the previous month,” said Register of Deeds William P. O’Donnell. “As compared to last year, however, we are still seeing significant decreases in the number of documents filed.”
The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds recorded 8,541 documents in March 2023. This was 31% less than in March 2022 and 27% more than in February 2023.
“Despite easing inflation, high food and energy costs are still limiting customers' ability to save money,” said Register O'Donnell. “The number of recorded deeds, which is one measure of document volume, shows a drop in real estate sales from the previous year.”
The number of deeds for March 2023, which reflect real estate sales and transfers, both commercial and residential, was 1,250, a decrease of 17% from March 2022 and an increase of 29% from the previous month of February.
“Although home prices have fallen significantly, they are still higher than pre-pandemic averages, with March 2023 home prices 34% higher than March 2019.” O'Donnell went on to say, “The lack of available real estate inventory is likely one reason why property prices are still higher than they were before the pandemic, along with the desire to live in local communities.”
Sale prices for March appear to have dropped compared to March 2022. The average sale price in March was $886,486, a 21% decrease from March 2022 and a 6% decrease from February 2023. The total dollar volume of commercial and residential sales is down, decreasing 38% from one year ago and increasing 34% from last month.
“A continued decline in the number of deeds and mortgages recorded at the registry may indicate that homeowners who took advantage of lower interest rates in 2020 are hesitant to make moves with average mortgage interest rates above 6%.” O’Donnell added, “Although average sales prices are declining, current homeowners and first-time buyers may be holding out hope for lower interest rates.”
Overall lending activity showed a continued downward trend for the month of March. A total of 1,280 mortgages were recorded this month, 47% less than a year ago at the same time and up 41% from last month.
“According to the data, we are recording significantly fewer mortgages than in the past, which can be attributed to a number of factors that the country is experiencing right now, such as the rising cost of living and a spike in mortgage interest rates,” explained O'Donnell. “These aspects of the economy can affect the local real estate market.”
The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds has been closely monitoring the foreclosure market. In March 2023, there were 4 foreclosure deeds recorded as a result of mortgage foreclosures taking place in Norfolk County, whereas in March 2022, there were 5 recorded. However, in March 2023, there were 30 notices to foreclose, the first step in the foreclosure process, significantly more than the 11 recorded in March 2022.
“The substantial increase in the number of these notices is troubling. It suggests that more of our neighbors may have financial difficulties in the future,” said O'Donnell. “We will continue to monitor these figures.”
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.
“If you are having difficulty paying your monthly mortgage, please consider contacting one of these non-profit agencies for help and guidance,” said Register O’Donnell.
Register O’Donnell concluded, “The limited inventory of available property on the market and the high demand for homes are likely factors in keeping property values above pre-pandemic levels, while the decrease in prices may be due to homebuyers' reluctance to take out mortgages at current interest rates.”