Lowell Deeds

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

November 30, 2007

Lowell DPW Rescues Old Glory

by @ 9:34 am. Filed under Current Events, Local Govt

Thanks to the two gentlemen from the City of Lowell’s Department of Public Works who arrived at the Superior Courthouse this morning with their “cherry picker” truck and saved the American flag from possible disaster. Sited on the front lawn of the courthouse just to the left of the main entrance are two large flag poles that were erected by the Greater Lowell Bar Association and donated to the Commonwealth several years ago. Time and weather took their toll on the pole that carried the American flag, and the lower of the flag’s two fasteners had given way, leaving the nation’s colors literally hanging by a thread. Not only did the city workers rescue the flag, they did a quick rehab of the ropes and pulleys and the flag is back flying in the dignified manner that it demands.

November 29, 2007

NH Foreclosure Woes

by @ 12:25 pm. Filed under Statistics, Real Estate

The ever increasing number of foreclosures here in the Greater Lowell area have understandably attracted our attention. But a front page story in today’s Nashua Telegraph suggests that southern New Hampshire might be in even worse shape. My memory of the housing slump of the early 1990s is that the Nashua-Manchester-Salem triangle had more than its share of foreclosures although perhaps not as many as on this side of the border. What made the foreclosure process in NH particularly troublesome was the relatively weak safety net that was in place to help those who were losing their homes. I suspect that’s one thing that has not changed.

November 28, 2007

County Price Decreases

by @ 9:56 am. Filed under Real Estate

This morning’s Boston Globe has an excellent article about the housing crisis in Massachusetts. The Globe states that “sales of single-family homes plunged 17.1% in October”. Accompanying the article is a chart showing a county by county breakdown of the decreases…I have listed the chart below.

County……..Oct 2006……..Oct 2007……..Percentage Change
Bershire……$166,150……..$179,375………. 8%
Franklin……$178,750…….$180,570………. 1%
Hampden….$171,900…….$172,600……….. 0.4%
Essex……….$350,000…….$349,000………. -0.3%
Norfolk…….$378,500…….$369,000…….. -2.5%
Middlesex…$385,000…….$368,000…….. -4.4%
Barnstable..$360,000…….$340,000…….. -5.6%
Hampshire..$236,250…….$221,000…….. -6.5%
Worcester…$250,000……$230,000…….. -8.0%
Bristol……..$285,000…….$256,000…….. -10.2%
Plymouth…$310,000…….$275,000……. -11.3%
Sufflok……..$325,950…….$279,000……. -14.4%
Nantucket..$1,523,750….$1,300,000……. -14.7%
Dukes………$695,000…..$545,250……….. -21.5%

November 27, 2007

Lowell Foreclosure Maps

by @ 12:57 pm. Filed under Statistics, Real Estate

An editorial in yesterday’s Lowell Sun called on the city of Lowell to pay closer attention to foreclosed properties within the city, urging that such properties be tracked in relationship to each other to help determine if any particular neighborhood would bear a disproportionate impact of our current foreclosure crisis. Prompted by this editorial, I created four maps that show the location of all foreclosure auctions within Lowell broken down by quarter.

January 1 to March 31 map is here.

April 1 to June 30 map is here.

July 1 to September 30 is here.

October 1 to November 24 is here.

November 26, 2007

Cyber Monday

by @ 8:12 am. Filed under Current Events, Technology

Today, the Monday after Thanksgiving is known as Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday is kind of the techie equivalent of Black Friday. Retailers are smart, very smart. They know Americans love buzzwords. In 2005 “the National Retail Federation’s online division, Shop.org coined” the term “Cyber Monday” to get the public’s attention…and the rest is history as they say. In 2006 Cyber Monday brought over $600 million in online sales to US retailers. Not back…and this wasn’t the biggest day of the year for online shopping. Cyber Monday’s biggest volume day last year was unexpectedly a Wednesday in December… December 13 actually. Why a Wednesday? I don’t know. This year according to Shop.org most retailers are offering online consumers special incentives, the most common being free shipping. I like shopping on the web. It’s fun and convenient… but, the best part about it is…you don’t need to find a parking space.

