Lowell Deeds

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

September 28, 2007

End of September Stats

by @ 8:31 am. Filed under Statistics

Even though it’s a few hours premature, I wanted to provide an early report for September’s statistics. As of close of business yesterday, we had recorded just 49 orders of notice, the lowest figure for any month this year. August saw 83 recorded while the high was in March, when 132 went on record. Foreclosure deeds were recorded less frequently, as well, with 33 so far in September compared to 54 in August. Since May, there have been at least 40 each month, so a drop to 33 is significant. Using the first nine months of 2007 to project our annual statistics, we expect to have 431 foreclosure deeds recorded this year, the highest amount since 1994 when 624 were recorded. The highest annual number since 1990 came in 1992 when there were 762 and the lowest number was in 2003 with only 42. As for the total number of documents, we only expect to see about 68000, the lowest amount since 1995 when we only recorded 60000. In contrast, in 2003, we recorded 146956. Check back next week for our exact numbers for September.

September 27, 2007

NMCOG

by @ 8:41 am. Filed under Registry Ops, Local Govt

The Northern Middlesex Council of Governments is a statutorily created regional planning agency. The member communities are Billerica, Chelmsford, Dracut, Dunstable, Lowell, Pepperell, Tewksbury, Tyngsborough and Westford (which duplicates the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds district almost exactly except that NMCOG has Pepperell and we have Carlisle and Wilmington). The NMCOG offices are located at the Gallagher Terminal on Thorndike Street in Lowell. The coming months will see a major change at NMCOG as Robert Flynn, the Executive Director for the past 30 years, will retire in November. He will be succeeded by Beveraly Woods who is not the Assistant Director and has worked for the agency for nearly 24 years. The registry has worked very closely with NMCOG during the past few years in several respects. We have made all newly recorded subdivision plans readily available in electronic form which allows NMCOG to quickly update their master parcel map. We have also tapped into NMCOG’s considerable expertise in GIS to help us integrate our records with the world of electronic maps and overhead photographs. Last evening, I was the guest speaker at NMCOG’s Annual Meeting. My remarks focused on the new projects we are working on here at the registry all of which we’ve written about here on the blog.

September 26, 2007

WiFi Update

by @ 9:15 am. Filed under Registry Ops

The first phase of the installation of our WiFi system has been completed. Five WiFi receivers have been installed throughout the registry which will provide complete public access. Lan Tel Systems mapped out the reciever locations and did the installation…two were put in the Basement Record Hall, one in the upstairs Recording Hall, one in Customer Service and one adjacent to the Register’s office. A number of steps still need to be complete before the system is operational: the new DSL line and the additional routing hardware new to be installed (this is over my head so I am being vague). The system will be password driven and filtered. The new WiFi should be operational sometime next month.

September 25, 2007

ACS User Group Meeting

by @ 4:27 pm. Filed under Website, Registry Ops

The ACS User Group had a productive meeting in Worcester today. This group consists of folks from the 13 registries of deeds that use the ACS computer system (the one we have in Lowell) along with representatives from ACS and the Secretary of State’s office. Attendees got their first glimpse of the new ACS browser-based search program that has a February 2008 target installation date. If you’ve used the public access terminals in the registry to conduct a search and then performed the same query on the Internet, you will receive the same information but it will be displayed in very different ways. (Most people prefer the in-registry system). This new application takes the best features of the public access terminals and combines them with the flexibility of a web-based system. While the current system will remain available beyond next February, I expect that we will completely remove it from the registry in Lowell and shift entirely to the browser-based search program. That way, whether you use a registry computer, your own wireless enabled laptop at the registry, or your own computer at home, you will utilize the exact same program which will be better for everyone once the initial trauma of losing the comfortable and familiar in-registry system goes away. This new approach has the added benefits of being much easier to install and maintain while greatly strengthening the security of our computer network. This is still a long way off, but what I saw today was impressive.

September 24, 2007

Fair-Weather Fan

by @ 7:32 am. Filed under Current Events, Pop Culture

I’m going to admit this right from the start, I AM a fair-weather fan and I AM proud of it. It took me years to achieve this state of sports nirvana. When the Red Sox win I love them…when they lose, I call them bums. Ahhhhh…It is so liberating. Take it from me, the key to being a good fair-weather fan is admitting it (convincing your wife to be one helps too). Last week, a friend of mine said to me after I kicked the Sox around, “Hey, you know what your problem is? You’re a fair-weather fan”. ..“You’re wrong” I yelled back, “It’s not my problem it’s my SOLUTION”. My epiphany came after years of allowing the Red Sox to crush me, heart and soul (I refuse to re-list the tragedies, but you know them… Buckner, Dent etc). So now, while the poor “believers” panic watching the Sox blow a twelve game lead, I just sit back and say, “What do you expect? They’re a bunch of bums”…Ahhhhh, that feels so good! On a more pleasant note…how about MY Patriots.

