Despite continuing difficulties imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Register of Deeds William P. O’Donnell reported Norfolk County experienced increased numbers in real estate sales and lending activity during the month of November 2020.
“The Norfolk County real estate market,” noted Register O’Donnell, “has been firing on all cylinders during the past several months and November was no exception. 1,669 properties, both residential and commercial, were sold in Norfolk County during November, a 13% increase year over year. Average sales price, again including both residential and commercial sales, increased 7% to $1,079,955. Total sales volume during November was $1.08 billion, a 25% increase compared to November 2019. These numbers are especially impressive considering the impact COVID-19 has had on all communities, not just in Norfolk County but across Massachusetts and the United States. What factors are fueling these strong sales numbers? It appears a perfect storm of strong demand for single family housing in particular, limited supply of available housing stock, and historically low interest rates are motivating buyers to do what is necessary to secure housing.”
In addition to real estate sales, the Norfolk County lending market also had a strong month in November. 4,312 mortgages were recorded during the month, a 49% increase year over year. Total amount of money borrowed for mortgages countywide was $1.8 billion, a 2% increase compared to November 2019. “While some of the mortgages recorded reflect new sales, we are continuing to see a large number of individuals and families refinancing existing mortgages to take advantage of historically low interest rates so they can reduce monthly payments and in other cases pay for home improvements and other capital expenditures,” noted the Register.
The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds has been closely watching the foreclosure market. Since October 17th, there is no longer a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions. This moratorium was previously in place due to the COVID-19 state of emergency. O’Donnell stated, “During November, the Registry recorded 3 foreclosure deeds. Additionally, there were 9 Notice to Foreclose Mortgages, the first step in the foreclosure process, recorded here in Norfolk County. While a foreclosure recording is catastrophic to those it impacts, the low volume of foreclosure recordings appears to reflect lenders being sensitive to the plight of some of their customers who are in dire straits due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Please know we at the Registry are also sympathetic to those facing a housing crisis through no fault of their own.”
“The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds has also been working in close cooperation with Attorney General Maura Healey’s office to ensure there are no abuses being perpetrated against homeowners while the COVID-19 state of emergency is ongoing,” noted O’Donnell.
Additionally, 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 stated, “If you are having difficulty paying your monthly mortgage, please consider contacting one of these non-profit agencies for help and guidance.”
Homestead recordings increased 8% during November. “A Homestead,” noted O’Donnell, “provides limited protection against the forced sale of an individual’s primary residence to satisfy unsecured debt up to $500,000. I would urge anyone who has not availed themselves of this important consumer protection tool to consider doing so.”
In conclusion, Register O’Donnell stated, “Many small businesses and specific sectors of our economy, such as restaurant and hospitality, have been negatively impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. One sector that has continued to thrive during the pandemic is the real estate market, particularly the residential market. There have been many factors that have kept the Norfolk County real estate market viable. Motivated buyers and sellers, low interest rates, and the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds remaining open for the recording of land documents. While the Registry of Deeds building in Dedham remains closed to the general public, we at the Registry remain open operationally to serve our customers, the residents of Norfolk County and real estate professionals alike. By listening to public health officials, practicing social distancing, making sure all staff are wearing masks and taking any and all other steps necessary, the Registry of Deeds has remained open for business. Land documents are being recorded electronically for many of our institutional users. We are also receiving documents via regular mail, Federal Express and from those placed in our drop-off box located just outside our main entrance at 649 High Street, Dedham, MA. As your Norfolk County Register of Deeds, I want to thank all of you for the cooperation, patience and understanding you have shown myself and the Registry staff while this pandemic has been ongoing. Be healthy. Be safe.”
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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 email@example.com.