Norfolk County Register of Deeds William P. O’Donnell reported that Norfolk County recordings for the month of January 2023 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 January 2022 numbers.
In January, there were 7,461 documents recorded at the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds, a 36% decrease from January 2022 and a notable decrease of 21% from December 2022.
"The real estate market is still feeling the effects of inflation, even as it eases slightly. High food and energy costs are limiting how much money customers can save," said O’Donnell. "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 January 2023, which reflect real estate sales and transfers, both commercial and residential, was 1,034, a decrease of 24% from January 2022 and a decrease of 19% from the previous month of December 2022.
Sale prices for January appear to have dropped significantly compared to January 2022. The average sale price in January was $850,396, a 41% decrease from January 2022 and a 9% decrease from December 2022. The total dollar volume of commercial and residential sales is down, decreasing 62% from one year ago and decreasing 38% from last month.
"Consumers appear to have not adjusted to the spike in interest rates and are less inclined to borrow at higher rates," noted O’Donnell. "Consumers may be hoping for lower interest rates even as the average sales price falls."
Overall lending activity showed a continued downward trend for the month of January. A total of 1,001 mortgages were recorded this month, 57% less than a year ago at the same time, and down 2% from last month.
"According to the data, we are recording significantly fewer mortgages, which could be the result of several factors that the country is currently experiencing, including the increasing cost of living and spike in interest rates," noted O’Donnell. "These aspects of the economy can have an effect on the local real estate market."
The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds has been closely monitoring the foreclosure market. In January 2023, there were 9 foreclosure deeds recorded as a result of mortgage foreclosures taking place in Norfolk County, whereas in January 2022, there were only 7 recorded. Additionally, in January 2023, there were 30 notices to foreclose, the first step in the foreclosure process, significantly more than the 18 recorded in January 2022.
"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%. With consumers paying a larger percentage of their paycheck on housing, we remain concerned about the trend of increasing notices to foreclose."
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.