Lowell Deeds

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

March 30, 2007

Courthouse Floor

by @ 9:29 am. Filed under Registry Ops, History

Our maintenance department stripped and waxed a large portion of the terrazzo floor in the Lowell Superior Courthouse earlier this week. They did a great job. It is absolutely beautiful. The colors in the mosaic that borders the perimeter of the floor jump out at you. I actually find myself stopping in the halllway examining the intricate pattern created by small tiles. Today tiles like these are installed in sheets…but in 1897 each tile (measuring approximately inch square) was painstakingly installed one by one. Our new gleaming floors inspired me to do a little terrazzo floor research. I discovered the follow on the Internet…and I quote: “ Terrazzo is a smooth, multicolored floor made of marble or stone chips embedded in a cement binder, and then highly polished. Traditionally terrazzo floors are poured and set on site”. The courthouse floor is eighteen inches thick in most places and in some over twenty-three inches. An old dreary rug still covers the registry’s recording counter area. The magnificent terrzzoa floor lies under it. Three weeks ago the maintenance staff removed the rug in the Cusomter Service area. As one of the men pull the first piece of glued down rug from the terrazzo he looked at me and said “this is a crime”. I couldn’t agree more. Last week I called a contractor to give us an estimate for the removal of the recording counter carpet.

March 29, 2007

Mapping Town Foreclosures

by @ 11:43 am. Filed under Archived, Website, Real Estate

Yesterday’s post presented interactive maps showing the locations, by zip code, of all Lowell foreclosure filings from January 1, 2006 to March 27, 2007. Here are corresponding maps for each of our towns (except for Dunstable and Carlisle which only have a slight amount each) for the same time period. Just click on the town name to display the map, then click on one of the map symbols to see the address, date and book and page number of each foreclosure:

Billerica (92 foreclosures)

Chelmsford (48 foreclosures)

Dracut (98 foreclosures)

Tewksbury (64 foreclosures)

Tyngsborough (23 foreclosures)

Westford (22 foreclosures)

Wilmington (45 foreclosures)

March 28, 2007

Mapping Foreclosures

by @ 9:38 am. Filed under Real Estate, Technology

One of our objects for 2007 is to present registry data in a more graphic way through the use of mapping software. Because the increasing number of foreclosures is an item often in the news these days, I have mapped the location of all “foreclosure filings” (officially called Orders of Notice) that have been recorded from January 1, 2006 up to yesterday, March 27, 2007. These documents mark the commencement of a foreclosure proceeding. Because of the sheer number of them, I have created separate maps for each community within the district and, for Lowell, a map for each of the city’s zip codes. Each of the red markers on the map indicate the location of a property that’s either been foreclosed or where one is now in progress. If you position your cursor over one of the red markers and right click your mouse, a data box will appear showing the property address, the date the Order of Notice was recorded and its book and page number. Today I will post the Lowell maps; tomorrow the towns.

Lowell zip code 01850 (Centralville)

Lowell zip code 01851 (Highlands)

Lowell zip code 01852 (Belvidere and Downtown)

Lowell zip code 01854 (Pawtucketville and the Acre)

March 27, 2007

The Globe Magazine

by @ 6:02 pm. Filed under Real Estate

This Sunday’s Boston Globe magazine was the paper’s annual real estate issue and two Northern Middlesex communities - Billerica and Lowell - were featured in a story called “The Hot Five: Towns for First Time Home Buyers.” While the section on Lowell promotes many of the city’s downtown amenities, there is a “if this is all you can afford, it’s not really that bad” tone to the piece. for example, the reason Lowell’s so attractive to first time buyers is that the median price for a condo had dropped 25% in just one year. And then there’s this:

Lowell’s school system is considered troubled by some, but its special education program excels, and St Michael Parish School is a good private alternative. New parents might consider moving across the Merrimack River to Dracut for better schools and single-family homes under $300,000.

How can we go wrong with marketing like that? The other towns in the “Hot Five” were Watertown, East Boston and Brockton.

