While the eastern Massachusetts economy was strong in 2017, the Norfolk County real estate market remained challenged when it came to such issues as real estate sales and mortgage lending.
Register of Deeds William P. O’Donnell noted, “An analysis of 2017 real estate activity in Norfolk County showed a total of 18,533 real estate sales transactions, both residential and commercial. This represented 0% growth from 2016. In addition, the total volume of residential and commercial sales last year totaled $8.2 billion, a 10% decline from 2016. The average sales price, again both residential and commercial, was $710,654, a decrease of 8% from the previous year.”
Another falling real estate indicator was a 9% drop in the number of land documents recorded at the Registry in 2017. A total of 152,927 Norfolk County land documents were recorded in 2017 compared to 167,600 in 2016.
The reduction in land documents can be strongly attributed to the falling number of mortgages recorded. A total of 27,563 mortgages were recorded in 2017, representing a 19% decrease from 2016. Total mortgage financing closed at $18.8 billion, a 2% decrease from the previous year. Register O’Donnell stated, “These numbers clearly indicate Norfolk County homeowners are being very careful with taking on debt.”
Norfolk County residents continued to avail themselves of the protections provided by the Homestead Act. A total of 12,670 Homesteads were recorded in 2017, a 1% increase over 2016. O’Donnell noted, “A Homestead provides limited protection against the forced sale of an individual’s primary residence to satisfy unsecured debt up to $500,000. I urge homeowners who have not recorded a Homestead against their primary residence to consider this valuable consumer protection tool.”
Foreclosure activity saw improving results during the 2017 calendar year, but these numbers come with a note of caution. A total of 268 foreclosure deeds were filed in Norfolk County in 2017, compared to 294 in the previous year. In addition, Notice to Foreclose Mortgage, the first step in the foreclosure process, also decreased by 15.1%. Register O’Donnell stated, “These are good numbers year over year, but I want to point out the numbers of Notice to Foreclose Mortgage recordings actually increased a sobering 57% in the 4th quarter of 2017 compared to the 4th quarter of 2016. We will need to closely watch this number to see if a trend develops.”
The Registry continues to work with Quincy Community Action Programs, 617-479-8181 x376, and NeighborWorks Southern Mass, 508-587-0950 to help homeowners who have received a Notice to Foreclose Mortgage document. A third option is to contact the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Consumer Advocacy and Response Division (CARD) at 617-727-8400.
Register O’Donnell concluded, “Just as we are seeing across the country, a lack of real estate inventory is adversely affecting the Norfolk County real estate market. We will not see a significant gain in real estate sales numbers until inventory numbers improve. In addition, consumers continue to be very careful when it comes to borrowing. A particular area of caution is refinancing for big ticket items such as home improvements. Two additional factors that we will need to keep an eye on in 2018 are the affect increased interest rates will have on consumer behavior and the impact the recently signed re-write of the federal tax code will have on people deciding whether to borrow.”
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The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds is located at 649 High Street in Dedham. The Registry is a resource for homeowners, title examiners, mortgage lenders, municipalities and others with a need for secure, accurate, accessible land record information. All land record research information can be found on the Registry’s website www.norfolkdeeds.org. Residents in need of assistance can contact the Registry of Deeds Customer Service Center via telephone at (781) 461-6101, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.