November 23, 2007

Passport Service at Registry

by @ 11:15 am. Filed under Registry Ops

The Middlesex North Registry of Deeds is now an authorized Passport Acceptance Facility, so if you’re planning a trip to Aruba or Montreal, you can come to 360 Gorham Street and submit your application. (If everything is in order, the State Department will mail you your passport in four to six weeks). Although we have all the necessary forms here, the easiest way to apply is to print the needed forms from the government website, fill them in at home, and bring the completed forms with you. You will also need to bring two passport photographs, two checks, one payable to the Department of State, the other to the Registry of Deeds (the amounts vary), a picture ID and proof of citizenship which, for most folks is a birth certificate. We then mail everything to the federal government. If all the documentation is in order, they will mail you your passport in four to six weeks. If you’re interested, it’s probably best to call us at 978/322-9000 and ask about the service.

November 21, 2007

Turkey Quiz

by @ 8:32 am. Filed under Current Events, History

Here is the registry’s third annual Thanksgiving Day quiz. I believe it would make great appetizer conversation…good luck.

1.In what year was the first Thanksgiving celebrated? a. 1621 b. 1776 c.1860

2.What is a female turkey called? a. cuckoo b. chick c. hen or Jenny

3.What great America wanted to make the turkey the national symbol? a. Ben Franklin b. Thomas Jefferson c. Abe Lincoln,

4.Which state produces the most turkeys annually? a. Arkansas b. North Carolina c.Nebraska

5.Which US president specified that Thanksgiving would fall on the fourth Thursdays of November? a. Roosevelt b. Lincoln c. Kennedy

6.What was the name of the Native American tribe that celebrated the first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims? a. Abenaki b. Wamesit c. Wampanoag

7.What do you call the loose skin that hangs from the turkey’s neck? a. snood b. wattle c. beard

8.What is a male turkey called? a. Tom b. Harry c. rooster

9.What do we call the shopping day after Thanksgiving? a. Boxer Day b. saving day c. Black Friday

10.Norman Rockwell’s illustration called “Freedom from Want” was first published in which magazine? a. Yankee Magazine b. Saturday Evening Post c. Life
Scrolled down for answers:

1. a)1621 2.c) hen 3.a) Ben Franklin 4.b)North Carolina 5.b)Lincoln 6.c) Wampanoag 7.b)wattle 8.a) Tom 9.c)Black Friday 10.b)Saturday Evening Post

November 20, 2007

Technology and our changing culture

by @ 6:53 am. Filed under Pop Culture, History

History has always been my favorite subject and recently, the subset of history that most interests me is how new technology has changed lives and culture in the past. I recently came across a book named “Rethinking Thin” by Gina Kolata, a top science writer at the New York Times. The book contains an interesting example of how technology changes culture in the chapter about the history of diets and attitudes towards weight in America. Kolata asserts that our national obsession with thinness developed in the early 1900s because of three technological innovations. The first was the inexpensive bathroom scale. Previously, if you wanted to know how much you weighed, you went to the general store or some similar place and stepped onto a big contraption that had a large and very public display of the weight recorded. With the advent of the small, inexpensive scale, everyone soon had one in the privacy of the home bathroom, and tracking one’s weight on a daily basis became a national obsession. A second innovation helped this national trend. That was improvements in the methods of making mirrors. Previously, mirrors were very expensive and very small, but by 1905, large, full-sized mirrors became both affordable and readily available. With a full-size mirror in everyone’s house, people soon began paying more attention to the appearance of their figures. The final technological innovation was the ability to inexpensively print photographs and colorful illustrations in glossy, mass circulation magazines. An artist named Charles Dana Gibson, drawing for Life magazine, came up with an idealized image of the American woman – soon to be known as a “Gibson Girl” – that was tall, thin and athletic. Gibson’s work grew so popular that he was paid what would be equal to $2 million in today’s dollars for one year’s worth of drawings. So one hundred years ago, the bathroom scale, the full-length mirror, and the widespread distribution of the “Gibson girl” image in magazines, combined to create an American obsession with body weight that continues to this day. But with Thanksgiving just days away, you might want to grab Kolata’s book: She concludes that the most persuasive scientific evidence today shows that our national “obesity epidemic” is in fact a very positive evolutionary trend. That’s not a bad conclusion to have in mind when sitting down to dinner this Thursday.