March 26, 2007

Did you Ever Wonder Why?

by @ 9:29 am. Filed under Pop Culture

I love to blog. It’s fun…although, sometimes when I sit down searching for a topic I feel like Andy Rooney. You know him…the guy on 60 Minutes with the bushy eyebrows…no, not the cranky political one, the one that’s always musing “did you ever wonder why_____?”. Well, this morning I had one of those “did you ever wonder why moments”. I just finished reading and article explaining how scientist discovered a way to give mice the ability to see enhanced colors… My mind raced“did you ever wonder why… scientist don’t do these enhancements to humans”? Hey, I would have volunteered in a second…If something is enhanced, whatever it is, I want it!…the enhanced clarity of an ultra slim High Definition TV powered by DLP technology (got to have it), the enhanced sound on a Bose Acoustimas Home Theater system with 6.1 channel audio (oh, please please, me me)…the enhanced luxury of a Mercedes Benzes S-600 with a 3-value-V12 twin turbo engine (calll meeee Mr Style)…the enhance performance of a really, good quality electric can opener (I know, there is no such thing)…again, enhance it and I want it… And especially if it deals with distinguishing colors. Like most men I need help when it comes to seeing colors. Guys (I really mean men and women here), have you ever had this conversation (or one like it) before?… I’ll bet you have…
Wife: ”You’re not going to wear that tie with that jacket”
Me: It’s blue. What’s wrong with a blue tie with a black jacket”?
Wife: “Your tie is not blue. It’s gray with shades of indigo, cyan and khaki and… your jacket has hints of maroon speckled with magenta. It doesn’t match”…
Me: (lifting my tie up so I can see it closer) Looks gray to me.
“Did you ever wonder why mice get all the good stuff”?

March 23, 2007

Instant Loan Approval

by @ 8:39 am. Filed under Real Estate, Technology

Today’s New York Times has a fascinating article about a retired NASA engineer who played a pivotal role in creating the system that has led to the meltdown of the subprime mortgage market. Nearly a decade ago, web-based automated underwriting software developed by Edward Jones was embraced by the lending industry as a way of speeding the loan approval process. More recently, lenders in the subprime market used this application, which relies on a mathematical mashup of credit scores and income, to give “instant approval” to even the most precarious borrowers. A number of representatives of major subprime lenders interviewed for this article spoke glowingly of this software, asserting that they never would have processed the large number of loans they did in 2003-2004 if they had to rely on mere human beings to approve these loans. Even today, these lender representatives want us to believe that this software was a good thing, that by taking human judgment out of the decision making process, it also eliminated bias or favoritism. Apparently these folks have never heard of the “GIGO factor” – an old computer term that means “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” If a potential borrower who’s making $30K per year states during the 10 second approval process that his income was $80K per year, there’s no way to verify it (nor was there any interest in verifying it, apparently). Although Mr. Jones made millions from the mortgage industry, his perception of it is informative: “You know that old symbol of the snake eating its own tail? Well, we’ve always thought the [mortgage] industry was that. And that’s kind of where we’re at right now.”

March 22, 2007

More on Visit to NEDCC

by @ 6:13 am. Filed under Registry Ops

The decision of whether to spend a significant amount of money to clean and repair the books damaged by the floor cleaning slurry that we’ve been describing for the past few days will be influenced by our long term plans for our historic record books. By “historic” I mean the approximately 3000 books created between 1855 and 1984. There are the larger books, measuring 11 inches by 15 inches, with tan fabric encased covers and sewn bindings. The more recent books, those in the 9.5 inch by 12 inch snap together white plastic covers are a different breed, never intended to be a permanent record of the document images contained within, but something easily replaced when wear, tear and age took their toll on the first edition. But the older books are historic artifacts and should be retained as such. This means taking them out of circulation and storing them in a manner that will prolong their existence. As they are stored down, standing upright, cover-to-cover on metal shelves in our Lower Record Hall Annex, they are exposed to light, air, dirt and pollutants. Those are the things that account for the discoloration that appears on the page edges. Repeatedly being plopped onto copy machines doesn’t do these heavy, dusty, difficult to grasp volumes any good either. According to the experts at the Northeast Document Conservation Center, the single most important thing we can do to preserve these books is to place them in individual storage boxes and stack them on their sides, no more than three high, in a place where the temperature and humidity are both below 70 with neither varying very much. The individual boxes must be custom made and are fitted to the millimeter. They’re not cheap, but these books, in their existing manifestation, will last for many years if properly protected. This is not something we must do immediately, or all at once, but it is something we should do to preserve these important records.

