Lowell Deeds

The latest on real estate recordings and new technology from the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds in Lowell

February 28, 2006

January New Home Sales

by @ 9:38 am. Filed under Real Estate

The US Commerce Department is reporting that sales of “new construction homes” in January fell. Analysts point to this decline as a real indicator that the Nation’s real estate market is softening. The Commerce Department reported that new home sales dropped 5% last month, marking the slowest pace in a year. Ironically, the country’s mild winter helped increase the number of new construction starts… but January’s end saw 528,000 unsold new homes…a nine year high. Of course, speculation is everywhere that a glut of new homes will drive prices down…but don’t hold your breathe…that wasn’t the case in January…once again despite a significant decline in sales median prices in the country rose. The median price for a new home climbed to $238,100, 4% higher than December. According to a New York Times article the increase in prices reflects “the efforts by home builders to lure buyers by offering to pay closing costs and to upgrade appliances and other fixtures, incentives that may increase their costs but that does not show up as a drop in the final price paid by the buyers”. Let’s not forget, new home sales make up only 15% of national transactions. The National Association of Realtors is expected to release January sales data today and economists expect sales of existing homes to be flat also. Stay tuned …we’ll have those reports for you also.

February 27, 2006

Keylogging

by @ 7:38 am. Filed under Website, Current Events, Technology

We don’t want you to become paranoid about using the Internet, just to realize that there are thousands of bad people out their trying to steal your sensitive information and your money. Today’s New York Times has a front page story about Keylogging, the latest method hackers use to capture your personal data. Using a variety of methods, hackers plant a tiny file on your computer that records and then transmits back to the hacker the sequence of keys you press on your keyboard in relation to the image that’s displayed on your screen. The more sophisticated versions of the keystroke program sit on your computer waiting for some trigger (a box that says “SSN” or “Credit Card Number” for example) and then they spring to life, recording your social security number or credit card number. Keylogging files are planted on your computer when you visit innocent appearing websites or by a variety of other means. Worst of all, the bad guys are changing their technology so quickly that anti-virus software has a hard time keeping up with it. The article also contains a link to a section of the Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute website devoted to “Securing Your Web Browser” which is well worth a visit. So should we all unplug from the Internet? Given the way our society has evolved, that’s not a realistic option. Still, everyone should exercise common sense and take some time to learn and practice reasonable security habits.

February 24, 2006

Paper Streets

by @ 12:02 pm. Filed under Website, FAQs

We often receive questions about paper streets. As the term suggests, a paper street is a street or passageway that was established on paper (either in a document or a plan) but that never came into existence on the ground. Abutters often ask us how they can have a paper street abandoned or dissolved, usually so the abutter can build something upon the land encumbered by the paper street. Like many things in the law of real estate, it’s complicated. Tony Vigliotti, the Register of Deeds in Worcester hosted a seminar a short time ago that featured representatives of Chicago Title Insurance talking about paper streets. Three of the handouts used in that seminar are now available online at the Worcester Registry of Deeds website. They include an article explaining the law of paper streets, a frequently asked questions document on the topic, and a set of sketches in PDF format that illustrate the points made in the FAQ document. This information is so useful that we will be adding permanent links to it from our own website.

February 23, 2006

zillow calling

by @ 10:30 am. Filed under Real Estate

Yesterday we received an interesting call in our Customer Service Department. It was from a representative of the new real estate website zillow.com. Over the past two weeks Zillow has been the subject of a couple of lowelldeeds’ blogs. Zillow is a new website dedicated to providing real estate information to potential buyers and sellers. Let me give you peak (verbal that is)…You put a property address in, then ask for a market price. Zillow pops up all recent area sales “with prices”… more importantly, it also lists comparable sales including price, sale date, number of rooms, year built and “more”…Experts have speculated that this website will revolutionize the country’s real estate business. Back to the call…Zillow was taking a “registry survey”. The caller inquired about a number things related to our regsitry’s data and operation: What records are available on-line? What’s available on the in-house database? Can your data be purchase going forward? Can back information be obtained in bulk? How? What is the registry’s website address? I logically assume if the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds received a call from Zillow so did the other 21 registries in Massachussets. This call supports the speculation that this company has “major” financial backing. We no longer handle the sale of our data, that is done by ACS our computer company… But I can tell you this…zilliow’s inquiry involves a substantial amount of information. I have talked to people who have had great success using Zillow…I think we will be hearing about (and from) zillow.com for years to come.