September 21, 2007

September Stats

by @ 7:51 am. Filed under Real Estate

It’s the first day of Fall and also the end of three weeks of September which makes it a good time to look at our recording statistics for this month. We’ve recorded a total of 3094 documents so far this month, a decrease of 19% from the 3804 we recorded in the first three weeks of September 2006. The number of mortgages recorded during the same period this year and last is down even more – 26% - going from 980 in 2006 to 727 this year. Deeds were down, but not as much. There were 316 in 2006 and 272 in 2007, a 14% slide. As is typical of the past year, foreclosure deeds and orders of notice were both up substantially. Orders of notice, which signify the start of a foreclosure proceeding, rose from 21 in 2006 to 39 in 2007, an increase of 86%. The number of foreclosure deeds increased even more: 12 in 2006 nearly doubled to 23 in 2007, an increase of 92%. Again, this is just a snapshot comparison of the past three weeks with the same time next year. If you check back next Friday, I will have a similar comparison for the entire month.

September 20, 2007

Will Rate Cut Revive RE Market?

by @ 9:36 am. Filed under Real Estate

Since the Federal Reserve cut its “federal funds rate” by half a point on Wednesday, I’ve engaged is several vigorous discussions regarding the impact of this rate cut on the local housing market. The optimists believe this will rekindle the refinancing boom and, with money available so cheaply, buyers will get more aggressive in closing deals. I disagree. I believe housing prices are still higher than they should be and that the average buyer senses that. Regardless of how low an interest rate is available, few people will lock themselves into a purchase price in what they believe is a declining market. You risk losing the equity you invest in the new home or, if you’ve financed the bulk of the purchase price, you risk owing more than the property is worth. My position was supported by a column in yesterday’s New York Times. From 1960 to 2000, the ratio of the value of the average home to the average household income stayed at about 3 to 1 (for example, a house that cost $120,000 was typically occupied by folks with a household income of $40,000). Since 2000, however, that ratio has gone up so that it is now 4.5 to 1. And that’s the national average; in California, Florida and the Northeast, it’s even higher than that. According to this article, until the price of houses slips back to the 3 to 1 ratio, houses should be considered to be overpriced.

September 18, 2007

Feds Cut Rate

by @ 11:21 am. Filed under Real Estate

This afternoon the Federal Reserve cut the “federal funds rate” by 1/2 point (from 5.25 to 4.75). The federal fund rate is the rate banks charge other banks to lend money. This is good news for the housing market which has seen a serious slow down in the past few years. Most economist expected the Feds to decrease the rate by only a quarter of a point. Experts hope this significant decrease will stimulate economic growth and prevent the country from falling into a recession. The move will have an immediate impact on consumers as banks lower their prime lending rate in response. It shouldn’t take long before the effects of the Federal Reserve’s actions are felt at the registry of deeds. We should see an increase in recordings fueled mainly by an increase in mortgage refinancing. But just how much of an increase remains to be seen.

Alan Greenspan on the Mortgage Meltdown

by @ 11:17 am. Filed under Archived

While driving home from a registry meeting in Worcester today, I listened to Alan Greenspan being interviewed on NPR where he was promoting his new memoir, “The Age of Turbulence.” The interviewer asked many questions about Greenspan’s role in the mortgage market meltdown. According to Greenspan, he and the Federal Reserve played no role in the current difficulties. The housing boom wasn’t a result of his interest rate cuts, but of “global forces beyond the control of any central bank.” He said that reports that had him favoring adjustable rate mortgages misconstrued a single speech he gave in which he said that for a small group of people, namely, those who plan to own a home for no more than two years, adjustable rate mortgages are a good idea. He also said that the Federal Reserve was “ill suited” to police the mortgage market for predatory lending. He said that predatory lending is really a type of fraud, so it was the responsibility of the attorneys general of the various states to investigate that. Although I had considered buying Greenspan’s book, I changed my mind after listening to his interview. From his perspective, he had noting to do with anything that happened in the housing market.

September 17, 2007

John Quiz

by @ 8:26 am. Filed under Pop Culture

I found this quiz in “Tourist News”, a Southern Maine arts and entertainment publication. It is titled “Every Tom, Dick and Harry is named John”. It was written by Joseph Morrison. Here is how it works…fill in the blanks with the appropriate last name of the person named “John”.

1.The first person to sign the Declaration of Independence was John ____________.

2.A longtime conductor of the Boston Pops was named John _________

3.John ___________ was a member of the Beatles.

4.Author John ____________ wrote the Novel “The Firm.