March 21, 2007

More on Damaged Books

by @ 9:22 am. Filed under Registry Ops

The damaged record books addressed by Register Howe in yesterday’s blog entry date back to the early 1900’s…
Their place in history give these rare, old books intrinsic value. Every time I look at the book damage or show it to someone else I cringe. Unfortunately, it is true… but sometimes it takes an accident to learn a valuable lesson. Since the discovery we have covered the tops of all bookcases in the basement with plastic. We know this is only a temporary solution, but it will hold us until we come up with something better. We are exploring a means to create a triangle shaped cover over the books that extends out like a shed. While we are waiting for the books to be repaired they have been put in storage. If you need a copyfrom these books, the images are available on the Internet or come to Customer Service.

March 20, 2007

Book Repairs

by @ 11:10 am. Filed under Registry Ops

Last week we discovered that six of our older record books that sat on the top shelves in the lower record hall annex had been damaged. Here’s what we think happened: That weekend, a cleaning crew was in the building stripping the floors of old wax and doing a thorough (and till now, quite rare) cleaning. While they were working in our Customer Service Office, we believe that some quantity of liquid, a mixture of floor stripping chemicals, water, old wax and dirt, poured through a hole that had been drilled in the 12 inch thick floor to allow for the passage of computer cabling. Underneath this hole were the soon to be damaged books. A few days later, a customer reported to us that some of our books were “stuck together.” We inspected and found that the liquid material had cascaded down and soaked the upper edges of the books at varying depths. The affected portions of the pages are stained a coffee color, although most of the text is still readable. Now, the pages have started to crinkle, opening up odd-sized spaces between the pages. We have good, legible computer images of the pages of these books (as well as microfilm of the same quality), so no information was lost. But what to do with the books? Fortunately, just down the road in Andover is one of the foremost document recovery facilities in the world, the Northeast Document Conservation Center. Today I visited there with one of our damaged books for a prognosis, a tour, and a discussion of the future of book-bound information. I’ll share that story when I write next on Thursday.

March 19, 2007

And The Nominees Are…

by @ 8:05 am. Filed under Technology, Pop Culture

Last week Viacom, the media gaint filed an astounding $1billion lawsuit against YouTube…An attack like this would have sent most companies into a panic, but not YouTube and its parent company Google. This morning YouTube announced it is beginning what it hopes to be an annual tradition…The famous video sharing site will give out awards for “best user created videos.
And the nominees for most inspirational video are…
YouTube will give awards in seven categories: Most creative, most inspirational, best series, best comedy, musician of the year, best commentary and “most adorable video”.
And…You and I will select the winners…Yes, if you are a registered member of YouTube you can vote for your favorite videos…but time is running out. All votes must be in by Friday, March 23 and YouTube will announce the winners on March 25.

Here are some of the nominees:

The band “OK GO” has been nominated for the “treadmill” music video “Here It Goes Again”.

Vloggers Paul Robinett and Peter Oakley for “Geriatric1927″.

and in the category of best series “Ask A Ninja” .

Oh yeah…the winners get a trophy (the design has not been unveiled yet) and will be “prominently” featured on YouTube (whatever that means).

March 16, 2007

Foreclosing Lenders

by @ 10:15 am. Filed under Real Estate

Recent news stories report that two big lenders in the subprime market - Option One and New Century Financial - have been ordered by government regulators to cease operations because of their precarious financial state. This led me to run a quick report to determine which lenders are filing the most foreclosures in this district. From January 1, 2006 up until today (a period of slightly less than 15 months) a total of 843 foreclosures have been commenced at this registry. The following list shows the names of all lenders who have filed at least 20, with the actual number of foreclosures per lender shown in parenthesis:

Deutsche Bank (122)
Wells Fargo (111)
Countrywide Home Loans (42)
Bank of New York (39)
US Bank NA (35)
Washington Mutual Bank (30)
Option One Mortgage Corp (25)
GMAC Mortgage Corp (23)

Because many mortgages were assigned immediately after they were recorded, these statistics might even underestimate the impact on certain lenders. For example, most of the foreclosures commenced by Bank of New York were assigned by Countrywide Home Loans which already has enough of its own foreclosures. But this would mean that Countrywide was responsible for a much higher number of bad loans.