February 22, 2006

Back to the Future

by @ 12:52 pm. Filed under Website

Those of you who’ve used our website since its early days (pre-2002) might see something familiar next week when we revive our old image viewing program. We’re about to add images from Book 1 (1855) to Book 1128 (1950) to our website, but rather than put them into our current image viewing program that is part of the ACS system, we’ve decided the old method of viewing images will be more efficient. It comes with the added benefit of not costing us anything and of being ready to go right now. In fact, if you want to try it out, you can retrieve most documents by book and page number starting with Book 1130 up to Book 5230. Click here to try it out. Just enter the book and page number and links to that page and the previous and next ten pages will all appear on the screen. We’ll make an official announcement here on the blog when this system is fully operational.

February 21, 2006

Done

by @ 11:07 am. Filed under Registry Ops

A number of months ago we began a long overdue project to identify and replace images missing from our database…please, take a brief walk with me down memory lane… In days of yore… we had approximately 2 million “back images” captured using an automated scanning system. This was a great project…an extremely fast way of digitzing images… but, it lacked “human” quality checking. Of course, some images were missed and/or incorrectly named (not by us, by the computer). A number of months ago we assigned an employee to find all the missing images from book 2705 to present. After locating the problems, we began the process of making the corrections. One employee was designated to scan the missing images. Last week…the project was completed. Tomorrow we will begin the next phase of the operation…checking for missing images from “Book 2704 to 2349″. Why “Book 2349″ and not “Book 1″? Well, “Book 2349″ is the last book that can be easily disassembled and re-assembled…and …when this phase is done we’ll continue to work on the more difficult books…

February 17, 2006

eNotarization

by @ 10:52 am. Filed under E-Recording, Technology

Tony Vigliotti, the Register of Deeds for the Worcester District, recently sent me an interesting article from the February 2006 edition of the National Notary Bulletin on eNotarization. A variation of the article is available on the National Notary Association’s website. This new program, just instituted in Pennsylvania, allows notaries who have registered with the state to notarize “electronic documents.” Understanding this process requires some knowledge of the different levels of electronic recording. While the “level” concept may be an outdated term, I still find that it’s a useful way to illustrate the various methods of electronic recording. Since last June we have recorded nearly 1000 documents that were submitted to us electronically. All of those submissions were scanned images of traditional paper documents or what is known as Level 2 electronic recording. With Level 2 electronic recording, the notary function is pretty much the same as with a regular paper recording (i.e., the person signing does so in the presence of the notary who acknowledges the person is who they purport to be and then signs and affixes a stamp to the document). But with Level 3 electronic recording, there is no paper. The document exists only electronically. As such, it is probably more easily altered than a paper document (although it is easier to alter a paper document than most people realize). Consequently, this concept of eNotarization involves the authenticity and completeness of the electronic document as well as the traditional notary functions. We will be investigating this concept and perhaps speeding its way to Massachusetts.

February 15, 2006

Reliability of Online Information

by @ 1:01 pm. Filed under Pop Culture

Earlier this week the Boston Globe ran a two-part series assessing the accuracy of Wikipedia, the communally produced online encyclopedia (the articles which ran on February 12 & 13 are already in the Globe’s archives). Wikipedia has been around since 2001. The term comes from the word “Wiki” which is Hawaiian slang for “quickly” and “pedia” which is Latin for “education.” The idea is that anyone and everyone can contribute new articles or edit existing articles. It relies on the belief that there are “more good people in the world than bad.” There have been several highly publicized cases where entries in Wikipedia have been vandalized by untrue information or where true but unflattering information has been deleted. Still, the main criticism of this 21st Century encyclopedia is that you have no way of knowing whether an article has been written by someone with a PhD in the subject or by some hallucinatory crank. But that turns out to be a risk for more than just Wikipedia. Just last month the prestigious journal Science which has a panel of subject matter experts scrutunize all articles before they are published, confessed that it had printed two papers by a South Korean researcher on cloning that were complete fabrications. The editorial board of Science didn’t catch the fabrications; perhaps one of the hundreds of thousands of contributors to Wikipedia would have. The process described above is in many ways emblematic of a wider cultural shift precipitated by the Internet – rather than suppress critical or questionable information, the Internet invites us to throw it out there and let everyone comment upon it. In the end, the most compelling arguments should prevail. In schools today, they emphasize the need to teach students “critical thinking” skills. The Internet makes that a way of life.

