Register O’Donnell Reports Good Start to 2017 Real Estate Season

Register of Deeds William P. O’Donnell reported a good but not spectacular start to 2017 Norfolk County real estate scene. While sales volume exhibited a modest increase, lending activity showed solid gains in both the number of mortgages recorded and the overall amount of money lent to home and business owners.

During the month of January 2017, the total volume of residential and commercial real estate sales increased by 3% to $532 million from the previous January. The average sale price, again including both residential and commercial, did not show any statistical change from January 2016. The average sale price for the month was $678,916. Register O’Donnell noted, “While the number did not pop, Norfolk County did hold its own.”

On the other hand, lending activity was more robust in January than compared to one -year ago with a total of 2,282 mortgages recorded, a significant 15% increase from the previous year. “What these numbers prove,” stated O’Donnell “is that consumers and businesses people continue to take advantage of relatively low interest rates in a historical context. Some of the increase in mortgage activity may also be tied to interest rates starting to creep up.” In addition, total mortgage lending in January increased an eye-popping 131% to $1.7 billion. This figure was influenced by a $573 million mortgage taken out against Quincy property in early January.

Norfolk County foreclosure activity was a mixed bag in January. The bad news was 30 foreclosure deeds were filed compared to 15 the previous January, a 100% increase. The good news was a significant decrease in the number of Notice to Foreclose Mortgage filings, the first step in the foreclosure process. A total of 41 Notice to Foreclose Mortgage filings were recorded in January compared to 97 in January, 2015.

Register O’Donnell noted, “As I have stated many times, one foreclosure deed filing is one too many. However I do continue to be encouraged by the trend lines relative to foreclosure activity. As we saw in the 4th quarter 2016, there continues to be a reduction in the number of Notice to Foreclose Mortgage filings, which could have been triggered by the state’s low unemployment rate of 2.8%, the lowest in 16 years.

“With that said, some of our neighbors do continue to face economic hardship. The Registry continues to partner with Quincy Community Action Programs at (617) 479-8181 x-376 and NeighborWorks Southern Mass at (508) 598-0950 to help anyone who has received a Notice to Foreclose Mortgage from a lender. Another option for consumers is to call the Massachusetts Attorney General’s HomeCorps program at (617) 573-5333. I urge anyone who is facing a foreclosure issue to avail themselves of these excellent programs.”

However, a source of good news was Norfolk County homeowners continuing to avail themselves of the Homestead Act. “A Homestead,” stated O’Donnell, “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 recorded a Homestead against their primary residence to consider this valuable consumer protection tool.”

In conclusion, Register O’Donnell stated, “Overall, when considering all the indicators January was a good month for real estate activity in Norfolk County. The county held its own relative to property sales. Additionally, homeowners continue to avail themselves of the relatively low interest rates. As long as the economy remains sound, I am hopeful that the Norfolk County real estate market can gain further momentum.”

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The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds, located at 649 High Street, Dedham is the principal office for real property in Norfolk County. The Registry is a resource for homeowners, title examiners, mortgage lenders, municipalities and others with a need for secure, accurate, accessible land record information. Residents in need of assistance can contact the Registry of Deeds Customer Service Center via telephone at (781) 461-6101, or on the web at

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