March 15, 2007

A Philosophical Clash

by @ 8:32 pm. Filed under Registry Ops, Technology

Earlier this week I attended a meeting of the steering committee of the Massachusetts Spatial Infrastructure Planning Project. This group seeks to integrate data from a variety of sources - municipal assessors, state agencies, the federal government, for example - and provide that information as “data layers” in a map environment or as data linked to such maps. Since all of this involves land, the registries of deeds of the state have the opportunity to play a major role and to make a huge contribution. Registry records conclusively reflect ownership of land and rights and encumbrances on that land. Combining all this information represents an example of government using “collective intelligence” to provide better services to our citizens and to make the Commonwealth a friendlier place to do business. But this vision requires, or at least presumes, that information held by registries will be freely shared with governmental partners and with end users. The current model in at least half of the state’s registries, however, is to impose a charge for access - either to the database or to print copies. Even in the registries that currently do not impose similar charges, there is some sentiment to begin charging to create a revenue stream. (It’s quite the opposite at this registry - we already charge the hightest fees in the country to record documents on once recorded, they should be freely available to everyone, just like books at the public library - but that’s just how I think). If the future of Massachusetts is a “knowledge based economy” then making information harder to get by charging for access to it would be a step backwards. After all, we are living in the Information Age.

March 14, 2007

Google Vs Viacom

by @ 9:27 am. Filed under Current Events, Technology, Pop Culture

Good eve N ing ladies and Gentlemen and welcome to New York Federal Court…tonight’s heavy weight fight is for a “winner takes all” purse of $1 billion and the right to publish or not publish copyrighted videos on YouTube.

Tonight’s Challenger alleges that the Champ has shown “brazen disregard” for US copyright laws and “deliberately chosen not to take reasonable precautions to deter the rampant infringement on its site” that site is YouTube!
The Champ counters that “YouTube has repescted the legal rights of copyright holders” and is here tonight to fight it out.

But…before I introduce the combatants I would like to call your attention to some important members of tonight’s audience who will be watching our battle with extreme interest…

please give a big around of applauses for…

First…The Raider from Redmond… Microsoft, Miccccroooosoft!!
And here’s one of our older champ’s… Napster. He looks good doesn’t he? I’ll bet he could still go a few rounds...
Coming off a solid victory against the Beatles, we have Apple…come on up here Appppplllllle!!!…good to see you…love the iPod
And also in our audience is the Recording Industry Association of America…Apple, help me here…keep Napster and the Recording Industry apart or we’ll have a fight before the fight.

Now let me introduced tonight’s pugilist…

In the blue corner wearing green, money colored trunks and weighing in with an incredible $10 zillion in equity is the world’s largest search engine Gatling Gun Google…Gooooggggle…Gooooggggle!!!!!

And in the other corner wearing redstone (get it?) colored trunks is the New York Annihilator, the Sultan of South Park, the Comedy Central Crusher, the producer of Nickelodeon, Dream Works and MTV… Viacom…Viiiiaaaacom…Viiiiiaaaacom!!!!!

Ladies and Gentlemen are you ready to rummmbbbble?!?!?!
They sure are.

March 13, 2007

“Mortgage Industry Meltdown”

by @ 5:29 pm. Filed under Real Estate

Driving home tonight I heard the news reporter on WBZ radio begin another story on foreclosures by saying the mortgage industry was in meltdown, prompted by things like New Century’s imminent bankruptcy filing and the ever rising rates of foreclosures, both for subprime loans and now for prime loans. Yesterday’s Lowell Sun contained 12 Notices of Sale and 10 Orders of Notice while this morning’s paper contained another 12 Notices of Sale. Since 2004 we’ve been writing about the threat posed by the runaway mortgage industry. Unfortunately, our dire predictions seem to be upon us now.

