All posts by mwebber

Register O’Donnell Reports Strong 1 st Quarter Real Estate Activity Despite COVID-19

Register of Deeds William P. O’Donnell reported real estate sales and lending activity experienced solid growth in Norfolk County during the first quarter of 2020 (Jan-March).

This growth came despite all the issues encountered with the COVID-19 coronavirus which began to appear in early March.

Register O’Donnell noted, “During the 1 st quarter, real estate sales in Norfolk County, both residential and commercial, rose 9% year over year. There were 3,684 properties sold compared to 3,374 during the 1 st quarter 2019. This growth can be explained by many real estate sales being in the pipeline prior to COVID-19 impacting Massachusetts.
Individuals and businesses were also taking advantage of low interest rates to purchase property.”

The average sales price, again both residential and commercial, during the 1 st quarter was $794,546, an 8% increase from the 1 st quarter of 2019. Additionally, the total volume of residential and commercial sales for the quarter was $1.6 billion, a 17% increase year over year.

In Norfolk County, a dramatic increase was seen in the number of mortgages recorded during the quarter. A total of 7,768 were recorded during the 1 st quarter 2020 compared to 4,532 during the same time period in 2019. “A solid economy prior to COVID-19 and low interest rates were resulting in consumers not only looking to buy property, but also taking advantage of more favorable terms to refinance their existing mortgages,” noted O’Donnell. The number of Homesteads recorded during the 1 st quarter also increased by 9% compared to the 1 st quarter 2019. O’Donnell reiterated the advantages of having a Homestead recorded against a homeowners primary residence. “The Homestead law provides limited protection against the forced sale of an individual’s primary residence to satisfy unsecured debt up to $500,000. I urge Norfolk County homeowners to consider this important consumer protection tool.”

A note of concern during the quarter was the rise in foreclosure activity. “The number of foreclosure deeds recorded,” noted the Register, “was 43, a 19% increase from the 1 st quarter 2019. Also, there was a 63% increase in the number of Notice to Foreclose Mortgage filings, the first step in the foreclosure process.”

The Register also noted, “While the federal government recently ordered foreclosure activity to cease for 60 days in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and many lending institutions have instituted mortgage relief efforts, I am extremely concerned that the current economic upheaval caused by the COVID-19 incident will result in a significant spike in foreclosure activity as we move further into 2020. My office continues to partner with Quincy Community Action Programs, 617-479-8181 x376, and NeighborWorks Southern Mass, 508-587-0950 to help anyone having issues paying their mortgages. These organizations have staff 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 is staffed by knowledgeable professionals. If anyone is facing a foreclosure, I recommend they avail themselves of one of these excellent programs.”

In conclusion Register O’Donnell stated, “While the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has prevented public access to the Registry building, the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds has remained open for the recording of land documents. We have been able to do this by utilizing electronic recording for our institutional users and also recording documents received via regular mail and a drop off box. While doing all we can to keep our employees safe by social distancing, instituting workshifts, utilizing alternate work sites and in some cases having employees work from home, we have been able to remain open to record land documents. By instituting these steps, the Registry of Deeds has done its part to keep the Norfolk County real estate market operational during these trying times. These efforts are a tribute to the professionalism shown by the Registry of Deeds employees and the cooperation and patience shown by our customers and the residents of Norfolk County. Clearly, this pandemic has caused massive economic upheaval. There is no question the impact to the real estate market will be significant in the 2 nd and 3 rd quarters. Our pledge at the Registry of Deeds is to do all we can to help the local real estate economy and serve the residents of Norfolk County.”

To learn more about these and other Registry of Deeds events and initiatives, like us at Facebook/com/NorfolkDeeds or follow us on twitter.com/NorfolkDeeds and/or Instagram.com/NorfolkDeeds.

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 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 registerodonnell@norfolkdeeds.org.

DCU Center in Worcester to be Used as a Field Medical Station

BOSTON — In an effort to relieve pressure on the state’s health care system and provide additional medical capacity, the Baker-Polito Administration today announced that a field medical station with more than 200 beds is scheduled to be set up at the DCU Center in Worcester starting Wednesday.

In anticipation of a surge in COVID-19 cases, the Commonwealth, through the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, requested and received approval for the temporary field medical station, which will be used to treat lower acuity care needs.

