The latest on real estate recordings and new technology from the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds in Lowell
As you may remember, we are engaged in a massive project to electronically capture all the marginal references in our Record Books. This project requires employees to tediously flip page by page through every Record Book, then manually enter each reference as it is found…As the months rolled by we all sometimes felt like the “Little Registry That Could” (We think We can, We think We can)…and yes finally, there is light at the end of a lonnnnng tunnel…We are closing in on the end of this project. We have capture 500,958 references as of today (April 28, 2006)…we started on book 4215 and are presently working on book 72…that means we have finished 4,143 books… with each Record Book averaging 450 pages that’s a total of over 1.8 million pages examined…We have developed an attitude at Middlesex North that no project is too large if you are persistent…I know, I’m bragging, but I am proud of this accomplishment…1.8 million pages, page by page…this is truly an incredible effort by our staff. I estimate this project will conclude by July 1.
The Pew Internet and American Life Project, a non-profit effort that examines the impact of the internet on the lives of Americans, just released a study reporting that 73% of all American adults use the internet. Internet users also report big improviements in their ability to work, shop, pursue hobbies and obtain information online. This study also confirms that young people use the internet the most - 88% of 18-29 year-olds now go online while only 32% of those 65 and older do - and that education is an important indicator if internet use. Only 53% of adults in households earning less than $30,000 per year go online while more than 91% of those in households earning above $75,000 use the internet.
Single-family home sales in Massachusetts fell 1.5 percent in March according to The Warren Group, publisher of the popular periodical Banker & Tradesman.
March sales of single-family homes in Massachusetts have increased 2 percent according to the Massachusetts Association of Realtors.
Why the contradiction?
The Real Estate Association uses only sales reported in their Multiple Listing Service to calculate their data. The Warren Group gets its information directly from registries of deeds (including us)…therefore, The Warren Group includes ALL sales not just those sold by a real estate agent.
Now that we have cleared up the confusion…
Here are the “Warren Group’s” numbers…
Last month (March 2006) 4,416 single-family homes sold in Massachusetts… in March, 2005 there were 4,482 sales. That’s a decrease of 66 sales. Yes, a rather small number, but more significant in light of the next two facts: First, sales in the state for the entire first quarter were down 8.4% as compared to last year’s first quarter…and…the median sale price in Massachusetts dropped $5,000… from $330,000 to $325,000. Massachusetts real estate trends are converse to the rest of the national. Sales increased 3% throughout the US in March as opposed to our decrease. Even when you look just at the Northeast, things don’t fair well for the Commonwealth. The Northeast Region recorded sales figures that showed a 1.7% increase.
The business page of today’s paper carries a story about a disappointing quarter at Xerox as the world-wide leader tries to keep pace with an industry that has largely left the traditional black and white photocopiers behind in favor of document imaging. This registry is a good example of that transition. Ten years ago, photocopiers were essential equipment here since so few of our documents available as electronic images. Today, almost everything is available, not only electronically, but also available 24 hours per day over the Internet at no charge. This transformation is like one that was just ending ten years ago and that was the movement from typewriters to computers and laser printers. Back then, nearly every office had at least one IBM Selectric typewriter in use for completing forms and for important documents (in lieu of affordable, but relatively poor print quality dot-matrix or daisy wheel printers). Today, I’m not sure where I could find a typewriter or why i would ever need one. Ten years from now, the same thing will probably be said for photocopiers.
Let me quote this morning’s Boston Globe directly… “A new version of the popular WIFI wireless data network system” (blah-blah-blah, that’s me not the Globe) “performs at up to five time faster than current gear” (blah-blah-blah), “and the computer industry expects it to spawn a new era (blah-blah-blah) of networked home entertainment”…Home Entertainment!, did someone say Home Entertainment!? Now you’ve got my attention. What about Home Entertainment? Well…with this new device it won’t be long before consumers are listening to music and watching movies over their home wireless network. The device is called “WIFI-N” ( it’s technical name is 802.11n, pretty dry, I know). Advancement in TV technology has lagged far behind the computer world. The last significant improvement was High Definition TV, which really hasn’t become as popular as expected…but TV makers are thrilled with WIFI-N. It will allow a single recording device to feed all the TV’s in a home…Last week I blogged on ABC’s plan to provide free downloads of its top TV shows starting in May… and the movie studios have already begun to make their hits available for download. WIFI-N allows a consumer to wirelessly send these TV shows and movies to his HDTV. What’s really remarkable is WIFI-N does this using only a fraction of its maximum speed. Wow…high quality video and music connected wirelessly at home. I know what you are thinking…”I can’t even get a good cell phone connection, this signal must be susceptible to bad weather, trucks and my dog’s bark”. Wrong… WIFI-N’s signal is not only faster; it is less susceptible to interference. It (802.11n) is expected to be available by the end of the year.