March 12, 2007

UPS Gone Bad

by @ 9:35 am. Filed under Registry Ops

Unfortunately, this morning the registry’s computer system experienced a problem that shut down its entire network. This morning I arrived early to check for problems associated with this weekend’s “time of day” change… I truly expected none. First, I checked the cashiering terminals…to my surprise I discovered they would not connect to the “G drive”. This is the ACS database drive ( the most important drive in the registry). Next, I checked our public assess terminals and they did not boot up either. At first I speculated that something had gone wrong with the software patches used to implement the “time of day” change. We called the Worcester and the Middlesex South Registries of Deeds and neither was experiencing a problem. This ruled out the “time of day” patches. You may remember a couple of weeks ago we had a problem with our “Domain Controller”. This problem also shut us down completely. We began to speculate the same problem had re-occurred in the DC. Around this time the Secretary of State’s IT Department became involved in seeking a solution. They successfully logged on to the Domain Controler, which eliminated it as the cause of the problem. Finally, in a long shot an ACS representative told us to check our routers (we have six). We did…and discovered they were the source of the problem. How important are these routers? Well let’s put it this way…they connect “every computer” in the registry to our servers…when they don’t work, nothing works. SEC IT discovered that a failure in the battery backup unit (UPS) that powers ALL of our the routers. As a temporary solution we circumvented the UPS unit and plugged the routers directly into a power outlet. As I write this entry our maintenance company is on its way to replace the UPS unit. Sorry for the inconvenience.

March 9, 2007

RE Plunge Continues

by @ 7:45 am. Filed under Statistics, Real Estate

Our recording statistics give no indication that the slide in real estate prices and activity has finished. Quite the opposite is true. Just yesterday, for example, we only recorded 173 documents. Of these, 9 were executions (an order from the court to the sheriff to collect money from a debtor) and 19 were orders of notice (the commencement of a foreclosure). In contrast, only 15 deeds were recorded. The statistics for the first few days of March (the 1st through the 8th) present an equally bleak picture, especially when compared to the same period in 2006. For each of the following document types, the first number is the 2007 total and the second is the 2006 figure: Total documents - 1549 v 1579; Deeds - 132 v 144; Mortgages – 431 v 388; Foreclosure Deeds – 12 v 7; Orders of Notice – 50 v 13; Executions – 22 v 7. What makes these early March numbers especially ominous is that the ratio of “troublesome” documents recorded in 2007 when compared to 2006 is increasing as we get deeper into 2007. For example, the numbers adjacent to the following document types show the number of documents recorded for the period of January 1 to March 8 for 2007 (the first number) and 2006 (the second number) along with their ratio (shown in parenthesis): Foreclosure Deeds – 51 v 24 (2.1 to 1); Orders of Notice – 200 v 66 (3 to 1) and Executions – 110 v 90 (1.2 to 1). Now, if you look at the ratio of March 1 to March 8 for 2007 and 2006, you see a steep increase in the frequency of (some of) these documents being recorded: Orders of Notice are now at a 3.9 to 1 ratio and Executions are at a 3.1 to 1 ratio. One last thing – the folks recording all of these foreclosure related documents tell us they have plenty of work to do in the coming weeks.

March 8, 2007

Bridging “the Gap”

by @ 10:50 am. Filed under Registry Ops

We’ve written extensively about the gap that exists in electronic recording between the customer’s final, pre-transmission rundown on our website and the moment at which the electronically transmitted document gets recorded. We’ve also explained that with our current configuration of multiple recording stations, that gap also exists for walk in customers. In theory, at least, we have figured out a way to eliminate this gap although the technology that will allow us to implement the theory may be a year or more in the future. Simply put, I see the registry’s recording counter becoming a two-stage process. At the first set of terminals, walk-in customers would present their documents to registry employees who would index and scan the documents much as we do right now. But rather than go on to the cashiering/on-record stage, that particular “set” of documents would flow into an electronic queue where it would be chronologically integrated with incoming electronically transmitted “sets.” The contents of this queue – the exact indexing data and perhaps even the images – would be available to everyone for examination. Those recording remotely would use their internet browsers; those at the registry might examine the queue using a large screen monitor mounted in public areas much like arrival and departure information is displayed at the airport. When a “set” reached the front of the queue, the customer who submitted it would be called to the second part of the recording counter where the fee would be paid and instrument numbers assigned. At any time up until that point, the customer – either a walk-in or a remote user – could cancel the transaction if something of concern showed up in the queue in front of his “set.” Of course, once a “set” was in the queue, the order of recording would be set and nothing that wasn’t already in front of it could “cut the line.” In some ways, it’s a throw back to the days of asking to see the documents being held by the folks in front of you in the recording line, a practice that fell out of use a decade ago. Again, this is just a theory right now, but I suspect the technology that will allow us to operate this way is not too far behind.

