Typically, February as one of the winter months does not have as great an amount of real estate activity as other months in the calendar year. However, despite the above and despite the continuing challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Register of Deeds William P. O’Donnell reported increased numbers in many real estate categories during the month of February 2021 compared to February of 2020.
“The Norfolk County real estate market” noted Register O’Donnell, “has continued to be busy. Historically, February as one of the winter months does not see as much real estate activity. However, there were 15,549 documents recorded at the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds which is a 44% increase over last year’s February document volume. There were 1,250 deeds recorded out of this document volume, representing a 16% increase over February of last year. Average sale price, again including both residential and commercial sales, increased 13% over 2020 to $860,812.32. The real estate numbers are robust especially considering that last year’s February real estate numbers were prior to the onset of COVID-19 and the COVID-19 emergency declarations.”
In addition to real estate sales, the Norfolk County lending market has been busy in February. There were 4,389 mortgages recorded during the month which is a 103% increase over 2020. Total amount of money borrowed for mortgages county wide was over 1.6 billon, a 19% increase compared to February 2020. “While some of the mortgages are due to purchases and sales of real estate, there are a large number of individuals and families taking advantage off historically low interest rates by refinancing existing mortgages. Individuals have different motivations to refinance. Some refinance to reduce their monthly payments, others to take some years off their debt while still others are using the money to pay for home improvements and other capital expenditures” said Register O’Donnell.
Register O’Donnell went on to state, “There has been a strong demand for housing, single family housing particular, coupled with a limited supply of available housing stock and historically low interest rates which could be motivating buyers to do what is necessary to secure housing. Lending activity was up. The growth in numbers seen in 2020 continues into 2021. However, there are expectations that for 2021 many of the numbers may not be as expansive as what took place in 2020. Yet February 2021 statistics exceeded February 2020 statistics.”
The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds has been closely watching the foreclosure market. A moratorium on foreclosures in place during the pandemic in 2020 was lifted on October 17, 2020. This moratorium was in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. O’Donnell stated, “During February of 2021 there was only 1 foreclosure deed recorded as a result of foreclosure processes taking place in Norfolk County. Additionally, there were 6 Notices to Foreclosure Mortgages, the first step in the foreclosure process, recorded here in Norfolk County. A foreclosure recording is very impactful on those being foreclosed on. These numbers are extremely low especially when you consider in February of 2020 pre-COVID there were 51 Notices to Foreclosure Mortgages and 18 foreclosure Deeds. The foreclosure numbers in the future bear watching given the negative economic impacts of COVID-19.”
“The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds has also been working in close cooperation with Attorney General Maura Healey’s office to ensure there are no abuses being perpetrated against homeowners while the COVID-19 state of emergency is ongoing,” noted O’Donnell.
Additionally, for the past several years, the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds has partnered 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. Register O’Donnell stated, “If you are having difficulty paying your monthly mortgage, please consider contacting one of these non-profit agencies for help and guidance.”
Homestead recordings by owners of homes and condominiums continue to occur at the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds in February. There was a 17% increase in homestead recordings in February 2021 compared to February 2020. “A Homestead,” noted O’Donnell, “provides limited protection against the forced sale of an individual’s primary residence to satisfy unsecured debt up to $500,000. It is great to see folks protecting the biggest asset most of us have, our homes. I would urge anyone who has not availed themselves of this important consumer protection tool to consider doing so. Please visit the Registry website at www.norfolkdeeds.org to get more information on homestead protection.”
In conclusion, Register O’Donnell stated, “Many small businesses and specific sectors of our economy, such as restaurant and hospitality, have been negatively impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. One sector that has continued to thrive during the pandemic is the real estate market, particularly the residential market. There have been many factors that have kept the Norfolk County real estate market viable. Motivated buyers and sellers, low interest rates, and the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds remaining open for the recording of land documents. While the Registry of Deeds building in Dedham remains closed to the general public, we at the Registry remain open operationally to serve our customers, the residents of Norfolk County and real estate professionals alike. By listening to public health officials, practicing social distancing, making sure all staff are wearing masks and taking any and all other steps necessary, the Registry of Deeds has remained open for business. Land documents are being recorded electronically for many of our institutional users. We are also receiving documents via regular mail, Federal Express and from those placed in our drop-off box located just outside our main entrance at 649 High Street, Dedham, MA. As your Norfolk County Register of Deeds, I want to thank all of you for the cooperation, patience and understanding you have shown myself and the Registry staff while this pandemic has been ongoing. Be healthy. Be safe.”
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.