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.”
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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 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.