Lowell Deeds

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

July 31, 2006

Boston WiFi

by @ 9:19 am. Filed under Technology

This morning’s Globe has an interesting article on a unique plan Boston has to provide Wireless Internet Access (WiFi) throughout the city. Other major cities such as San Francisco and Philadelphia have relied on Internet providers (Google, Earthlink etc) to fund the construction of their WiFi system. Boston’s plan is different…it calls for the creation of a non-profit corporation that will develop the system by collecting “donations” from businesses and foundations.
Mayor Menino’s “Wireless Task Force” developed the plan over a six-month period. Using a non-profit corporation will allow the city to direct and control the future development of its WiFi network. Philadelphia and San Francisco are both allowing the system developer to act as an Internet Service Provider (ISP) for the consumer, but in Boston the non-profit corporation will not be an ISP. It will simply develop and maintain the fiber optic Internet infrastructure. Boston expects a number of Internet providers to compete with each other driving down the price of the service. The construction of the network will begin in about nine months. Similar to the Philadelphia and San Francisco model, Boston’s WiFi system will be constructed using radio transmitters attached to city owned structures. Initially there will be two major hotspots…Qunicy Market and City Hall Plaza. Mayor Menino hopes to have these hotspots up and running by the end of the summer. Estimates for the total construction of the project are between $16 & $20 million.

July 28, 2006

Happy Birthday Bill

by @ 9:06 am. Filed under Technology

Got a friend with an August birthday? (Bill Clinton was born in August…but you probably don’t buy for him though) Don’t know what to get him/her?… Here’s a few gift suggestions (are you listening Hillary?):

TruScene- This camera attaches to your car and records everything that happens around it in 30 second video clips. Someone dings your door…he’s bagged..

Helio Video Project- Do you like that 3D stuff they have at Disney world? You know the one I mean…little characters floating all around you. How would you like to have it in your own livingroom? You can with the Helio Video Project… it displays video in “thin air”…“Duck!, here it comes again”. I don’t think this one’s for Bill.

Smart Carpet (I love this one) This carpet is smart enough to tell your age…It comes with built in electrodes that measure the electrical resistance of the person walking on it. It can guess your age, shoe size and gender. So if you’re sitting on the couch and forget how old you are…just stand up.

The Fhybrid- Tried of high gasoline prices? How about a front wheel drive hybrid scooter that charges the battery when it brakes (sorry Bill, I have no idea of how it works).

WaLit- It is an illuminated wallet for men (I kid you not)…it has an electroluminescent strip that lights up when you open your wallet…and it can help you find your keys at night too.

RediRipe- For those of you who can’t tell the difference between ripe and unripe fruit (me & Bill included). RediRipe is a sticker placed on the fruit that indicates the level of ripeness… Can’t you just hear it… Bill says: “Hillary this pear is too soft”…”this pear is too hard”… “but, this one is just ripe” (looking at the sticker).

A Plasma TV- Well, this is not just any plasma TV…this is the world’s largest. It is 103” in size. It weighs 475 lbs and is 8’ by 4.5’ (bigger than a double mattress)…This is my favorite…what about you Bill? “We’ll…I mean he’ll take it”…right Bill… This baby is going to set Hillary back about $50,000.

Happy shopping… If you have an August friend that is

July 27, 2006

Record Hall Changes (update)

by @ 6:28 am. Filed under Registry Ops

Here’s an update on the upcoming record hall changes: On Tuesday I met with a member of Court Facilities to talk about the removal of the electrical switch on the 1985-1995 consolidated index cabinet and the lights attached to it. Obvious, the rigger cannot remove the cabinet until all electrical devices have been disconnected. We have also begun preliminary talks regarding the installation of the new electrical wiring that is necessary to relocate the Copy Department and Middlesex South Office. Lan-Tel Technologies visited the registry last Friday and again yesterday to measure for the installation of new voice and data drops. We estimate that the new space needs
twenty-five additional data drops to accomadate the “Copy” and “South” departments. We expect a price estimate from Lan-Tel early next. The project will take place in stages; first the cabinets and tables go, then the area will be readied for the departments and finally the departments will be moved. We are on schedule and still expect the work to be concluded by the end of September.