5.The 35th President of the United State was named John ___________

6.John _____________ is married to a Ketchup Heiress

7.John ______________was the first American to orbit the earth.

8.The musician named John ____________ wrote the song “Rocky Mountain High”.

9.America’s second president was named John ______________.

10.Billionaire John ________________ made his fortune in the oil industry starting the Standard Oil Company.

Check below for answers…

1. Hancock 2. Williams 3. Lennon 4. Grisham 5. Kennedy 6. Kerry 7. Glenn 8. Denver 9. Adams 10. Rockefeller

September 14, 2007

Fed Meets Next Week

by @ 8:27 am. Filed under Real Estate

The Federal Reserve meets next week and is expected to cut its federal funds rate by a half a point. This has generated some optimistic chatter here at the registry where those in the real estate professions long for a recovery of the housing and refinance markets. Unfortunately, I don’t see such a rate reduction as having much of an impact. The immediate problem for homeowners in distressed situations is that they owe more than the house is worth. That means they cannot borrow enough money to pay off the underlying loan regardless of the interest rate charged on the new note. And for those who do have sufficient equity to support a new loan, I believe the obstacle is the availability of new loans, not the amount of the monthly payment. After a few years of reckless practices, the lending industry has now found religion and has adopted hyper-stringent standards in a reactionary sort of way. On top of this, it seems that consumer pessimism is rising which means that many who could obtain loans will not seek them as they hunker down for better times.

September 12, 2007

Boston Globe RE Blog

by @ 6:37 am. Filed under Archived

Bloggers love to promote other good blogs. So if you interested in real estate the Boston Globe has an excellent blog. You can find it here. http://boston.com/realestate/news/blogs/renow/
Check it out.

September 11, 2007

Copies of Deeds for Homeowners

by @ 11:50 am. Filed under Current Events

Several months ago we wrote about National Deed Service, Inc., a company with a Washington DC address that had set the Massachusetts registry of deeds world abuzz by sending letters to homeowners offering to obtain certified copies of their deeds for them at the remarkable price of $69.50. I say remarkable because the same homeowner could get the same thing directly from us by mail for just $5 and for free if he wanted to come to the registry in person. It seems that National Deed must work in cycles because we haven’t heard much for months and suddenly we received three phone calls from homeowners today, all prompted by the National Deed solicitation letter. When this first arose, I determined that National Deed was doing nothing illegal, perhaps just a bit misleading. Still, the National Deed solicitation specifically states in all caps “Many government records are available free or at a nominal cost from government agencies.” We tried to work out the economics of this business. Let’s say it costs 40 cents per letter (not counting labor) when you factor in bulk postage and merge print letters. If you send out 1000, that would cost you $400. If ten come back with checks for $69.50, that would yield $695.00 in gross revenue. But you would spend about $6 per deed to obtain certified copies from the registry. When added to the $400 for the initial mailing, this would make your total cost $460. This would leave you with a net profit of $235. It doesn’t sound like a lot of money for a lot of effort.

September 10, 2007

Scan Project Underway

by @ 8:12 am. Filed under Registry Ops

Last week ACS loaded a new book-scanning program onto three of our computers. The program is easy to use and very efficient. The operator only needs to provide the book number and the program assigns page numbers as the images are scanned. We set up two high-speed scanners and one smaller one to work the project. The high-speed ones can gobble up forty pages at a time. Last Friday I timed a high-speed scanner. It took only ten minutes to scan a 350 page book. This is from the time the book was placed in the scanner to completion. Of course, this was under ideal conditions. We plan to fix our record book imaging problems using this new program. There is still one more step before these “new” images are made available to the public. ACS needs to move the images from an internal folder to the main database. This will make the images available both in house and on the Internet. That won’t take long.

September 7, 2007

Why is E-Recording Catching On Now?

by @ 10:24 am. Filed under E-Recording

There are several reasons. While there used to be just one, there are now four companies providing electronic recording services: eRX, Simplifile, Ingeo and Stewart Title. The resulting competition has created a sense of urgency as each company seeks to signup early adopters of this new technology. Another reason for rising interest in electronic recording is the changing nature of conveyancing. Now that home mortgages have become just another commodity to be funneled to Wall Street for repackaging, the speed with which the transaction is consummated and the documentation routed to the investment bankers becomes crucial. Every aspect of the mortgage process is automated except for recording. My sense is that the mortgage industry is applying pressure on conveyancers to remove that speed bump by moving to electronic recording as quickly as possible. In a strange way, the current real estate slowdown has also contributed to this newfound interest in e-recording. A lawyer doing ten closings per day two years ago didn’t have time to learn and adopt new technologies; with only ten closing each week these days, that same lawyer has more time to investigate a new way of doing things.

