While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the lives of many in our state and local communities, Register of Deeds William P. O’Donnell reported Norfolk County experienced significant growth in both real estate sales and lending numbers during the month of October 2020.
Register O’Donnell stated, “I was pleasantly surprised to see October experience such a robust month of real estate sales activity throughout Norfolk County. A total of 1,874 properties, both residential and commercial, changed hands in October, a 14% increase compared to the previous year. Average sales price, again factoring in residential and commercial sales, topped the one million mark landing at $1,015,958, a 16% increase compared to October 2019. Total sales volume was $1.2 billion, a significant 44% increase year over year. Despite COVID-19 and a limited inventory of available housing stock, the availability of low interest rates is encouraging individuals and families to buy property with the result being increased property sales prices throughout Norfolk County.”
The Norfolk County lending market showed no signs of slowing down during October. 4,522 mortgages were recorded, a 34% increase year over year. Total amount of money borrowed for mortgages countywide was $2.2 billion, a 17% increase compared to October 2019. “Individuals and families are not only taking advantage of low interest rates to buy property, existing mortgages are being refinanced to reduce monthly payments and in other cases pay for high ticket capital expenses including home remodeling and education costs,” stated the Register.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has been ongoing, foreclosure activity has been drastically reduced due to the moratorium placed on foreclosures and evictions. However, the moratorium on foreclosures and evictions expired on October 17th. O’Donnell stated, “The Registry of Deeds is aware of important discussions taking place at the State House involving the Governor’s office, legislative leadership, the courts and other stakeholders trying to figure out if and when the moratorium on foreclosures and evictions will be put back in place. We at the Registry are sympathetic to those individuals and families who are facing a housing crisis through no fault of their own. It is our hope that the various financial and legal questions surrounding this issue can be worked out to everyone’s satisfaction.”
“Additionally, while we continue to closely track developments surrounding the foreclosure and eviction issue,” stated O’Donnell, “the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds has been working in lockstep with Attorney General Maura Healey’s office monitoring protections afforded to homeowners affected by the COVID-19 state of emergency. Again, we at the Registry of Deeds are very sensitive to how this pandemic has caused upheaval in people’s lives, and in some cases negatively impacted homeowners ability to pay their mortgage.”
The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds continues to partner 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 an issue paying your mortgage, please consider contacting one of these agencies for help and guidance. Each of these agencies are staffed with professionals who can help.”
Homestead recordings increased 24% during October. “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, “By staying open for business during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Registry of Deeds has allowed the real estate market to thrive here in Norfolk County. Despite fears expressed by many back in March and April, real estate sales numbers and lending activity have remained strong throughout the county. As evidenced by the figures seen in October, there is no sign this robust sales and lending activity will diminish anytime soon. As long as interest rates remain low, Norfolk County should experience a strong and viable real estate market. One area of concern is whether we are effectively eliminating the possibility of many working men and women and young couples from being able to afford housing costs in Norfolk County. There are no easy answers to this question as sales prices are being driven by market forces including a lack of available housing stock.”
“While the Registry of Deeds building in Dedham remains closed to the general public, we at the Registry continue to serve our customers, the residents of Norfolk County and real estate professionals alike. By listening to health officials, we have practiced social distancing, made sure all staff is wearing masks and taken all other steps to ensure we remain open for business. 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, please know how much I appreciate the cooperation, patience and understanding you have shown myself and the Registry staff while this pandemic has been ongoing. Working together, we will all get through this. 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.