While the eastern Massachusetts economy remained strong during 2018, the Norfolk County real estate market continued to experience mixed results when it came to sales and mortgage lending activity.
Register of Deeds William P. O’Donnell noted, “A yearly review of 2018 real estate activity in Norfolk County showed a total of 18,124 residential and commercial real estate sales transactions. This represented a 2% decrease from 2017. However, the volume of residential and commercial total dollar sales increased by 19% last year. The average sales, again both residential and commercial, was $841,414, an increase of 22% from the previous year.”
The Register noted that there was an 8% reduction in the number of land documents recorded at the Registry in 2018 with a total of 141,159 compared to 152,927 in 2017. “A key factor in the overall decrease in land documents recorded,” noted O’Donnell, “stemmed from the reduced number of mortgages filed at the Registry. A total of 24,503 mortgages were recorded in 2018, representing an 11% decrease from 2017. Also, total mortgage financing closed at $17.7 billion, a 6% decrease from the previous year.”
In 2018 on the consumer front, Norfolk County residents continued to avail themselves of the protections provided by the Homestead Act. A total of 12,102 Homesteads were recorded, resulting in a 4% decrease from 2017. O’Donnell reiterated the importance of having Homestead protection. “A Homestead provides limited protection against the forced sale of an individual’s primary residence to satisfy unsecured debt up to $500,000. I urge homeowners who have not already recorded a Homestead against their primary residence to consider this valuable consumer protection tool.”
Foreclosure activity saw some improving signs. A total of 221 foreclosure deeds were filed in Norfolk County during 2018 compared to 268 in the previous year, an 18% decrease. Additionally, Notice to Foreclose Mortgage, the first step in the foreclosure process, also decreased by 10.9% during the same time period. “I am pleased that reduced foreclosure activity was seen in Norfolk County during 2018. With that said, we must always remember that some of our neighbors will experience economic hardship and will need assistance,” noted the Register.
To help those experiencing challenges paying their mortgage, the Registry continues to work in partnership with Quincy Community Action Programs, 617-479-8181 x376, and NeighborWorks Southern Mass, 508-587-0950. These organizations are equipped 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, “As we start 2019, the major real estate stories continue to be housing inventory and interest rates. However, there is good news. Due to market forces, mortgage interest rates are now at their lowest levels in 8 months, fueling hopes that more people will soon enter the lending market to refinance or buy their first home. However, a move by the Federal Reserve to once again increase rates would certainly cause some consumers to pause about buying big ticket items.”
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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.