Register of Deeds William P. O’Donnell reported during the month of April, strong mortgage lending numbers, fueled by historically low interest rates, more than offset a downturn in real estate sales numbers in Norfolk County.
“During April 2020, a total of 1,101 real estate sales were recorded, a 20% decrease from April of 2019. The average sales price, both residential and commercial, was statistically unchanged year over year coming in at $799,969. However, total dollar sales volume for the month was $577.5 million, a 13% decrease from the previous year. Clearly, the COVID-19 pandemic is having an adverse effect on real estate sales county wide. During April, Real Estate Brokers and Agents reported being unable to hold open houses. As state officials receive assurances from public health personnel that it is safe to gradually re-open the local economy, we are hopeful a pent up demand for real estate in Norfolk County will show itself in the coming months,” stated the Register.
One area where the COVID-19 pandemic is seemingly not having an adverse impact is the mortgage lending market. During April, a total of 3,495 mortgages were recorded in Norfolk County, a significant 73% increase year over year. Total mortgage borrowing came in at just over $1.6 billion. “As we have seen for the past few months, consumers are taking advantage of low interest rates to not only finance new home sales but refinance existing mortgages,” noted Register O’Donnell.
Foreclosure activity ground to a halt in April. On April 20th, Governor Baker signed into law Chapter 65, Acts of 2020 which provided for a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Register O’Donnell stated, “I applaud the actions of the Massachusetts Legislature and Governor Baker in approving this critical legislation. Many of our neighbors have experienced significant economic hardship during the pandemic. During this unprecedented time in our history, families need to know they will not lose their home through no fault of their own.”
The Registry of Deeds has a long standing relationship 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. 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.
While reduced numbers were seen in April, Norfolk County homeowners continued to avail themselves of the protections offered through the Homestead Act. During the month, 735 Homestead documents were recorded, a 21% 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, “I am proud to report that during the ongoing COVID-19 state of emergency, the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds has remained open for the recording of land documents. While our building has been closed to the general public and real estate professionals alike, Registry operations have continued unabated. We have utilized social distancing and split work shifts to keep the Registry office functioning. Registry personnel have been able to record land documents by utilizing electronic recording for our institutional users. Additionally, we have received land documents for recording from both regular mail and Federal Express. There is even a drop-off box in front of our main entrance at 649 High Street, Dedham, MA for those individuals who want to bring their land documents for recording. None of this could have been accomplished without the cooperation of the general public, our users and the professionalism of the Registry staff.
“By staying open, we have allowed the Norfolk County real estate market to continue to be viable. Buyers and sellers of real estate have benefited. Consumers have been able to reap the benefits of historically low interest rates. Additionally, the revenues collected through transaction fees and deeds excise tax have been forwarded to the state and county. These monies, $56 million of which was collected during calendar year 2019, continue to be utilized by our state, county and local communities to help pay for critical social services, education, law enforcement and other critical needs. Our goal is to remain operational through the COVID-19 state of emergency. We are hopeful that the eventual re-opening of the local economy will not only have a positive impact on all but provide a boost to the local real estate economy. We thank all Norfolk County residents for their patience and understanding during this extraordinary time in our lives. 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 email@example.com.