A Tail of Two Men
Two Men standing in a well lighted bank. The first man is a little dishevelled looking wearing sneakers and a stocking cap. His name is Nicholas Form. His friends call him “N Formed”. The second man, short and heavy is dressed in a baseball cap and blue jeans his name is Ernest Z Mark. He is known by” all” as “EZ Mark”. Bank tellers stand behind protective bulletproof glass helping customers as the characters talk…
N Formed: (picks up a pamphlet as he waits in line and turns to EZ Mark) Look at this pamphlet man. It says Phishing is becoming a real problem.
EZ: I know. I read the Newspapers… the government is limiting the size of the fishing catch. No wonder flounder is so expensive.
N Formed: What?… I mean phishing, not fishing…computer phishing.
EZ: What kind of an idiot would try to catch a computer? What would you use for bait?… a mouse?… Man, I hate rodents…(EZ’s face struggles to form an expression of thought)… And the computer would be ruined from the water anyway.
N Formed: Hold on big guy…let me explain “the phishing” this pamphlet is talking about ….it’s when some computer scoundrel sends fake e-mails to people using the graphics and logo of a legitimate business. For example: some thief might send you an
e-mail that looks exactly like it came from your bank. The e-mail might ask you to confirm your account password by “rewriting it”. If you fall for it… you’re hooked, they have access to your money.
EZ: I went trout fishing once…didn’t catch a thing.
N Formed: Hello! EZ Mark????
EZ: I think I was using the wrong bait, worms.
N Formed: You know… you have your head in the sand.
EZ: (laughing out loud) In the sand? You’re not catching fish in the sand. That’s where clams live. Man you are confused.
N Formed shaking his head with disgust, turns to the audience…a frown on his face…the bank lights dim and all activity of the other characters stops. He addresses the audience…
N Formed: (a serious tone) Obviously, I am in the presences of an easy victim…Phishing, and that is with a “ph”, is a real threat today. This pamphlet (holds pamphlet up to the audience) is put out by the American Bankers Association…It cautions all Internet users “never respond to an unsolicited e-mail that asks for detailed financial information”… regardless of whether it really looks like it came from your bank or Ebay or any other online account your might have…be sure you know who you are dealing with.
Lights up…the characters return to their past activities…Tellers scurry to help customers
EZ Mark: Hey…all this talk of fishing made me hungry…want to get a fried Haddock sandwich…I have money in the bank
N Formed: You have money now, but for how long?
Lights slowly dim and fade out as Nicholas Form and Ernest Z Mark exit into their dangerous, brave new world
Next week, the governor is supposed to sign into law Chapter 63 of the Acts of 2006, titled “An Act Providing Remedies to Consumers for Clearing Title After Payoff of Mortgages.” This new law has been drafted and promoted by the Real Estate Bar Association (REBA) of Massachusetts with the support and input of the registers of deeds. Please take the time to read through this new law to determine how it will impact your practice. Among other things, it imposes strict time deadlines for the recording of mortgage discharges. Hopefully this will cut down on the sloppy practices now in place by many out-of-state lenders who often send discharges to the wrong registry of deeds - who knows what happens to them when we mail them back. The full text of the new law can be found here.
In November 2001 we stopped producing paper-based record books and indexes. Few have missed them, especially with the availability of so many of our records on the Internet. We have kept these existing paper books in the registry’s record hall even though all of the contents of these books are duplicated on our internal computer system and on our website. That might change soon. In our quest to gain more space for registry operations, we are contemplating taking the paper indexes that parallel the searchable computer database out of service. Depite this duplication, some people still use the paper indexes. To those of you who do, we’d like to hear the reasons why you find these books useful. Please share your thoughts either by using the comment feature on this blog or by checing out our online forum and joining the discussion thread on this topic that can be found there.
A Few briefs:
Rumor has it that database giant, Oracle is acquiring Novell. Novell is the world’s second largest distributor of Linux. With this acquisition Larry Ellison has the beginning of an OpenSource behemoth. Who is the largest distributor of Linux? Redhat
I knew it!… Last week I blogged on ABC’s plan to provide TV shows for computer download…Now PBS (Public Broadcasting System) and Fox Network have confirmed plans to release some of their own shows online. I knew it wouldn’t be long before other networks followed ABC.
Apple is in trouble again…first the Beatles sued them and now its Burst.com. Burst.com makes software for transferring audio and video files. The company alleges that Apple infringed on their patents with iTunes, QuickTime products and the iPod.
