Register O’Donnell Reports Solid Real Estate Performance Despite COVID-19

While the COVID-19 pandemic caused personal and economic upheaval in the lives of one and all, Register of Deeds William P. O’Donnell reports the Norfolk County real estate market remained viable and strong throughout the 2020 calendar year.


“By remaining open for the recording of land documents while the COVID-19 pandemic has been ongoing,” noted Register O’Donnell, “the Norfolk County real estate market was able to remain viable in 2020. Coupled with low interest rates and motivated buyers and sellers, the 2020 Norfolk County real estate market produced solid results across the board, in particular strong lending numbers.”


O’Donnell stated, “During 2020, a total of 18,413 residential and commercial real estate sales transactions were recorded, no statistical change from 2019 but a solid result nonetheless. Total real estate dollar sales, again both residential and commercial, increased 12% to $10.3 billion. The average real estate sales transaction price, combining both residential and commercial sales, was $903,423, an increase of 12% from the previous year. The increases seen in housing prices, particularly residential housing, was a direct result of buyers competing for a limited number of available housing stock.”


Register O’Donnell noted there was a total of 179,260 land documents recorded at the Registry during 2020, a 19% increase compared to the previous year. “A primary cause of the land document recording increase in 2020 was a 54% increase in the number of mortgages, including mortgage refinances and home equity loans, recorded countywide. Specifically, a total of 45,669 mortgages were recorded during the year versus 29,740 recorded in 2019. Total mortgage financing increased 18% year over year coming in at $20.7 billion. This huge increase in mortgage recordings can be attributed to historically low mortgage interest rates seen during 2020,” noted the Register.


Calendar year 2020 saw Norfolk County property owners continue to avail themselves of the protections provided by the Homestead Act. A total of 12,487 Homesteads were recorded, no statistical change from 2019. Register O’Donnell reminded Norfolk County homeowners about the importance of having Homestead protection. “A Homestead provides limited protection against the forced sale of a homeowner’s primary residence to satisfy unsecured debt up to $500,000. For more information about the Homestead, please consult the Registry’s website”


During 2020, the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds closely monitored the foreclosure market. From April 20, 2020 through October 17, 2020 a moratorium on foreclosure and evictions was in place throughout Massachusetts. Register O’Donnell noted, “The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds worked in close cooperation with Attorney General Maura Healey’s office to ensure there were no abuses being perpetrated against homeowners while the COVID-19 state of emergency foreclosure moratorium was taking place. With the moratorium on foreclosures concluded, we have begun to see a small number of foreclosure deeds and notice to foreclose mortgages, the first step in the foreclosure process, cross our desks here at the Registry. We at the Registry of Deeds are very sensitive to the plight of those facing challenges paying their mortgage payments. Some of our neighbors are facing choices between paying for food and paying for housing. As we have throughout my tenure, 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. If you or someone you know is having difficulty paying the monthly mortgage payment, please consider contacting one of these non-profit agencies for help and guidance.”


Register O’Donnell concluded, “2020 was certainly a year of challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic tested all of us in many unique and profound ways. While all of us have been impacted on a personal level, some were more economically impacted than others. Many small businesses and sectors of our economy, such as restaurant and hospitality, were devastated by the pandemic. Fortunately, the Norfolk County real estate market was able to remain viable. By listening to public health officials, practicing social distancing, implementing split shifts during portions of the calendar year, utilizing our disaster recovery site, the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds was able to remain open for business to serve our customers, the residents of Norfolk County and real estate professionals alike. By continuing to record land documents here at the Registry, sellers and buyers of real estate were able to reap the benefits of real estate transactions. Deeds excise monies collected were forwarded to the state where they helped pay for critical programs at the state, county and local levels including health care, education and law enforcement. The COVID-19 pandemic continues. Some say the worst is yet to come. Please know the Registry of Deeds will do all it can to remain open for business while ensuring the safety of our employees. While our office remains physically closed to the general public, the Registry of Deeds remains operational. The Registry staff continues to record documents electronically for our institutional users, and are accepting land documents via Federal Express and regular mail. There is also a drop-off box located just outside the main entrance to our building located at 649 High Street, Dedham, MA. As your Norfolk County Register of Deeds, I want to wish of you a happy and healthy 2021, how could it not be better, and thank each and every one of you for the cooperation, patience and understanding you have shown myself and my staff during this challenging year in all our lives. 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  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 protected].




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.