February 14, 2006

“Creative” Mortgages

by @ 7:41 am. Filed under Archived

Yesterday’s Lowell Sun had an interesting article on the popularity and consequences of “creative” mortgages known as “interest only” or “option-adjustable rate” mortgages. Local realtors and mortgage company spokespersons said in the article that more than half the first time home buyers they service chose such an option. While this type of financing permits more people to own homes, it is not without risks. Interest only, as the name declares, requires payment of only the interest for a fixed amount of time, usually the first five years. Option-adjustable rate loans do not even require the payment of the full amount of interest. Instead, the borrower has the option to pay less than the full amount of interest and let the balance of the interest (not to mention the principal) accumulate to be paid at a later time, presumably with additional interest that was incurred on the deferred interest. While this does open up the housing market it does present risks, especially in a time when home price increases have slowed or have even turned into a market with sliding prices. If you borrow 100% of the purchase price and don’t pay down the principal for a few years, if the value of the house decreases, you soon find yourself in the precarious position of owing more money on your home than it is worth. The only way you can sell would be to pay off the balance of the mortgage at closing. Presumably, if you had that kind of cash available, you would have used it to make a down payment on the house in the first place. The Sun’s story is accompanied by an enlightening chart comparing the monthly payments for the two types of mortgages mentioned above with a traditional 30 year fixed rate mortgage. On a $300,000 loan with a fixed rate, your monthly payment for the life of the loan would be $1798. With an interest only loan in the same amount, your monthly payment in years 1 through 5 would by $1375 but in years 6 to 30 it would rise to $2227. With an Option-adjustable loan, your monthly payment for the first five years would only be $1035, but in year 6 it would rise to $2612 for the rest of the loan. Most people with those types of loans undoubtedly plan to refinance in year five but that is completely dependent on the value of the house being equal to or higher than the current value – not a safe bet if you follow long term trends in real estate.

February 13, 2006

Believe It or Not

by @ 9:57 am. Filed under Current Events

Here’s one for your “believe it or not” file…
In Valparaiso, Indiana a house was mistakenly valued for $400 million. According to officials an “outside user” of Porter County’s computer system accidentally changed the value of the home (now that’s a huge problem right there…”outside users” shouldn’t be able to change a database). The house was original assessed at $121,000 with a tax bill of $1,500 before the change. At $400 million the erroneous tax bill was $8 million. Obviously,…the $8 million bill was never paid. The mistake was discovered and the necessary correction was made…but…before the problem was solved the $400 million in assessed value somehow ended up on documents used to calculate the “tax rate” (oh no). The new rate was set and municipal funds allocated factoring in $8 million in taxes that weren’t really owed. As expected, the gaff was later discovered, but not before the damage was done…at this time… the city is of Valparaiso and its school department are running huge deficit. Officials believe the error could cause layoffs as well. Wow…what a mess…“Truth can be stranger than fiction”…

February 10, 2006

Electronic Recording Update

by @ 8:20 am. Filed under E-Recording

There must be some national developments in electronic recording because over the past few days, I’ve received several phone calls and emails from a variety of people who work for potential submitters or service providers. I don’t know what else could have prompted this flurry of interest in a topic that’s been dormant for many months. To put this in context, we’ve been recording a limited number of documents electronically since June 2005 in a pilot program intended to teach us more about the process of electronic recording. Our goal is to use our accumulated experience to help craft regulations that would govern electronic recording for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the future. Until just recently, expressions of interest in going forward with electronic recording were sporadic and because the system as currently configured has a number of flaws, I have not been anxious to increase the tempo of electronic recording. Sometime during the next few months, however, the Secretary of State’s Office intends to schedule an electronic recording summit meeting that will permit us to share our experiences with representatives of the other Massachusetts registries and to have a discussion about the future of electronic recording.

February 9, 2006

A Challenge to Brokers

by @ 6:35 am. Filed under Real Estate

Yesterday’s New York Times reported on two new websites that may pose substantial challenges to real estate brokers and the method by which property has been bought and sold for generations. The most intriguing site is Zillow.com which has $32 million in startup funds and is directed by the guy who created the Expedia online travel site. According to the article, Zillow makes all types of information about real estate - previous sales price, prices of like properties, regional price appreciation or depreciation - available to Internet visitors for free (the site will be financed through advertising revenue, not user fees). The concept is to arm the potential buyer with a great deal of information that the buyer can use in negotiating his purchase. But since possessing this information has historically been the exclusive domain of real estate brokers, this new site invites the question (according to the article’s author, at least) of the future role of brokers. (The second new site is called Redfin.com which will allow potential buyers to bid on properties and to consumate sales agreements on line, but it is limited to Seattle for now). Of course, Zillow may still have a few bugs to iron out. Just before starting this post I visited their site and was greeted by a message that due to heavy traffic their server was down.