March 7, 2007


by @ 9:44 am. Filed under Technology

There is a great article in this month’s “Wired” magazine. The theme of the article is downsizing in today’s world…the author, Nancy Miller gives examples: using iTunes allows us to listen to our favorite “single song” instead of “albums”; For $1.99 Video iPods offer one recent epispode of our favorite TV show; Miller even cites the iincredibly popular “shrunken Oreo” (Mini Oreo) cookie…I found this all interesting, but what struck me the most was an insert in the article written by Steven Leckart. Leckart jokingly lists (I think he was joking) some major movie titles with a “downsized” summary. Here is a sample…I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


The Empire Strikes Back ………Vader is Luke’s dad
Citizen Kane……………………….Rosebud was his sled
Psycho………………………………Norman is the killer
The Sixth Sense…………………..The Doc is dead too
Planet of the Apes……………….Earth, in the future
Gone with the Wind……………..He dumps her
Romeo and Juliet………………..Double suicide
Old Yeller………………………….Dog is put down
Moby Dick ………………………..Whales destroys boat lives
Jaws…………………………………Shark desstroys boat dies

Thanks to Wired magazine

March 6, 2007

ACS Users Group Meeting

by @ 3:30 pm. Filed under Registry Ops

The ACS Users Group (consisting of all the registries in Massachusetts that use the ACS computer system) met today in icy, windy Worcester. The main item on the agenda was a presentation by Christian Jacqz, the Director of MassGIS, on that agency’s vision for integrating the state’s GIS records, registry of deeds records, and local assessor records. Doing this would truly result in the type of “one-stop shopping for real estate information” that we first talked about in 1999. Finally the technology has caught up with our ideas, so the hurdles aren’t as much computer-related as they are political- or business-practice-related. While those hurdles aren’t necessary easy to overcome, the solutions usually don’t cost a lot, so that’s good. In the coming weeks we hope to write more about our plans for GIS integration here on the blog, so please check back. Other items on the Users Group agenda included more discussion of the proposed changes to the www.masslandrecords.com website. The most important change, from our perspective, would involve making all names available on the screen at one time (just like the in-registry search system). While this is supposedly easy to do, the consequences might be problematic. Specifically, a search that returns a large set of names, because they’re all being displayed at once, could bog down the speed of the entire website. So we decided to have ACS to some technological calculations and come up with a prototype, or at least a recommendation on how to proceed at our next meeting which wil be during the second week in May.

March 5, 2007

Phase II Record Hall Re-org

by @ 10:56 am. Filed under Registry Ops

We have finalized plans for Phase II of the Upper Record Hall renovation. I have listed these changes in categorizes titled “Definitely or Probably” and have two categories to explain “what is happening now” and “the future”…Here’s the update:

The remaining metal record book cabinets and the final two research tables will be removed from the Upper Record Hall.

The “L” shaped metal shelf unit in the corner of the Upper Record Hall near the parking lot will NOT be removed, but the books will be.

The “Middlesex South” (1639-1855) record books and indexes will be relocated to this “L” shaped unit.

The large island in the Lower Record Hall holding books 4735-2771 will be removed. This space will be used for additional computers.

These books will be re-shelved around the perimeter of the Lower Record Hall and books 6932-4175 will actually be removed.

The latest book remaining on the shelf will be 4174.

At the end of Phase II books 10624 to 4174 will be removed…this is a total of 6,449 record books.

Once the cabinets and tables in the Upper Record Hall are gone, the wall (it is actually a thin piece of paneling) which covers an original opening and separates our mail room from the record hall will be removed.

The copy department will be relocated to the present mail room.

WiFi (wireless Internet access) will be installed in the Upper and Lower Record Halls. This connection will be available for people who wish to connect to the Internet with their own laptops for research purposes.

What is happening now…
Toupin Rigging will be in the registry on Monday to give us a cost estimate for the removal of the final cabinets and final research tables.

The record books in the Upper Record Hall are being boxed and readied for removal.

The estimated time of completion for phase II is April 15.

The Future…

There are more changes planned. We will reveal them as soon as they are finalized.

[powered by WordPress.]


Recent Posts:


search blog:


March 2007
« Feb   Apr »


21 queries. 0.894 seconds