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Register of Deeds William P. O’Donnell reported despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and high unemployment rate seen in Massachusetts, the Norfolk County real estate market more than held its own during the month of August 2020.
Register O’Donnell noted, “During August, a total of 1,865 real estate sales transactions, both residential and commercial, were recorded. This represented a slight 2% increase year over year. However, the average sales price for a property, again both residential and commercial, actually fell 9% to $877,906. Also, the total real estate sales volume in Norfolk County, both residential and commercial, also fell 9% to $1.1 billion. The drop in average sales price and total sales volume can be explained by the $270 million sale of the Windsor Gardens apartment complex located in Norwood and Walpole that took place in August 2019.”
Norfolk County lending numbers continued to show significant strength in August. A total of 4,096 mortgages were recorded countywide, a 36% increase from the previous year. In addition, the total dollar amount borrowed in Norfolk County also increased 24% to $2 billion. “These numbers,” noted the Register, “are a direct result of historically low interest rates and the continuing appeal of Norfolk County as a place to live and work. A recent announcement by Fed Chairman Jerome Powell indicates low interest rates may persist well into the next year no matter what happens with the economy.”
Homestead recordings also showed some life in August. A total of 1,344 Homesteads were recorded, a 2% increase compared to August 2019. Register O’Donnell stated, “I am especially pleased to see Norfolk County homeowners taking advantage of the benefits afforded by the Homestead law. It is another layer of protection that can be utilized by a homeowner on their primary residence. Specifically, a Homestead prevents the forced sale of a homeowner’s primary residence to satisfy unsecured debt up to $500,000.”
During August, a total of 5 foreclosure deeds were recorded against Norfolk County property. However, due to the ongoing statewide moratorium against initiation of foreclosure or eviction activity, no Notice to Foreclose Mortgages, the first step in the foreclosure process, were recorded.
Register O’Donnell stated, “While the vast majority of foreclosure activity has been suspended while the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing, we know many of our neighbors and friends are experiencing economic hardship due to the pandemic. One of the programs I am most proud of here at the Registry of Deeds is our ongoing partnership with Quincy Community Action Programs (QCAP), 617-479-8181 x376, and NeighborWorks Housing Solutions, 508-587-0950. Each of these agencies are staffed by knowledgeable professionals who can help individuals and families who are facing challenges paying their monthly mortgage payment. Another program available is the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Consumer Advocacy and Response Division (CARD) at 617-727-8400. Like QCAP and NeighborWorks Housing Solutions, the CARD program can help those having difficulty paying their mortgage. Each of these programs are excellent examples of non-profit and government agencies helping those in need.”
Concluding his remarks, Register O’Donnell stated, “I am pleased and frankly happily surprised by the relative strength of the Norfolk County real estate market while the COVID-19 pandemic has been ongoing. The importance of low interest rates can not be overstated as the primary reason for these solid sales and lending numbers. As long as interest rates remain low, we should be able to sustain these numbers in Norfolk County. Additionally, real estate observers are continuing to see the demand for housing far exceeding the available supply. Antidotally, we have been made aware of instances of housing selling for above the original asking price. While all of us are hopeful a vaccine to eradicate COVID-19 will be available sooner than later, the after effects of the pandemic will be interesting to watch. Will remote work continue to be utilized by companies large and small? Will remote work result in individuals and families considering more rural areas to live? Going forward, will individuals and families be more inclined to live in single-family homes as opposed to condominiums? These are just a few of the many questions facing the Norfolk County real estate market over the next few months and years.”
“I want to remind Norfolk County citizens and all our users that the Registry of Deeds building continues to remain closed to the general public and real estate professionals alike. This is being done out of an abundance of caution. Registry staff continues to be onsite doing the important work of recording land documents in a safe, accurate and secure manner. We are receiving documents via regular mail, Federal Express and a drop-off box located just outside the main entrance to our building located at 649 High Street, Dedham, MA. Many of our institutional users, banks, law firms, title companies, are utilizing electronic recording for their land document submissions. I urge any institutional user not using electronic recording to consider its usage.”
“Finally, I want to thank all Norfolk County residents for their patience and understanding while the pandemic has been ongoing. It has not been easy but working in a spirit of cooperation, the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds has been able to remain open. This has kept the Norfolk County real estate market viable benefiting individuals, families and real estate professionals alike. I am hopeful the end of this pandemic will be sooner than later. In the meantime, 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.