Register of Deeds William P. O’Donnell reported a surge in mortgage lending prevented what would have been a disappointing month of May for the Norfolk County real estate market.
“During May 2020, 1,194 real estate sales were recorded, a 31% decrease year over year. However, the average sales price, both residential and commercial, actually increased 40% to $984,666. This number was impacted by a $51 million sale recorded against a Canton commercial property on 5/29/20. Total dollar sales volume for May was $659 million, a 16% decrease from the previous year. There is no question the COVID-19 pandemic continues to negatively impact real estate sales activity county wide. Real Estate Brokers and Agents continue to report being unable to hold open houses. With the economy beginning to reopen, we are optimistic real estate sales numbers will pick up, if not in June hopefully later in the summer and early fall,” noted the Register.
During May, homeowners continued to take advantage of low interest rates to refinance existing mortgages. The month of May saw a total of 3,564 mortgages recorded in Norfolk County, a 43% increase compared to May 2019. Total mortgage borrowing came in at $1.35 billion. “These past few months,” noted O’Donnell, “have been extraordinary for the Norfolk County lending market. It will be interesting to see how long this momentum can be sustained.”
A total of 7 foreclosure deeds were recorded in May. However, there were 0 Notice to Foreclose Mortgages, the first step in the foreclosure process, recorded during the month. This reflects the moratorium placed on foreclosures and evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Register O’Donnell stated, “While foreclosure activity fell this past month, the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds continues to partner with two non-profit organizations that counsel and assist those struggling with foreclosure. The groups are Quincy Community Action Programs, 617-479-8181 x376, and NeighborWorks Housing Solutions, 508-587-0950. These organizations are available to help anyone who has received a Notice to Foreclose Mortgage from a lender or is struggling to make mortgage payments. Another option is to contact the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Consumer Advocacy and Response Division (CARD) at 617-727-8400. Each of these programs are staffed by knowledgeable professionals. Anyone who is facing a foreclosure issue is urged to avail themselves of these excellent programs.”
Homestead activity again showed reduced numbers in May. A total of 796 Homestead documents were recorded during the month, a 31% decrease from the previous year. “The Homestead law provides limited protection against the forced sale of a homeowner’s primary residence to satisfy unsecured debt up to $500,000. I urge Norfolk County homeowners to consider this important consumer protection tool,” noted O’Donnell.
In conclusion, Register O’Donnell stated, “During May, the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds remained open for the recording of land documents. This occurred despite all the issues surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. While our building was closed to the general public and real estate professionals alike, Registry operations continued unabated. We continued to utilize social distancing and split work shifts to keep the Registry office functioning. A key factor in our ability to remain operationally viable was the utilization of electronic recording for our institutional users. We also continued to receive land documents for recording from both regular mail and Federal Express. Also, a drop-off box in front of our main entrance at 649 High Street, Dedham, MA continues to be available for those individuals who want to bring their land documents to the Registry for recording.
“Looking at the numbers, there is no question the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound and significant impact on the Norfolk County real estate market. What has saved us is a remarkable run in the mortgage lending market fueled by low interest rates. By keeping our office open for the recording of land documents, we have allowed the Norfolk County real estate market to remain viable. Norfolk County residents need to know that the recording fee and deeds excise tax monies collected are utilized by state, county, and local governments to pay for critical services including education, police & fire, and social services needed by many of our neighbors and those less fortunate. We again want to thank all Norfolk County residents for their patience and understanding during this pandemic. Be healthy. Be safe.”
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The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds is located at 649 High Street, 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.