February 8, 2006

Techie things

by @ 9:59 am. Filed under Technology

What’s new in the Technology World? There is always something… Here is a short list of some of the more interesting happening in the techie world…IMO that is:

Apple Computer has lowered the price of the iPod… Something I never, ever thought they would do…and they have added a new souped up version of the “Shuffle” with 1-gigabyte.

Yahoo and AOL are planning to begin charging for what they call “first class email”. Actually for $.02 per email they are offering an upgraded email spam blocker.

According to Technorati (a blog tracking company) the blogosphere (that’s what the blog world is know as) is growing by leaps and bounds. Technorati says it is now tracking more than 27 million separate blogs (including this one). That is 60 times more than three years ago. Technorati claims there are about 1.2 million new blog entries made every day. Now, that’s a lot of reading/writing.

Are you a gambling man/woman? If so… Microsoft is offering a chance to win an exclusive invitation to the launch of Vista, its new operating system… “Oh, pick me…pick me”…. How do you win? Simple… guess the date Microsoft will publicly introduce Vista. First place prize includes three nights at a four star hotel… Second, third and fourth place prizes are an Xbox 360 (whatever that is) and fifth through 10th place winners get an Xbox Core System (again…whatever that is) Here’s a hint? It will be in 2006 (and January is already gone).

Two new real estate websites are starting to offer services that might change the way the real estate business is conducted. Zillow.com helps consumers get more accurate sales information and Redfin.com offers a feature which automates bidding on a house.

And let’s not forget the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds…there is always something techie happening here…we are currently exploring the possibility of creating hyperlinks on our PDF Grantor images…I know I didn’t say much… but stay tuned for that.

February 7, 2006

More on Home Sales

by @ 11:55 am. Filed under Real Estate

Today’s Globe business section contains an article (”Decline in housing sales grows steeper“) that relies heavily on information provided by the Warren Group, the publisher of Banker & Tradesman. The Warren Group’s data for sales activity in 2005 showed a 7.6% decline, more than double the 3.5% decline cited in earlier articles that relied on data provided by the Mass Board of Realtors. Tim Warren of the Warren Group explained that all sales, not just those handled by brokers, are reported by Banker & Tradesman and consequently, his data presents a more accurate picture of what’s happening in the state’s housing market. If you’re interested in what’s happening in the Middlesex North District, we just posted our January sales report which joins annual sales reports for the past two years on our website.

February 6, 2006

Hardly Super…Bowl that is.

by @ 10:42 am. Filed under Pop Culture

Here are some of “my” Super Bowl XL observations (What’s with the Roman Numerals? Why can’t they write it like everyone else?)

The officiating was bad…no, I ‘m wrong… it was dreadful.

It’s time for the Rolling Stones to hang it up…or at least change their name to reflect their new(or should I say “old”) image…how about “The Geriatrics” or “The Kidney Stones”…or “The Roll Us In Stones”

Why didn’t the half-time show have a Motown theme? They did play in Detriot.

My favorite commercial was the “streaking lamb”.

Rumor has it that Charlie Watts, The Stone’s (Rolling or Kidney whichever your prefer) drummer (born June 2, 1941) is being featured in a Smucker’s commercial with Willard Scott.

The Super Bowl is boring unless the Patriots are in it.

Mick Jagger(born July 26, 1943) needs to do some tricep exercises to tone his flabby Arms (I know, I should talk).

Tom Brady’s velour jacket was pretty tacky…Yup, as Larry David would say… “pretty… pretty… pretty… tacky”.

I enjoyed seeing the past Super Bowl MVP’s during the pre-game show, but wow, some of them look old enough to be in The Rolling Stones.

And speaking of The Rolling Stones(again) since when are they the moral antithesis of Janet Jackson… (I thought the NFL was looking for warm and fuzzy entertainment for the half-time show)..

By the way I saw Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction” back in Super Bowl XXXVIII…traumatic…I’m now entering my second year of therapy trying to recover (just kidding).

There is no way Roethlisberger (the Steeler’s quarterback) was in the end zone on that second quarter touchdown attempt…(if that call went against our beloved Patriots we’d be outraged this morning).

Another rumor…I heard that Stone’s Bad Boy Keith Richards(born December 18, 1943) purposefully and maliciously broke his “Clapper”…but I don’t believe it…he needs it.

In my opinion…”Super Bowl 40″ and all its ancillaries, was enough to… “make a grown man cry”.