Want to keep better track of your time? It’s Google to the rescue…the world’s leading search engine, now wants to be the world’s leading “time organizer”. Last week Google launched “Google Calendar”. This new service places Google in face to face competition with Yahoo Calendar. Want to try it? www.google.com/calendar
Yesterday’s blog addressed some of the issues we have with archival microfilm. This film is stored offsite in a “bunker like” facility. For years, microfilm was the only backup for registries…of course, today we have computer backups as well. After our Reproduction Department creates microfilm they send it out to be developed. The film processing company sends one roll (called a silver) directly to archive storage and two additional rolls (fittingly called duplicates) back to the registry. For years these duplicate rolls have been stored in the registry’s basement in file cabinets. As you can imagine, over the years this film has become pretty disorganized. In order to rectify the situation we purchased 300 cardboard boxes designed specifically for microfilm storage. An employee has been assigned the task of reorganizing this in-house film. He will inventory it, file it in the boxes and store it in a safe dry place in the registry. This will be a time consuming project. I estimate there are probably three thousand rolls of film.
The Middlesex North Registry of Deeds will be open its regular hours (8:30AM-4:30PM) on Friday, April 14.
The registry will be closed on Monday, April 17 in observance of Patriots Day.
A major goal at the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds is making every document at the registry available on the Internet. Five years ago this seemed like a wild (& crazy) dream. Today, through the efforts of many people, we are rapidly approaching this goal(we have digitized over 8 million records). Consistent with our goal, we have begun to digitized our Grantee indexes. There are ten consolidated indexes comprised of close to 100,000 pages. The digital images will be captured from archival microfilm. Last week we began the process and retrieved Grantee indexes from
1975-1966 & 1965-1960. The project is only about 20% complete but going very well. The CD images can be read easily. Retrieving archival film is always an adventure…some of this microfilm is sixty years old, so we are never sure what to expect. Fortunately, we have found very few problems with our film and the problems that have been discovered were easily corrected. I will keep you posted on the progress of this project.
I have to admit the “Technology World” changes so fast I can’t keep up with it… but a new idea I just read about seems as simple as ABC. This week Disney-ABC announced it would start providing ad-supported episodes of its more popular TV shows for Free download… Free? Yes, unlike the iTunes model which charges $1.99 for an episode, this service is totally free. ABC’s initiative is the first free offering of prime-time TV on the Internet. ABC is starting the experiment with four major offerings: Commander in Chief, Alias, Desperate House Wives and Lost. Episodes will become available the day after airing on conventional TV. Network executives see this as a way to connect with the new generation…a generation that surfs the Internet more hours than it watches TV… and for we older folks (I speak for myself) it allows us to watch our favorite programs on demand. Unlike conventional TV, that dictates what we watch and when we watch it, this program will allow us to get what we want, when we want it. Of course, it won’t be long before CBS and NBC follow ABC. There are some questions to ponder…What does this mean to Comcast and Time Warner’s Cable TV divisions? DSL Internet connections are available from many other sources…. What does it mean to local network affiliates?… What happens to iTunes’ $1.99 downloads?… The answer to these questions are not as simple as ABC.
I know, I know… math and statistics are boring…but as my mother used to say “they’re good for you”. So here’s the info for March 2006 at the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds.
We recorded 6,045 documents in March 06…. last year, March 2005 we recorded 7,271… that’s a 20% decrease.
March 2006- 1,562 Mortgages…March 2005- 2,036… a decrease of 30%
March 2006- 574 Deeds…last March- 678…another decrease, 18%
March 2006- 13 Foreclosure Deeds…March 2005- 4…now there’s an increase, more than triple
March 2006- 48 Orders of Notice…last March- 24…this time double
Anyway you divide, multiply, add or subtract, the real estate market is dipping.
Math? Statistics?…As my mother used to say…“Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?”.
Visualize this…Tony Bennett…“Sitting on the Dock of the Bay”…laptop on his knee surfing the Internet, singing “I left My Network Patch Cord in San Francisco”.