While this registry does not endorse or recommend any intermediary company, you may obtain information about the respective services they provide by calling Paula Steger of eRX at (214) 887-7473, Paul Roth of Simplifile at (781) 552-1148, Greg Brown of Ingeo at (770) 643-9920 or Mike Agen of Stewart Title at (800) 732-5113. For general information about electronic recording and how this registry has implemented it, visit our blog at www.lowelldeeds.com/blog or call me at (978) 322-9000 or send me an email at lowelldeeds@comcast.net.

September 6, 2007

amazon.com and electronic books

by @ 11:29 am. Filed under Technology

I am one of the foremost advocates of electronic books at the registry of deeds, but when it comes to reading a novel at home, I still go for the centuries old technology found in the paperback book. That all might be changing. Recently, I’ve noticed many advertisements (ironically in print version newspapers) for Sony’s “Reader”, an attractive, intriguing electronic book reader. Not to be outdone, Amazon plans to roll out its version of an electronic reader for the holidays. Called the “Kindle”, this device connects wirelessly to Amazon to permit downloading from their vast inventory of books. (The Sony device requires you to attach it to and sync it with a computer to update it’s content). Because it’s wireless, the Amazon product also serves as an internet browser and, because it has a full keyboard, a note taker while you’re reading. I’m not certain that I’ll enjoy electronic books when it comes to reading for pleasure, but I’ll be giving it a try (soon after the “holidays”, I hope). I never thought I could do without my print version of the newspaper, but I find that on days when the paper is delivered late or I’m up early, powering up my laptop and reading the news online has become an adequate substitute for my breakfast-time fix of news and sports information intake. We’ll soon find out if the transition will be as easy with the latest bestseller.

September 5, 2007

Patriots Quiz

by @ 7:51 am. Filed under Current Events

The New England Patriots start their season on Sunday. Are you a fan? Think so? Then try this Patriots trivia quiz and test your knowledge.

1.In what year did the Boston Patriots become the New England Patriots?
a. 1969 b. 1970 c. 1971
2.How many Super Bowls have the Patriots won?
a. 2 b. 3 c. 4
3.Which of the following is the Patriots leading rusher?
a. Jim Nance b. Mack Herron c. Sam Cunningham
4.Who is the Patriots leading scorer?
a. Gino Cappelletti b. Tom Brady c. Adam Vinatieri
5.Which of the following colleges played host to the Patriots “immediately” (correction)before they moved to
Foxborough?
a. Boston College b. Boston University c. Harvard
6.What team did Babe Parilli end his career with?
a. New York Jets b. San Diego Chargers c. Patriots
7.In what year did the AFL and NFL merge?
a. 1970 b. 1971 c. 1975
8.Which of the following teams won Super Bowl I?
a. New York Gaints b. Green Bay Packers c. Chicago Bears
9.What is the name of the Patriots first ever draft choice in 1960?
a. Larry Garon b. Gino Capelletti c. Ron Burton
10.Where will the Patriot finish this season?
a. Win the Super Bowl b. Lose in the Super Bowl c. Not make the Super Bowl
Scroll downs for answers

1. b- 1970
2. b- 3
3. c-Sam Cunningham
4. c-Adam Vinatieri
5. c-Harvard
6. a-New York Jets
7. a-1970
8. b-Green Bay Packers
9. c-Ron Burton
10. Guess

September 4, 2007

Astronomy and Wikinomics

by @ 10:09 am. Filed under Current Events, Technology

The science section in yesterday’s Globe contained a story illustrating the concept of Wikinomics which is a term based on the online encyclopedia Wikipedia which was created by everyone who wants to participate. The article in question describes a project called Galaxy Zoo, an astronomy project that seeks volunteers to divide online phonographs of millions of galaxies into two classifications: spiral and elliptical. To participate, you log onto www.galaxyzoo.org and signup. You then are presented with a digital picture of a galaxy and you decide whether it is shaped like a Frisbee or a football. That’s it. Apparently, it’s a decision that is not suitable for an automated computer process and so it requires a set of eyeballs. This is where the “wiki” part comes in. Instead of paying people to plod through all of these photographs, the organizers hope that there are enough people in the world interested and willing enough to spend a few hours gazing at a couple of dozen celestial photographs (for free). There’s some redundancy – several people look at the same photograph – to weed out errors, so it’s not like the fate of the universe will depend on your ability to discern the shape of a galaxy, I expect wikinomics will also come to the registry of deeds eventually. I envision a community history project in which individuals can log on and add information about the history of a particular property – who lived there, when, what happened, what was life like, that sort of thing. A non-working example of this may be viewed in the lower right corner on our “chain of title” mock-up page.

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