“The DCU facility will be the first of three temporary field medical stations the Commonwealth is working to set up after requesting and receiving approval from the federal Strategic National Stockpile,” said Secretary Marylou Sudders who is leading the Massachusetts COVID-19 Response Command Center. “The Commonwealth is actively identifying other sites and partners for the two other facilities.”

The field station, which can be configured to a maximum of 250-beds, is scheduled to arrive for set-up in Worcester on April 1, via three tractor trailers. The DCU Center temporary field medical center will be used to treat lower acuity patients who still need monitoring.

“It’s up to all of us to do our part to help minimize the effects of COVID-19 throughout the Commonwealth. Worcester is uniquely positioned to have a facility in the DCU Center and the expertise of UMass to support a field medical station in the center of the state. The Baker Polito Administration has continually offered their support to many efforts underway in Worcester and we now stand at the ready to make all resources available in this time of crisis,” said Worcester City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr.

UMass Memorial Medical Center will manage the facility, which will be staffed by a partnership including the City of Worcester, UMass Memorial, and others. UMass Memorial will lead the day-to-day running of the facility with support by state and local partners upon set-up.

“The DCU Center already occupies a position of prominence here and its value to the region is about to increase exponentially,” said Eric Dickson, MD, president and CEO of UMass Memorial Health Care. “Our 14,000 caregivers are proud to join forces with Mayor Joseph Petty and the City of Worcester on this state-coordinated effort to expand the capacity of Central Massachusetts’ health care organizations to care for critically ill patients in our area.”

Medical Stations, like the one being deployed to Worcester, are required to set up in facilities of at least 40,000 square feet to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and include beds, supplies, and a cache of medicine for basic care.

“Logistics for this field medical station will be coordinated between the City, UMass Memorial Health Care, and state and local agencies,” said MEMA Director Samantha Phillips.  “MEMA continues to support the logistical needs of the Commonwealth’s coordinated response to COVID-19 and the COVID Command Center.”

Baker-Polito Administration Outlines COVID-19 Surge Modeling, Response Efforts To Boost Hospital Capacity

Press Release

BOSTON — The Baker-Polito Administration’s COVID-19 Response Command Center today outlined projections related to the anticipated surge of COVID-19 cases in the Commonwealth. The projections are the result of the Command Center’s work with medical experts to complete modeling of the outbreak in Massachusetts. The Administration also detailed its efforts to respond to this surge, including a significant increase in hospital capacity, staffing, and equipment. 

COVID-19 Surge Planning: 

Modeling and Projections:

The Administration’s COVID-19 Response Command Center has been working with its Advisory Board of medical experts and epidemiologists from Harvard University, University of Guelph and Northeastern to refine models related to the expected surge of COVID-19 cases. These efforts include modeling the surge’s timing, number of cases, necessary bed capacity, and work to find facilities that will meet overfill capacity. The model’s projections are based on the experience of Wuhan, China, but Massachusetts’ trajectory could differ due to lower population density, lower smoking rates, and earlier social distancing measures. The Command Center has also been comparing to experience in other states and around the world.

The model’s latest projections estimate that the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts could range from 47,000 to 172,000 (or 0.7% to 2.5% of the total population of Massachusetts). The models show hospitalizations would potentially peak between April 10-20. The current fatality rate in Massachusetts is lower than other areas – it is approximately 1.5% of those infected. The Command Center is monitoring this statistic closely.

The COVID-19 Response Command Center is working with hospitals to provide them with flexibility to expand ICU capacity. The Commonwealth is asking academic medical centers and teaching hospitals to work to significantly expand their ICU capacity. But after hospitals execute on their surge plans, the model estimates there could be a remaining gap in ICU capacity of more than 500 beds.

Command Center Projections Chart

Response Efforts:

In response, the Administration is aiming to find or build an additional 750 – 1000 beds in field medical hospitals and other alternate care sites to reduce strain on hospitals as much as possible. Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Polito visited the first of these Field Medical Stations at the DCU Center yesterday.

The Administration has identified additional possible sites for Field Medical Stations including the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, Joint Base Cape Cod, Springfield’s Mass Mutual Building and other smaller locations. The Administration has secured a contractor who can build out sites once a healthcare partner has been finalized. 

The Command Center is also securing 1000 beds in capacity for step-down care options in nursing facilities for stabilized COVID-19 positive patients who can be transferred out of the hospital to make room for those with higher medical need.