Last week the city of San Francisco announced a deal with Internet companies, Google and
EarthLink. These giants agreed to build a citywide wireless network which will provide free Internet access to all. Wi-Fi networks work by blanketing a city with signals provided by radio devices mounted on municipal light poles and towers. The Mayor of San Francisco says the system will be up and running early next year. The complete project will cost Google and EarthLink between $10-15 million over ten years. Google plans to give consumers various connection options. The one most talked about is “free” Internet access. The free service will run a 300 Kbps connection (six times faster than dial-up) and contain Google advertising. The second option will cost just $20.00 per month, connect at 1Mbps (four times faster than the free service) and have no advertising. Google is using San Fran to test their new “Location Based Advertising” concept… “Location Based Ads”? What’s that?…Well, Google intends to fire advertising at users based on their location and their search history (yup, it’s that Big Brother thing). Example: If you are searching for a recipe to cook pizza, you may get an advertisement from the San Francisco House of Pizza “why dirty the kitchen? We’ll cook it for you”. Free universal Internet connectivity is on the near horizon…we’ll all have it soon. If all it takes is seeing a few car or pizza ads count me in…after all, look at the repetitive foolishness they jam down our throats on TV…
You may be familiar with Wikipedia, the user created encyclopedia that gains a great deal of media attention every so often. A “wiki” is a piece of software sitting on a server that allows almost anyone to contribute text or links. The idea is that a wiki is self-correcting: if someone writes something outrageous or erroneous, the next reader will modify or correct the prior post. We’re considering creating a wiki for the registry website that would compile comments about real estate law - true, it wouldn’t necessarily be written by lawyers, but enough lawyers would read it and contribute to it to keep it grounded in the law. One reason for doing this is that we’re constantly being asked legal questions by registry users, questions that we’re really not in any position to answer. But simply saying “you’ll have to call a lawyer” isn’t being all that helpful. So why not just post information about real estate law and practice on the website. Maybe it’s not a good idea: we’d certainly ike to hear why you might think that before we pursue this.
It was probably inevitable that Google would jump into the online real estate sales business joining Zillow and Homepages. An article by Kimberly Blanton in today’s Business Section of the Globe introduces the new service. Just go to Google and type “homes for sale” in the search box. That prompts you to enter a city name or zip code. I typed “Lowell, Massachusetts” and a Google map appeared in the right hand window with about ten home listings on the left side of the screen. The home listings contained a photo of the property, the sales price and some other information (but not the property address). You can refine your search by property type, number of bedrooms and bathrooms and you can establish a search range. For example, the default range was within 30 miles of Lowell, but this yielded more than 1100 listings. Reducing the range to within 10 miles of Lowell cut that down to 337. But the absence of specific addresses and the scarcity and random plotting of the Google pushpin markers on the map suggest that the service thus far is being used by brokers to attrack customers and not as a way for buyers and sellers to do their thing without the involvement of a real estate broker. Please check it out.
I never heard of Eliot Spitzer until this morning…and now, he is my hero! Spitzer is the Attorney General of New York and he has decided to wage war against Internet scoundrels. Yesterday, Spitzer filed a lawsuit accusing a New York based company, Direct Revenue, of secretly installing spyware on the computers of Internet users. Spitzer (my hero) claims Direct Revenue installed spyware on more than 150 million computers… then bombarded them with pop-ups. The way it is done is simple… Direct Revenue offers innocent Internet users free games or screen savers. If a user decides to accept…watch out…when he downloads, he gets more than just the freebie game… he also “unknowingly” gets irritating spyware. Once his computer is infected with Direct Revenue’s spyware, they’ve got him and the pop-ups start. Eliot Spitzer has accused Direct Revenue of “deceptive practices, false advertising, trespassing onto computers and computer tampering. “Way to go ES!” Anyone who has ever been harassed by pop-ups knows why Eliot is my new hero.
In honor of National Poetry Month and the start of the 2006 baseball season, we offer you Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s 1888 poem, Casey at the Bat.
The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.
A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, “If only Casey could but get a whack at that—
We’d put up even money now, with Casey at the bat.
But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a hoodoo, while the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey getting to the bat.
But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despisèd, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.
Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.
There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile lit Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Casey at the bat.
Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt;
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance flashed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.
And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped—
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one!” the umpire said.
From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar, Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;
And it’s likely they’d have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.
With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew;
But Casey still ignored it and the umpire said, “Strike two!”
“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered “Fraud!”
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.
The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate,
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate;
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.
Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.
Waltham based Massachusetts High Technology Council(MTHC) launched a new Website lat week called Masstrack.org. Masstrack will be used by the MHTC to rate “how responsive state elected leaders and communities are to the agenda of the technology community”. On Friday MassTrack.org created quite a stir as it began to carry out its mission. The website listed all 351 Massachusetts towns and cities ranked from the most to the least “technology friendly”. The following is a list of the criteria used to evaluate a community:
1. Available Land: Number of Mass EPA projects ; Housing starts in the community; Developable commercial space
2. Taxes: The ratio of the commercial tax rate vs residential; Is the community an Economic Target Area; Does the community have a split tax rate.
3. Education & Workforce: Percentage of College Graduates; High School MCAS scores; Size of available labor force; Percentage of labor force currently employed in Technology.
And the winner is…Hopkinton…
Hopkington, home of EMC, finished first in Masstrack.org’s ranking of technology friendly communities.
Here’s the top ten, in order: Hopkinton, Franklin, Plymouth, Northboro, Mansfield, Lakeville, Danvers, Framingham, Hingham and Bedford.
What about Lowell?…
The city of Lowell ranked 178 among all communities…putting it directly in the middle.
If you are interested in your communities ranking follow this link.
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