Norfolk County Register of Deeds William P. O’Donnell reported that Norfolk County recordings for the month of December 2022 indicate a continued decrease in overall real estate activity, with significant drops in mortgage activity and the average property sale price as compared to the December 2021 numbers.
In December, there were 9,429 documents recorded at the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds, a 37% decrease from December 2021 and a slight increase of 5% from November 2022.
"The real estate market is feeling the effects of inflation and steadily rising interest rates, which is limiting how much money customers can save," said O’Donnell. "The total number of documents is much lower in December 2022 than it was in December 2021, but the change from last month is less pronounced. The number of recorded deeds, which is one measure of document volume, shows a drop in real estate sales from the previous year."
The number of deeds for December 2022, which reflect real estate sales and transfers, both commercial and residential was 1,273, a decrease of 31% from December 2021 and an increase of 5% from the previous month of November 2022.
Sale prices for December appear to have dropped significantly compared to December 2021. The average sale price in December was 936,804, a 38% decrease from December 2021 and a 4% decrease from November 2022. The total dollar volume of commercial and residential sales is down, decreasing 59% from one year ago and decreasing 2% from last month.
"With interest rates approaching and exceeding 7%, consumers appear to be less inclined to borrow, and the decline in average sales prices suggests sellers are lowering pricing to compensate," noted O’Donnell. "According to the data we have at the Registry, we are recording significantly fewer mortgages than in December 2021."
Overall lending activity showed a continued downward trend for the month of December. A total of 1,383 mortgages were recorded this month, 53% less than a year ago at the same time, but up 2% from last month.
"The increasing cost of living and rising interest rates that the country is currently experiencing have an effect on the local real estate market," noted O’Donnell. "The number of pending foreclosures in Norfolk County is a continuing source of concern."
The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds has been closely monitoring the foreclosure market. In December 2022, there were 4 foreclosure deeds recorded as a result of mortgage foreclosures taking place in Norfolk County, whereas in December of 2021 there were 7 recorded. However, in December of 2022, there were 40 notices to foreclose, the first step in the foreclosure process, significantly more than the 19 recorded in December of 2021.
"The substantial increase in the number of these notices is troubling. It suggests that more of our neighbors may have financial difficulties in the future," said O'Donnell. "We will continue to monitor these figures."
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.
"If you are having difficulty paying your monthly mortgage, please consider contacting one of these non-profit agencies for help and guidance," said Register O’Donnell.
Register O’Donnell concluded, "Property sales prices appear to be declining as a result of consumers' unwillingness to purchase property with mortgage rates above 7%. This is also discouraging homeowners from refinancing their mortgage."
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The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds, located at 649 High St., 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, and 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 at (781) 461-6101 or email us at registerodonnell@norfolkdeeds.