November 19, 2007

The Kindle

by @ 8:30 am. Filed under Technology

Way back in my high school days I read a book called Fahrenheit 451 written by science fiction giant Ray Bradbury. The title of the book comes from the kindling point of paper. The story revolves around a fireman name Guy Montag. Guy’s job in the futurist, anti-intellectual society he lives is to burn books…Last Monday Amazon.com in conjunction with Sony released a new device called “The Kindle”. According to CNET Amazon.com believes The Kindle will “burn down the traditional paperback book business”, hence the name. Of course, this is not an anti-intellectual movement on the part of Amazon. It is an attempt to move consumers from printed paper to digital reading. How does it work? The Kindle downloads newpapers and books from the Internet. You can read them on the train or in your house or wherever you prefer. I know…it is sooo nice to curl up with an intriguing mystery novel on a cold rainy night…but Amazon is hoping that you’ll begin curling up with its new handheld device instead. No, you don’t have to be connected your computer to download an article or book. The Kindle connects to the Web using a WiFi network provided by Sprint. But the truth is, E-Readers (that’s what they called these devices) have not really caught on with consumers. For one thing it costs the same to download a book to The Kindle as it does to buy it in the store and its not cheap ($399). At one time I thought E-Reading was the way of the future…today I am not so sure.

November 16, 2007

County Layouts

by @ 8:49 am. Filed under Registry Ops

A few weeks back the Middlesex South Registry of Deeds sent us the County Layout Plans related to our ten towns. The plans came to us in rolls separated by towns. Right now the public’s only access to these plans is by viewing the original. This Monday we will begin scanning the plans and creating an in-house searchable index. Our computer system does not allow us to name a plan using letters. For this reason the plans will be named accordingly…Billerica County Layouts will be filed in Plan Book 910; Carlise 911; Chelmsford 912; Dracut 913; Dunstable 914; Lowell 915; Tewksbury 916; Tyngsborough 917; Westford 918; and Wilmington 919. Once they are scanned you will be able to view these plans in our Plan Imaging program…I will post when they are available.

November 15, 2007

Amazing Foreclosure Decision

by @ 12:35 pm. Filed under Real Estate

A court in Ohio has issued a ruling that might throw the mortgage industry into (much deserved) chaos. In this case, reported today in the New York Times, homeowners who were being foreclosed upon, filed suit to prevent the foreclosures, arguing that the entity doing the foreclosure did own the legal interest needed to foreclose. The foreclosing lenders could not produce mortgages or notes that showed ownership of an interest in the subject property, so the judge prohibited them from going forward with the foreclosures. Here’s how this all works: A “mortgage” really consists of two main documents - a promissory note which is the borrowers promise to repay an amount of money with interest within a certain amount of time; and a mortgage which is a type of deed that conveys an interest in the property to the lender. Once a mortgage is signed, the homeowner is left with something called “the equity of redemption” which means that once the money is paid in full, the lender will “discharge” or give back it’s interest in the property which, of course, is the right to seize the property for non-payment of the note. That’s why it’s called a “foreclosure.” The lender takes an act that forecloses or cuts off the borrowers right to redeem the property. When the local bank lends you money and stores the original mortgage and note in its vault, there’s no question about who owns what. But when thousands of mortgages are pooled together, chopped up into shares of an investment trust, and sold off to institutional investors, it’s very easy to lose track of the mortgage and the note. So when the trustee of the investment trust doesn’t get paid by the borrower, he might not have possession of the mortgage or the note. This decision says that in that case, he has no right to foreclose. Look for a flurry of foreclosure related lawsuits around the country raising this issue.

November 14, 2007

More Bad News

by @ 9:45 am. Filed under Real Estate

The predictions are in… and as you might have expected they are not good. So prepare yourself?…New England economists believe real estate prices in Massachusetts will drop another 5% next year…this drop is on top of the 15% seen since 2005. Wow!! In 2005 the median price for a Massachusetts home was $345,000. Analyst at the Warren Group in Boston say this figure will pummet to $304,00 by the end of 2008. For whatever consolation it is there is some good news. As bad as the market is here, it is even worse in some other parts of the country. Chief economist for Moody’s Economy.com, Mark Zandi cited California and Florida as two states experiencing a real estate down turn worse than Massachusetts. And of course, all this means more foreclosures are coming in the future…Hey, cheer up… the Red Sox won the World Series.