February 3, 2006

A Victim’s Tale

by @ 11:11 am. Filed under Current Events

As a long-time Boston Globe subscriber, I was mildly interested to learn that the paper had used printouts of customer names and credit card numbers to wrap last Sunday’s bundles of Worcester Telegram & Gazettes (they’re owned by the same company) when the WTG was delivered to its carriers for home delivery. My immediate reaction was that something that happened way out in Worcester couldn’t have effected me. Still, there were 250,000+ names compromised and, while I’m not an expert on the Globe’s circulation figures, a quarter of a million customers seemed like a lot of newspaper customers. So I visited the Globe’s site to determine if my information had been “compromised.” I wish my luck with the state lottery was this good because, yes, I am a victim of the Globe’s incompetence. There’s a list of things to do and I followed it. First, I called one of the big three credit reporting companies and put a “fraud alert” on my credit report. The credit agency will share that with the other two and that should prevent any new accounts from being opened in my name without some pretty extreme security measures. Then, I called the bank that issued the credit card. They immediately cancelled it, marking it “possibly compromised” and are putting another in the mail along with an “Affidavit of Loss” for me to use if any bogus charges show up. The whole process took less than five minutes and seemed to work very efficiently. If you’re a Globe subscriber who pays by credit card, I urge to to look into this further. It’s easier to deal with it now than after a bunch of bogus charges show up on your credit card statement a month from now.

Rosann Rosannadanna

by @ 10:58 am. Filed under Technology

Remember yesterday’s post…the one about the infamous “MyWife” aka “Karma Surta” aka “Blackmail”worm… well it seems the worm got squished. As of 1:00PM today the worm has caused few problems. Experts are saying computer users heeded the industry’s loud warnings and took the necessary action… What was it Rosann Rosannadanna used to say???…”never mind”.

February 2, 2006

What a Worm!

by @ 9:38 am. Filed under Technology

Beware, Caution, Take Heed, Look Out, Watch Out, Be Careful… anyway you say it… listen up…Microsoft has issued a Special Alert regarding the Nyxem.E worm. The worm is also known as “Mywife”, “Karma Sutra”, or “Blackmail”. This is a very dangerous and clever worm. It is scheduled to begin its destruction on Friday, February 3 (that’s tomorrow!). Experts say “MyWife” aka “Karma Sutra” aka “Blackmail” is one of the most destructive worms in recent memory. It preys especially on Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents…and it can also freeze your mouse and keyboard and… it can erase security files. “MyWife” aka “Karma Sutra” aka “Blachmail” is cued to attack at the tick of midnight tonight. This worm is scheduled to launch through email attachments and will compound its destruction through network sharing. It will attack again on the third day of every month there after. When the recipient opens the email file, “MyWife” aka “Karma Sutra” aka “Blackmail” grabs the contacts contained in the address book then attacks those contacts as well. Experts estimate the number of computers affected could reach 500,000 worldwide . Some believe this diabolical worm could play havoc in the computer world tomorrow. What can you do to protect yourself?… Of course, computer users should be sure their anti-virus software is updated… but the best way to defend yourself from “MyWife” aka “Karma Sutra” aka “Blackmail” (and other viruses for that matter) is to delete suspicious emails from unknown senders and don’t open attachments unless you know the source… Good Luck

February 1, 2006

Who is MERS?

by @ 1:15 pm. Filed under Indexing, Statistics

Mortage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc is the most frequent name entered as a grantee when it comes to mortgages and discharges. But MERS is only an agent for real lenders. When MERS was created back in 1999 (approximately) we decided to enter only the name MERS and not the name of the underlying lender in our index. Since the whole purpose of MERS was to be the entity that handled all the mortgage related paperwork, that was a logical thing to do plus, with the number of mortgages being recorded rising to historically high rates, entering extra names (i.e., the name of the lender) seemed inefficient. Still, we are often curious about who MERS represents, so we did some analysis of MERS filings over the past two years. Based on a representative sampling, we found that 25% of all MERS mortgages came from California, 20% originated within Massachusetts; 8% came from Texas; 7% came from Pennsylvania; 6% each came from Michigan and Florida and 5% came from New York. A few other states originated less than 5% of the MERS mortgages. In the coming days, we will let you know the names of the companies that used MERS most often.

Nomination Papers

by @ 10:17 am. Filed under Registry Ops

Nomination papers for the state primaries on September 19, 2006 and the state election on November 7, 2006 are now available from the Secretary of State’s Election’s Division. Secretary Galvin has established a number of sites around the Commonwealth where nomination papers are physically available for pickup including the main office of the Elections Division in Boston, satellite offices of the Secretary of State in Fall River and Springfield, town halls in Barnstable, Gardner, Greenfield, Pittsfield, Plymouth and Worcester and, for the Merrimack Valley region, the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds here in Lowell. For more information, please visit the Elections Division website.

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