July 26, 2006

2nd Quarter 2006 Sales Stats

by @ 6:51 am. Filed under Statistics

To supplement the articles in today’s Globe and New York Times reporting the drastic decrease in home and condo sales during the 2nd quarter of 2006, we offer some comparable statistics for the Middlesex North Registry District. While we can’t distinguish between residential and non-residential properties, our numbers do reflect the same trends seen across the state and much of the country. All of the following numbers are for the period from April 1 to June 30 for the years indicated. In 2004, 2531 deeds were recorded. Of those, 492 (19%) were for condominiums. In 2005, the total number of deeds recorded dropped by 5% to 2412. The number of those deeds that were for condominiums rose to 639 representing 26% of all deeds recorded and a 30% increase in the number of condominium deeds from the prior year. In 2006, the total number of deeds recorded dropped 20% to 1932. Of these, 473 (or 24%) were for condominiums. This represented a 26% decrease in the number of condominium deeds recorded from the prior year. Expressed as a ratio, in 2004, one of every 5.1 deeds recorded was for a condo. In 2005, one of every 3.8 deeds was for a condo. And in 2006, one of every 4.1 deeds was for a condo.

July 25, 2006

Mass Foreclosures Up 66%

by @ 6:49 am. Filed under Statistics

Today the Globe reports that foreclosure filings in Massachusetts for the 2nd quarter of 2006 are up 66% when compared to the same period last year. This story seems to make a greater effort than usual to explain that “foreclosure filings” means the number of Orders of Notice filed with the Land Court and does not necessarily equal the number of properties that are actually foreclosed. Still, the numbers are a significant indicator of continuing problems with real estate. Middlesex County’s rate of foreclosure filings is up 78%, but that only puts it in seventh place among Massachusetts counties: Barnstable is up 129%, Bristol 125%, Suffolk 123%, Essex 107%, Plymouth 106%, and Worcester 87%. As for the Middlesex North District (which would be included in the overall Middlesex County numbers cited above), when the number of Orders of Notice recorded in the second quarter of 2006 (177) is compared to the number recorded during the same period in 2005 (77), it shows a 130% increase in such filings. The number of foreclosure deeds recorded is up nearly as much (16 in 2nd Qtr 2005 vs. 32 in 2nd Qtr 2006). The total number of mortgages recorded continues to slide as well. Looking at the second quarter (April 1 to June 30) for each year since 2003, the total number of mortgages recorded in Middlesex North is as follows: In 2003 there were 12123 mortgages recorded during April, May and June; in 2004, there were only 8285, a drop of 32%; in 2005 the number was down to 6677, a 19% decrease from the prior year; and this year, we’ve seen an 18% decrease, down to 5457.

July 24, 2006

SunBurn Hotel

by @ 9:21 am. Filed under Technology

Internet giant Google generates its revenue from a process called “pay per click”. Here’s how it works… Companies buy advertisements from Google using “key words” as the payment trigger. Here’s an example…Let’s say you are interested in taking a trip to Florida…you google the word “hotel”…you get the usual search results but you also get a few paid advertising boxes on the side of the page… let’s say one of these paid advertisers is SunBurn Hotel. You are interested so you click on SunBurn Hotel’s Ad… SunBurn pays a fee to Google…It’s an hour later. I click on SunBurn Hotel, again Google gets paid…It’s called “pay per click” and it has made Google a fortune. The average cost per click is $.50 but it can go as high as $100.00 per click. Google’s “pay per click” business model is under attack and has been for a while…Let me explain how…Here’s another example…let’s say Bill owns a Hotel in Florida also. His is named “SunBlock Hotel spf45”. As you might expect, SunBurn Hotel and SunBlock Hotel are in competition for your business. Bill, who is not the most scrupulous business man, has an idea he thinks will give him and advantage over his competitor. He will go to SunBurn Hotel’s Google Ad and click on it… and click on it… and keep clicking on it. SunBurn Hotel gets no business from the clicks and their advertising budget is being used up…The practice is called “click fraud”…it is threatening the credibility of Google’s revenue model. As you would expect, the bad guys have automated fake clicking so thousands are sent out at a time. It is estimated that 20% of all advertising clicks are fraudulent. Google says it is doing everything possible to eliminate fraud, but some businesses don’t agree.