November 13, 2007

AG Regs Delayed Until Jan 2

by @ 3:19 pm. Filed under Real Estate

Attorney General Martha Coakley was the keynote speaker at the annual meeting of the Real Estate Bar Association of Massachusetts which was held today at the DCU Center in Worcester. Coakley spoke extensively about the soon to be enacted regulations that will restrict some home mortgage loans. Most importantly, she announced that the effective date of these regulations has now been pushed back from this coming Thursday (November 15) to January 2, 2008. The primary reason for this delay is widespread uncertainty about the regs. Supposedly, some major national lenders have decreed that they will not do business in Massachusetts should these regs be enacted. Coakley was firm but conciliatory, citing countless examples of wrong doing in the mortgage industry, most of it motivated by financial conflicts by mortgage brokers some of whom would routinely place customers in more expensive mortgages just to maximize the fee paid to the mortgage broker. That’s the kind of thing the regs are intended to prevent. The Attorney General stressed that her office will have a continuous discussion over the next six weeks with all concerned to clarify the intent and the application of these regulations.

November 9, 2007

New Regs for Mortgage Brokers

by @ 10:28 am. Filed under Real Estate

Next Thursday a new set of regulations governing mortgage lenders and brokers will go into effect. Promulgated by the Attorney General, these new rules are intended to “stop deceptive mortgage practices.” Specifically, they prohibit mortgage brokers from making a loan if they have a reasonable belief that the borrower will be unable to repay the loan; the limit “no-document” loans, they prohibit brokers from arranging loans that “are not in the borrower’s best interest” and they prohibit mortgage lenders from steering borrowers to loan products if the borrower could afford a less expensive product. While this all seems designed to prevent another iteration of the subprime meltdown we’ve just passed through, many reputable mortgage brokers see this as fatal to their way of doing business. I haven’t quite figured out whether they are misreading or overreacting to the regulations, or whether their concerns are legitimate. If they are legitimate and the local, retail level mortgage broker has to close up shop and leave it to banks and other institutional lenders to originate such loans, it will be one more drag on the housing market.

November 8, 2007

Ripple Effect of Housing Slump

by @ 9:09 am. Filed under Real Estate

While most of the attention given the recent housing slump has focused on foreclosure rates and falling home prices, perhaps the biggest consequence of this slump is just now beginning to appear and that is the tightening of consumer spending of funds derived from rising home equity. From 2004 through 2006, American homeowners pulled $840 billion each year out of homes and have spent $310 billion a year of that amount in “personal consumption.” With no extra money from home sales and refinancings to spend on consumer goods and with home heating oil pushing up beyond $3 per gallon, the US economy might be entering a very precarious time this winter.

November 7, 2007

Dear Mr. Gates

by @ 10:01 am. Filed under Current Events, Technology

Have you heard yet? Microsoft fired its CIO Stuart Scott for violating company policy. I don’t know what Stuart did wrong, but he just lost one sweet job…a seven figure salary and the opportunity to run a near monopoly. I love my job here at the registry of deeds, but if Microsoft founder Bill Gates called asking for my services…well, as they say in politics, I would have to keep all my options open. With this in mind I have already begun to draft my first corporate letter, just in case…

Dear Mr. Gates…
As your new CIO I think the following changes should be instituted as soon as possible at “our” company.
First: I believe “we” should change the name of the company from Mircosoft to Macrosoft.. I know, I know this is a radical proposal, but hear me out. “Micro” was OK when you were just a young Harvard dropout with an upstart software company. But now you are the richest man in the world running the largest corporation. There is nothing Micro about you or our company any more. If you like call me and we can talk about this.
Second: I don’t like the name of our new operating system. Vista? Seriously, what is a Vista? It reminds me of the credit card. Here’s my suggestion…Accardi 07. Has a nice ring doesn’t it? And speaking of ring..did I give you my phone extension number yet in case you would like to talk?
Third: Since we’ve agreed to change the company name to Macrosoft we should also move the headquarters…seriously Bill, I mean Mr. Gates, the average temperature in Seattle is 50 and sunny days are as rare as a yellow spotted thrush. I know you’re the boss but, I like a warm climate…so how about Maui or Tahiti. I hear Marlon Brando loved it there. By the way, could you forward your children’s birthdays so I can mark them in my calendar?
Of course, Mr. Gates these are only suggestions and I am new here. IF you would like to discuss these matters further I can be reached in my office in the basement or by calling my extension #0000.