MA State Income Tax Filing Deadline Being Extended to July 15

BOSTON — Governor Charlie Baker, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Robert DeLeo today announced an agreement to extend the 2019 state individual income tax filing and payment deadline from April 15 to July 15 due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. This income tax relief is automatic and taxpayers do not need to file any additional forms to qualify.

“Massachusetts will move the state personal income tax filing and payment deadline to July 15, consistent with the federal government, in order to provide additional flexibility to filers during this crisis,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “In partnership with our colleagues in the Legislature, we are committed to providing this flexibility to taxpayers in a way that protects the Commonwealth’s strong fiscal footing that we have all worked hard to develop over the past several years.”

“We are proud to work with the Legislature to provide meaningful relief to people throughout the Commonwealth during this public health emergency,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “This extension will afford taxpayers additional time to file their Massachusetts individual income tax returns as we carry out the historic response to the COVID-19 outbreak.”

“The top priority during this public health crisis is to address the immediate needs facing our residents,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka. “Our message is clear: residents should stay home and avoid social contact to be safe. Extending the tax deadline helps us accomplish that goal and provides peace of mind. I want to thank Chair Rodrigues, as well as our partners in the House and the Administration for their continued collaboration in confronting the challenges facing our Commonwealth.”

“The House, in partnership with the Senate and the Administration, agreed to an extension of the state tax filing deadline to ease the burden on individuals while agreeing to borrowing measures that would protect the Commonwealth’s revenue stream,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. “Thank you to Chair Michlewitz for his leadership in ensuring the Commonwealth’s fiscal viability while providing tax relief to those unduly effected by this crisis.”

Today’s announcement will move the state income tax filing deadline to match the July 15 deadline for filing federal individual income taxes. Legislation will be filed in the near future to finance the extension, and accompanying administrative changes will be implemented through the Department of Revenue. Specifically, the legislation will authorize the Commonwealth borrowing flexibility to manage deferred revenue this fiscal year and repay it in the next fiscal year, which starts July 1, 2020.

Individuals with questions or concerns regarding taxes can contact the Massachusetts Department of Revenue at (617) 887-6367 or send a secure e-message through MassTaxConnect.

The Commonwealth will continue to update the public on further developments and individuals are encouraged to consult both the Department of Public Health and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websites for the most up to date information.

The latest information and guidance regarding COVID-19 is always available at mass.gov/COVID19.

Visit State Parks Responsibly

Press Release

Practice Social Distancing and Avoid Crowds to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19

Department of Conservation & Recreation

With spring-like temperatures expected during this upcoming weekend, the Baker-Polito Administration is reminding visitors to state parks and other outdoor properties to maintain social distancing of at least six feet, avoid gatherings of people, and to practice healthy personal hygiene, to aid in the prevention of spreading the COVID-19 virus. Furthermore, if visitors of state parks observe areas with high concentrations of people, the public is asked to leave the location and either visit a different park in the area or return at a later date or time.

“While enjoying the Commonwealth’s natural resources, it remains critically important that we all practice social distancing to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus and protect our frontline workers and the most vulnerable among us,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “We urge the public to keep yourselves and your families safe by avoiding groups of people and going to less crowded places to get exercise and fresh air.”

Additionally, while visiting state parks and other locations, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) also advises individuals to participate in non-contact recreational activities, for example hiking, bike riding, and jogging. Furthermore, if an individual is ill, over 70, and/or part of a vulnerable population, please stay home to avoid the risk of contracting the disease.

The state parks system has over 450,000 acres of property, and every region of the state has hidden gem state park locations to explore that may be less busy than more popular park locations. The DCR website provides visitors the ability to search state parks by both region and recreational activity.

“The Massachusetts state parks system offers excellent opportunities for us all to get outside, which is important for everybody’s mental and physical health,” said DCR Commissioner Jim Montgomery. “However, visitors should adhere to staying at home as much as possible to reduce the risk of becoming in contact with the virus and potentially spreading it to others.”

Visitors are reminded that the agency has removed trash receptacles throughout the state parks system to aid in the prevention of spreading COVID-19. DCR asks that all visitors of state parks adhere to a “carry in, carry out” trash policy during this public health emergency, and urges visitors do their part to help protect our shared natural resources by leaving no trace and taking any trash with them.

DCR has created a Massachusetts State Parks COVID-19 webpage that centralizes virus updates that impact the state parks system. The webpage provides visitors of state parks with information including the closure of certain agency facilities, like visitor centers, playgrounds and restroom facilities and other pertinent information.