Register of Deeds William P. O’Donnell reported Norfolk County real estate activity continued to experience a slowdown during the 3rd quarter 2017, (July-Sept). The one bright note among the sobering statistics was the continued reduction in foreclosure activity.
Register O’Donnell noted, “There is no question real estate activity numbers were disappointing for the 3rd quarter. The total number of real estate sales in Norfolk County, both residential and commercial, was 5,085, a 4% reduction from the previous year. In addition, the total dollar sales volume, for both the residential and commercial sectors, decreased by 23% to $2.2 billion. Lastly, the average real estate sales price, for combined residential and commercial stock was $653,539.”
“The Norfolk County real estate market,” noted O’Donnell, “is being impacted by the same sluggish headwinds affecting real estate sales throughout Massachusetts and nationwide: low inventory levels. It is especially the case with starter homes, as potential new homeowners attempt to crack the market. This is good news for sellers, but frustrating and disappointing news for first-time buyers.”
Another sobering indicator was a 14% reduction in the total number of land documents recorded at the Registry during the 3rd quarter. "In addition to the reduced number of real estate sales, the overall decline in the number of land documents recorded can be directly attributed to a reduced number of mortgage recordings,” noted O’Donnell.
Regarding mortgage activity, 7,300 mortgages were recorded during the quarter compared to 9,717 during the same time period in 2016. An anomaly was seen with total mortgage borrowing increasing by 69% during the quarter to $7.8 billion. This number was skewed by a $1.6 billion mortgage against a commercial property in Weymouth. The Register stated, “There is no question the lending market is being negatively driven by the reduced amount of real estate sales as well as the creeping rise in interest rates.”
Another slowdown in consumer activity was seen in the lowering number of Norfolk County homeowners availing themselves of the Homestead Act. A total of 3,543 Homesteads were recorded during the 3rd quarter, a 5% decrease year over year. “The Homestead law provides limited protection against the forced sale of an individual’s primary residence to satisfy unsecured debt up to $500,000. I urge Norfolk County residents to consider this consumer protection tool,” noted O’Donnell.
As previously stated, foreclosure activity was one of the few bright spots experienced during the quarter. The total number of foreclosure deeds recorded was 61, a 27% decrease year over year. More significantly, the number of Notice to Foreclose Mortgage recordings, the first step in the foreclosure process, fell 49% from the 3rd quarter of 2016.
O’Donnell stated, “While the decrease in foreclosure recordings was certainly good news, I realize this is little consolation to those facing the threat of foreclosure. 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, “It is not surprising that we saw disappointing real estate activity numbers, especially when you consider the low level of housing inventory. These numbers especially impact first-time homebuyers who are trying to buy property at an affordable price. Furthermore, we are also seeing the effect it has on the lending market. While the eastern Massachusetts economy generally remains on solid footing, any increases in interest rates will only make the recovery a more challenging one for real estate sales and financing.”
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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.