July 21, 2006

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

by @ 6:16 am. Filed under Registry Ops

Thursday I visited the York County Registry of Deeds in Alfred, Maine. This is a fascinating, old registry of deeds. The registry’s earliest records date back to 1636. There are records that showcase New England’s early settlers and Native Americans. I estimated the York Registry is about one fourth the size of Middlesex North. I have used their online search program and found it excellent…and what I really like is the “online face page” and the “in-house database face page” are exactly the same. I checked a number of pieces of property that sold in the past five years and was surprised to find sale prices were not listed in the computer….My initial reaction was that their indexing information was intentionally limited…so I looked at the individual deeds. Within the body of each deed were the words “for consideration paid”. That was the only reference to consideration…I know what you are thinking, what about the excise stamp?…Yes, each deed was stamped indicating the sales tax had been paid, but no tax amount was listed. Finally, (after being poked by my wife a few times) I asked a recording clerk if “sale prices were public record”…she said “you must be from Massachusetts, I heard they do that down there”. Don’t get me wrong, this woman was extremely nice and helpful…She told me the registry collects the sale tax and submits a form to the Maine Department of Revenue with the property sale price and the amount of taxes paid…but it is not listed on the deed or in the registry’s index…OK, no problem, if that’s how they do it, that’s fine with me…but, later in the day I went to the assessor’s office in Wells, Maine (a part of York County) to check the “assessment” on a piece of property …What do you think I found? You guessed it… a copy of the Department of Revenue’s form that had been filled out by the registry’s recording clerk. It was in a notebook on the counter “completely” accessible to public…and I discovered the town assessor’s website lists the “date and last two sale prices” of the property as well… To be honest I can’t quite figure out the intent of not disclosing consideration on deeds…but hey, what do I know…I’m from Massachusetts.

July 20, 2006

Latest on Blogs

by @ 10:46 am. Filed under Technology

If you’re reading this, you’re not alone. A recent study found that 39% of internet users (about 57 million American adults) are regular readers of blogs. The Pew Internet and American Life Project just released a new study called “Bloggers: A portrait of the internet’s new storytellers.” Based on a telephone survey, here are some of the study’s major findings: Most bloggers post infrequently. Most bloggers have blooged three years or less. Writing is the predominant form of expression on blogs, but one-third of bloggers post audio files and three-quarters post photographs. Most don’t earn any money from their blogs. Political blogs only account for 11 percent of all blogs. Most are personal journals but many are about sports, entertainment or hobbies. (The number of blogs written about registries of deeds was statistically insignificant).

July 19, 2006

ID Theft Prevention Bill Pending

by @ 6:04 am. Filed under Current Events

Today’s Globe reports that a bill that would allow individuals to lock their credit reports for free is pending before the state legislature. If enacted, this legislation would do much to protect citizens from identity theft by requiring credit reporting agencies to independently confirm with consumers that they have applied for new credit. Of course, this would inhibit the type of impulse purchases that have been driving our economy for the past five years. Because there is such a huge amount of money involved, lobbyists from the credit industry are undoubtedly working overtime to kill this bill. According to the Globe article, the chances of this bill even coming to a vote, never mind passing, is doubtful.

July 18, 2006

Live & Learn

by @ 2:04 am. Filed under Technology

You live and learn,,,boy is that true. Last Wednesday my blog entry dealt with OpenDocument software and the threat it poses to Microsoft Office. OpenDocument contains Open Base, OpenWriter, Open Impress, OpenDraw OpenCalc, OpenImpress, OpenDraw and OpenMath. If you remember (what, don’t you memorize my blogs? They make great water cooler chat)…anyway…I said I conducted and experiment. I created a document using OpenWriter and tried to open it in MS Office (Word)…Nope, I couldn’t do it. My hasty conclusion was that MS Office and OpenDocument were not compatible with each other…well it’s true sort of and it’s not true sort of… OpenDocument files can be saved in a way that allow them to be MS Office compatible… After creating an OpenDocument click on File/Save as/ Save as Word document…OpenDocument converts that file to a format compatible with MS Office…but you can’t go in the other direction…if you create a document in Word, Microsoft can’t covert it to an “open” format…I don’t think…or will it? I’m not sure… Help… I’ll find out…I promise, because …you live and learn.

