Average August property prices reach record highs in Norfolk County

August 2023 property sales graph. Image: Norfolk County Registry of DeedsCourtesy image: Norfolk County Registry of Deeds
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Average August property prices reach record highs in Norfolk County

The Norfolk County Register of Deeds, William P. O’Donnell, recently released data indicating that the average property sales prices in the county have reached an all-time high for the month of August compared to previous years. This surge in property prices can be attributed to a combination of factors, including a limited inventory of new housing for sale and a shortage of existing homes on the market.

“Average property prices in August have seen a significant increase this year compared to the same month in previous years,” stated Register of Deeds William P. O’Donnell. “Seasoned homebuyers and first-time buyers alike are facing the challenge of property values that are now 19% higher than in 2022, 34% higher than in 2021, and a staggering 37% higher than in 2020. Additionally, some are contending with mortgage interest rates exceeding 7%.”

The average sale price of both commercial and residential properties for August 2023 reached $1,212,694, marking a 19% increase compared to August 2022 but a noticeable decrease of 17% from July 2023. Furthermore, the total dollar volume of commercial and residential sales has decreased, down 6% from the previous year and 12% from the previous month.

“Analyzing the numbers from August 2022, 2021, and 2020 reveals that average property prices typically experience a seasonal drop of 12% to 17% in August compared to July,” noted Register O’Donnell. “This suggests that while prices have remained high, the month-over-month fluctuations in the housing market have remained relatively steady compared to the volatility of previous years.”

Despite the surge in property prices, the total number of deeds recorded for August 2023, encompassing both commercial and residential real estate sales and transfers, stood at 1,478, marking a 12% decline from August 2022 but a significant 16% increase from July.

“Overall, real estate activity is following a downward trend compared to the previous year, primarily due to two factors: limited inventory and high interest rates, resulting in fewer deeds and mortgages, which constitute a substantial portion of the total document volume at the Registry,” Register O’Donnell continued. “A slight uptick in the number of deeds compared to last July may suggest that some sellers are taking advantage of higher property values, thereby increasing the number of existing homes available for purchase.”

The Registry of Deeds recorded a total of 9,527 documents in August 2023, which is 18% less than in August 2022 but an 11% increase compared to July 2023.

Register O’Donnell pointed out, “Higher mortgage interest rates have a notable impact on the number of mortgages and deeds recorded at the Registry. These rates affect the willingness of seasoned homebuyers to refinance, resulting in fewer mortgages. They also influence homeowners’ decisions to sell, leading to fewer homes on the market for prospective buyers. Furthermore, higher interest rates can pose challenges for buyers.”

For the month of August, lending activity continued to decline compared to the previous year. A total of 1,328 mortgages were recorded, marking a 33% decrease from the previous year but a 6% increase compared to the previous month.

“In addition to fewer people refinancing, the decline in lending activity can also be attributed to fewer first-time home loans,” explained Register O’Donnell. “The combination of high property prices and increased mortgage interest rates presents a greater challenge for first-time homebuyers in affording a mortgage and managing payments.”

The Norfolk County Registry of Deeds remains vigilant in monitoring the foreclosure market. In August 2023, there were 4 foreclosure deeds recorded as a result of mortgage foreclosures in Norfolk County, a decrease from the 7 recorded in August 2022. Additionally, there were 25 notices to foreclose, the initial step in the foreclosure process, which is lower than the 33 recorded in August 2022.

“We hope to see this trend continue into the fall season, especially as the weather cools. However, it’s essential to remember that foreclosure activity impacts individuals and families directly, and there are still many neighbors who have lost their homes or are at risk of losing them,” said Register O’Donnell. “I urge anyone struggling to pay their mortgage or who knows someone in such a situation to contact one of the non-profit organizations listed on our website, www.norfolkdeeds.org.”

For several years, the Norfolk County Registry of Deeds has collaborated with Quincy Community Action Programs (617-479-8181 x376) and NeighborWorks Housing Solutions (508-587-0950) to provide assistance to those facing difficulties with their mortgage payments. Homeowners can also reach out to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Consumer Advocacy and Response Division (CARD) at 617-727-8400.

In conclusion, Register O’Donnell noted, “While we have witnessed increases in property sales and the total number of documents compared to last month, the combination of record property prices and limited housing inventory has led to significant declines in overall real estate activity compared to 2022.”

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