Register O’Donnell Delivers 2023 First Quarter Real Estate Activity Report

Dedham – Norfolk County Register of Deeds William P. O’Donnell reported that Norfolk County recordings for the first quarter of 2023 (January-March 2023) indicate a continued decrease in overall real estate activity, with significant drops in mortgage activity and property sales as compared to the first quarter of 2022. 

“During the recently completed 2023 first quarter, real estate activity fluctuated in line with seasonal trends, but showed an overall decrease compared to the first quarter of 2022,” said Register of Deeds William P. O’Donnell.

The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds recorded 22,704 documents in the first quarter of 2023. This was 34% less than the first quarter of 2022.

“Property sales have decreased compared to the previous year, however, they are trending closer to the numbers that were seen prior to the pandemic, with property sales in the first quarter of 2023 being 4% lower than the first quarter of 2019,” said Register O’Donnell.

The number of deeds for the first quarter of 2023, which reflect real estate sales and transfers, both commercial and residential, was 3,252, a decrease of 18% from the first quarter of 2022.

Register O’Donnell noted, “The lack of available real estate inventory is one likely reason why property prices are still higher than they were before the pandemic.” O’Donnell added, “Another reason for current property prices is the desire for individuals to live in Norfolk County communities.”

Sale prices for the first quarter have decreased compared to the first quarter of 2022. The average sale price in the first quarter was $892,783, a 29% decrease from the first quarter of 2022. The total dollar volume of commercial and residential sales is down, decreasing 47% from the same period a year ago.

“The steady drop in the number of mortgages recorded at the registry may indicate that homeowners who took advantage of lower interest rates in 2020 and 2021 are hesitant to make moves with average mortgage interest rates significantly higher.” O’Donnell added, “Although average sales prices are declining, current homeowners and first-time buyers may be holding out hope for lower interest rates. Also, the higher interest rates drive up the cost of purchasing a home, which affects not just first-time buyers but all buyers of real estate.”

Overall lending activity showed a continued downward trend for the first quarter. A total of 3,190 mortgages were recorded this quarter, 52% less than the first quarter of 2022.

“According to the data, we are recording significantly fewer mortgages than in the past, which can be attributed to a number of factors that the country is experiencing right now, such as the rising cost of living and a spike in mortgage interest rates,” explained O’Donnell. “These aspects of the economy can affect the local real estate market.”

The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds has been closely monitoring the foreclosure market. In the first quarter of 2023, there were 16 foreclosure deeds recorded as a result of mortgage foreclosures taking place in Norfolk County, whereas in the first quarter of 2022, there were 20 recorded. However, in the first quarter of 2023, there were 103 notices to foreclose, the first step in the foreclosure process, significantly more than the 56 recorded in the first quarter of 2022.

“The substantial increase in the number of these notices is troubling. It suggests that more of our neighbors may have financial difficulties in the future,” said O’Donnell. “We will continue to monitor these figures.”

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.

“If you are having difficulty paying your monthly mortgage, please consider contacting one of these non-profit agencies for help and guidance,” said Register O’Donnell.

Register O’Donnell concluded, “The first quarter of 2023 revealed a real estate market fluctuating in line with seasonal trends and a market that is showing declining property prices likely due to high mortgage interest rates limiting the number individuals who can afford to buy a home.”

The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds will be closed on Thursday, July 4th in celebration of Independence Day. We are open Friday, July 5th.

The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds is closed Today, July 4th in celebration of Independence Day. We are open Friday, July 5th.