July 17, 2006

“Drama Pricing”

by @ 10:06 am. Filed under Real Estate, Current Events

“Drama pricing” is the name of a new tactic for selling homes. Its main proponent is Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, the largest real estate firm in Massachusetts. With “drama pricing” the seller puts the home on the market for less than its estimated value, hoping to ignite a bidding war among buyers looking for a bargain. This technique recognizes the slow down in sales and the glut of houses on the market. It also addresses the problem of homes that start with a too high asking price growing stale and being forgotten while they linger on the market. With so much information related about house prices now freely available online (for example, www.masslandrecords.com or www.zillow.com), buyers now have many opportunities to gauge a realistic sales price for properties on the market and quickly dismiss those they consider overpriced. Consequently, the seller’s otherwise logical approach setting a high asking price and gradually reducing it probably just ensures that the house will linger on the market with few interested parties and even fewer offers. When even the real estate brokers are talking about a depressed market, you know things are bad.

July 14, 2006

Important Record Hall Changes

by @ 10:55 am. Filed under Registry Ops

The plan to change the upper record hall is in its final stage. A new counter will be built extending from the present Copy/Plan counter to the Elm Street wall of the building. This counter will also be pushed inward to approximately the phone booth. All space within this new area will be used for registry operations.

Here is a list of the other changes that will take place:

The cabinet holding the consolidated Grantor Indexes from 1976-1995 (and various others) will be removed. The Indexes will be put in storage.

The table/storage drawer unit between the Grantor Cabinet (76-95) and the Elm Street wall will be removed.

The table/storage drawer unit to the left of the cabinet holding record books 10730-11393 (the table currently holding the paper cutter) will be replaced with a new table.

The record books along Elm Street numbered from 11394-12237 will be removed. They will be placed in storage in the registry.

The Middlesex South Satellite Office will be relocated to what is now the Copy/Plan Area.

The Copy/Plan Area will be moved down to the Elm Street wall side of the building.

The present Middlesex North Recording Counter will change from an “L shape” to a straight counter connected to the adjacent wall.

The rigger hired to move the units has been contacted. Our plan is to remove the 76-95 Grantor Cabinet before September 15. Before moving the departments we need to do electrical work, computer networking, painting and plastering. This will take a few weeks.

The Middlesex South Satellite Office will probably move in early October.

We are still considering removing the cabinet and bookcases that hold record books 8174-9763 (the book case nearest the stairwell) and cabinet holding
record books 10730-11393 and storing the books onsite.

Also, we are seriously considering turning the registry into an Internet hotspot. Our hope is this will encourage people to bring laptops and work comfortably from anywhere in the registry.

July 13, 2006

Executions

by @ 9:27 am. Filed under Statistics, Current Events

While reviewing the end-of-June recording statistics, it seemed that more than the normal number of executions were recorded during the first six months of 2006. (By “execution” I mean the legal document issued by a court that orders the sheriff to enforce a judgment of that court). After reviewing some historic recording statistics, we can definitely say that the volume of executions being recorded is up dramatically. From the beginning of 2006 until today, executions account for 0.72% of all documents recorded. That might not seem like much, but it is double the percentage found in any of the past ten years. You have to go back to 1991 to find a year where a greater percentage of documents recorded were executions. A similar trend is apparent when you compare the number of executions with the number of attachments recorded in any given year. From 1987 to 1997, on average 3 attachments were recorded for every 2 executions. Since 1998, that ratio has reversed itself with an average of 3 executions being recorded for every two attachments. This year, the ration is more like three executions for every one attachment. What’s going on? As the economy slows, bill collectors get more aggressive. Someone also told me that this is a consequence of the relatively new Bankruptcy Act which makes it almost impossible to discharge credit card debts by filing bankruptcy. Whatever the cause, it’s a disturbing trend.