Sincerely, your humble CIO
Tony Accardi
PS …In case you were wondering, my wife and I have no plans for dinner this Saturday

November 6, 2007

Hidden Costs of Foreclosure

by @ 7:10 am. Filed under Real Estate

A front page story in today’s New York Times discloses how the mortgage servicing industry is making millions of dollars in questionable fees from homeowners going through foreclosure. A study conducted by the University of Iowa Law School that examined foreclosures that had filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection disclosed that more than half of the claims submitted by lender-creditors contained “questionable fees.” Major lenders such as Wells Fargo and Countrywide who were front and center in the subprime crisis have been sanctioned for questionable practices in assessing fees during the foreclosure process. Loan servicing agencies (i.e., those who collect the money and pass it along to investors) typically get paid a fee equal to 0.25% of a prime mortgage or 0.5% of a subprime mortgage, but their agreements with investors usually allow the servicing agency to retain fees assessed for late payments and foreclosure charges. As profits from loan originations have plunged due to the housing slowdown, it appears that these lenders are trying to maintain their profit margins by tacking on all types of fees that get paid when the house is auctioned off. As our political leaders engage in the time honored tradition of trying to close the barn door after the horse has left by trying to impose future regulations on loan originators, the same companies that were major factors in causing this crisis in the first place are exploiting the largely unregulated foreclosure process to continue reaping profits at the expense of homeowners who are in over their heads.

November 5, 2007

Satellite Office Problems

by @ 12:12 pm. Filed under Registry Ops

Around 11:00AM this morning the South Satellite office called me. While recording a document an employee in that department encountered a “Debugging error” (that’s a bad one). We clicked our way through the errors and discovered that we had lost connection with the Cambridge registry of deeds causing the error message. Shortly there after, other problems revealed themselves indicating that email and the Internet connections for Middlesex North were also not working. If you worked from your home or office today you probably didn’t experience any problems since our website was not affected. Around 1:30PM the Secretary of State’s IT Department called saying they thought they had resolved the issue. They had, but only for a while. From 2:00PM to now (3:00PM) the problem has returned intermittently… If you plan on recording ” South documents” in Lowell tomorrow I would suggest that you call the registry before coming (978-322-9090.

November 2, 2007

House Bill 4306

by @ 11:51 am. Filed under Real Estate

A bill pending in the Massachusetts state legislature would require all mortgages and assignments of mortgages in which a mortgage broker was involved, to contain the full name, mailing address and license number of the mortgage broker. If no broker was involved, this would have to be stated on the mortgage or assignment. The bill (House 4306) also states that this information “shall be recorded as part of the mortgage or assignment of mortgage.” It’s unclear whether the registry of deeds would be expected to scrutinize each mortgage or assigment to ensure that the statutory language is present. This bill has not yet been enacted as far as I can tell, but if it is, it will be one more task for the Indexing Standards Committee of the Registers of Deeds Association to address.

November 1, 2007

October Stats

by @ 8:19 am. Filed under Statistics

Recording activity in October was up slightly when compared to September. Here are some numbers:

Total docs: October - 5523 vs. Sept - 4614
Deeds: October - 541 vs. Sept - 477
Mortgages: October - 1171 vs. Sept - 1028
Foreclosure deeds: October - 36 vs Sept - 37
Orders of Notice: October - 48 vs Sept - 53

But when this October’s stats are compared to last October’s, it’s clear that the overall market is still depressed:

Total docs: Oct 07 - 5523 vs. Oct 06 - 6131
Deeds: Oct 07 - 541 vs. Oct 06 - 546
Mortgages: Oct 07 - 1171 vs Oct 06 - 1751
Foreclosure deeds: Oct 07 - 36 vs Oct 06 - 16
Orders of Notice: Oct 07 - 48 vs Oct 06 - 50

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