July 12, 2006

Open Source

by @ 8:44 am. Filed under Registry Ops, Technology

Last week this blog addressed the ongoing controversy between Microsoft and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. At the center of the controversy is the idea that Massachusetts wants all of its government documents to be created in a format capable of being “saved and opened” by various software…not just Microsoft. This software is called open source. The most popular of these open source programs is OpenDocument. OpenOffice is the open source equivalent of Microsoft Office. Yesterday we downloaded OpenOffice onto two of the registry’s computers to get familiar with theopen source program. OpenOffice contains the following modules: OpenBase- This is a database creator similar to Microsoft Access; OpenCalc- A spread sheet program like Excel; OpenDraw- A graphics program; OpenImpress- A program for the creation of presentations similar to Microsoft’s Power Point; OpenWriter- A word processing program; and OpenMath- for equation building. For fun we conducted an experiment… I created a simple spreadsheet using OpenCalc on one of the computers loaded with OpenOffice. I emailed the spreadsheet to a second computer which did not have OpenOffice…Microsoft Office couldn’t (or wouldn’t) open the open source document. Microsoft calls it an “unknown” document type but gives it the Microsoft icon. This is exactly the Commonwealth’s point …government documents should not be held hostage by a proprietary format such as Microsoft. My original plan was to get familiar with OpenOffice by using it to write this blog… I guess I’ll forget that idea.

July 11, 2006

Corporate Certificates Available Here

by @ 7:11 am. Filed under Registry Ops, Current Events

With traffic heading into Boston at a complete standstill due to last night’s tragic collapse of a Big Dig tunnel, the Corporations Division of the Secretary of State’s office is reminding customers north of Boston that Corporate Certicates may be obtained here at the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds. Follow this link for instructions on how this service works.

ID Theft & Illegal Drugs

by @ 6:02 am. Filed under Current Events

The New York Times has another front-page story about identity theft (part one was published on May 30 and written about in this blog on June 14) that again makes the connection between methamphetamine use and the increased incidence of identity theft. Part of it is due to the effect of that particular drug. Heroin and cocaine addicts experience highs that rapidly disappear, leaving the addict desperate for his next fix and ready to create impulsive crimes such as mugging, carjacking and robbery. Methamphetemine users stay high for much longer and the drug causes their minds to focus intently during the high. This gives addicts the time, patience and ingenuity needed for to perpetrate identity theft. But this type of crime doesn’t usually involve stealing confidential information from the internet. Instead, it features the theft of mail or trash. When you pay your bills, don’t leave your outgoing mail in your mail box to await pickup by the letter carrier - an identity theft might get there first and with one of your checks and your original signature, the thief is well on his way to ripping someone off. Of course, the article also speculates that most instances of identity theft are not solved by the police, so the most sophisticated, internet based systems might be fully operational in a way that is invisible to the law enforcement community.

July 10, 2006

More on Electronic Queues

by @ 11:30 am. Filed under E-Recording, Registry Ops

Back on June 28 I wrote about the need to develop and electronic queue management system prior to fully implementing electronic document recording at this registry. In theory, such a system would allow incoming documents, whether they were submitted in person or electronically, to be recorded in the exact order they were received. The more I contemplated such a system, the more I realized that our existing system of recording in-person documents does not guarantee that the customer first in line will have his documents recorded first. Let me illustrate this with a hypothetical situation. Let’s say Customer has a set of five documents, all as part of a residential purchase. The documents are a municipal lien certificate, a deed, a mortgage, a second mortgage and a declaration of homestead. Customer first goes to a public access terminal at the registry and searches the name of the grantor on the deed with a start date of the search being the final date of the title examination. Finding no documents that would effect the transaction, Customer goes to the recording counter and is waited on right away. As the registry clerk is entering the data from Customer’s five documents, Sheriff arrives with an attachment against the Grantor on the deed. Sheriff immediately goes to the recording counter and is waited on right away at one of the recording counter’s multiple recording terminals. Because the attachment is only a single document with two names on it, the clerk waiting on Sheriff finishes inputting the data while the clerk waiting on Customer is still entering data from the five document set. The clerk waiting on Sheriff clicks “save” on the work station and the attachment goes on record at that time and with the next available instrument number. The clerk waiting on Customer finishes a minute later, takes the recording fee check from Customer and clicks “save.” Customer’s documents all receive a time of recording one minute later than the attachment, so the attaching party has superior right to the property as against the new purchaser, even though the Customer recording the new purchaser’s documents got to the recording counter first. There is an “electronic look-back” feature that provides some – but not complete – protection. At the recording counter, when you enter a name in the computer, as you tab to the next field, if the name you just entered was entered into our computer system at anytime during the preceding hour, an alert will appear. So in our example, if the attachment was already recorded when the registry clerk entered the Grantor of the deeds’ name, then the alert will appear. But since the deed is the second document in a five document set, it’s likely that in my scenario, the registry clerk is already past the deed and entering data from one of the mortgages when the Sheriff walks in. The only name the clerk will be typing, therefore, is the Grantee on the deed (as the Grantor on the mortgage). Since it’s not his name on the attachment, no match will occur and no warning will be displayed. If you’ve bothered to read this far this issue is probably one that effects you. As you can see, a queue management system that forces documents to be recorded in the exact order they reach the recording counter is probably something we can use regardless of when we start electronic recording.

Google It

by @ 7:28 am. Filed under Pop Culture

“Google”, the world’s leading search engine has made it…into the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary that is. “Why don’t you Google it”…I’ll bet you have heard this expression many times since Google began to dominate the computer world. Every year Merriam-Webster adds new words to its dictionary based on certain criteria and reviews. According to Merriam-Webster President John Morse, before a word is added to the dictionary they “need proof that the word is showing up in publications that people are reading on an everyday basis” (Boston Herald). No one could deny that “Google” easily falls into this category. …In another note…Google might have made it into the dictionary but it certainly hasn’t made it into my computer’s “spell check” word bank…
Below is a “copy/paste” version of Merriam-Webster’s entry for Google.

Google
Main Entry: goo·gle Pronunciation: ‘gü-g&l
Function: transitive verb Inflected
Form(s): goo·gled; goo·gling /-g(&-) li[ng]/
Usage: often capitalized
Etymology: Google, trademark for a search engine:
to use the Google search engine to obtain information about (as a person) on the World Wide Web

So the next time you come across something or someone you’re not familar with, just “Google it”.

July 7, 2006

ODF

by @ 7:30 am. Filed under Registry Ops, Technology

The battle between the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and software giant Microsoft could rapidly be coming to an end. A quick recap…In 2005 the Commonwealth decided to adopt the OpenDocument Format (ODF) for all state computers by January 1, 2007. The state’s computers (as are most others in the world) are currently running “Microsoft Office”. Although we seldom think of it, “Office” is a proprietary software and as such is not necessarily compatible with all other company’s software. This week Microsoft decided to convert its hugely popular “Office” software allowing it to “open and save” documents in the OpenDocument Format. As referenced in a Boston Globe article this morning the Chief Information Officer for Massachusetts calls Microsoft’s concession “a significant move”. Microsoft’s change of heart has long-range significance. Other US states and foreign countries (especially Belgium) have been watching the Massachusetts/Microsoft controversy with thoughts of changing to ODF also. If the conversion actually does happen by January 1 it will mean converting over 50,000 state computers.

July 6, 2006

Mid-Year Statistics

by @ 10:37 am. Filed under Statistics

Here are some recording statistics that compare the first six months of 2006 with the same period of 2005:

Total documents recorded down 13% from 42221 (2005) to 36929 (2006).
Deeds recorded down 14% from 4184 to 3604.
Mortgages down 15% from 11887 to 10052.
Foreclosures commenced (orders of notice) up 70% from 164 to 278.
Foreclosure deeds recorded up 138% from 26 to 62.
Mass Tax Liens down 18% from 231 to 189.
Federal Tax Liens up 24% from 92 to 114.
Attachments up 26% from 72 to 91.
Executions up 76% from 157 to 276.

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