Lowell Deeds

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

May 30, 2008

May Recording Statistics

by @ 5:01 pm. Filed under Archived, Statistics

It’s the last business day in May and the Recording Counter just shut down, so it’s time to compare this month’s numbers with May of 2007. The biggest change is in the number of foreclosure deeds recorded. (All of these comparisons are for Lowell documents only) The 51 foreclosure deeds recorded for Lowell this month are a 105% increase over the 20 recorded last May. I believe it also sets a record for the most foreclosure deeds recorded in a single month. The prior record was 44 back in 1993. The number of deeds recorded slid from 207 in May of 2007 to 158 in this May. The same thing happened with mortgages which declined from 449 last May to 261 this May, a 41% decline. One piece of potentially good news is that the number of Orders of Notice (the document that marks the beginning of a new foreclosure) declined 27% from 37 last May to 27 this May. While that could suggest that the rate of foreclosures is slowing, there are alternate explanations (Land Court is behind in processing new petitions or lenders are holding off on foreclosing hoping values will rebound, for example), so it’s not yet time to proclaim that the worst is over.

May 29, 2008

Housing Summit on Monday

by @ 8:41 pm. Filed under Real Estate

This coming Monday, June 2 from 8 am to noon at the Wannalancit Mills, 600 Suffolk Street, Lowell, Congresswoman Niki Tsongas will host a Merrimack Valley Regional Housing Summit. The keynote speach will be delivered by Barry Bluestone, the Dean of the School of Social Sciences at Northeastern and the Director of that school’s Center for Urban and Regional Policy. Four separate panels will then discuss (1) Energy Implications; (2) State of Housing in the Merrimack Valley; (3) Housing Production adn Affordable Housing; and (4) Housing Foreclosures. This event is open to the public and should be very informative.

May 28, 2008

WiFi-ulitis

by @ 1:27 pm. Filed under Technology

“If I walk into a room or building that has WiFi, my most immediate sign is that the front of my right thigh goes numb” (Hey, that sounds like the way I felt when Tom Brady was getting tossed around like a rag doll by the NY Giants). These are the words of Arthur Firstenberg describing his Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS) to Internet WiFi… “If I don’t leave, I’ll get short of breath, chest pains and the numbness will spread” (that is exactly what happened to me watching Britney Spears being carried out of her apartment on a gurney last month). An allergy to WiFi can bring on many “non-specific” symptoms also…headaches, fatigue, nausea and of course, the inability to connect to Google’s home page. According to ABC News, experts are divided about the validity of such claims…“hold on there now ABC…let me tell you something”. I know what Arthur Firstenberg is talking about. Every time I go near a Wireless Internet network I become overwhelmed also…with an uncontrollable need to check my email. I feel an itching and burning in my fingers and toes. I get a throbbing desire to double click my Gmail Inbox button. At times it is even worse…when I walk into a WiFi filled Starbucks my legs literally weaken. My tongue aimlessly flaps..I can barely speak rationally…Once I asked a clerk, ”I’ll have a medium Mocha Webaccino” (they never get that order right). Of course, I got a Latte Yahoo. But…unfortunately, some experts don’t understand people like Arthur Firstenberg and me… and I quote…”There are also some indications that these symptons may be due to pre-existing psychiatric conditions”. What? What are they trying to say? That we’re nuts? Really? Well Arthur and I will take a Double Shot…of Espresso Explorer that is.

May 27, 2008

Another Governmental Blogger

by @ 11:53 am. Filed under Current Events, Technology

A story in this morning’s Globe introduced us to another governmental official who is now blogging – Judge Nancy Gertner of the US District Court for Massachusetts. Judge Gertner, who has been on the bench since 1993, began writing for the Slate.com legal blog, “Convictions” back in March. While the Slate blog is filled with posts by at least half a dozen writers, Judge Gertner has been the least prolific, writing only four times. That’s not a criticism, however, because having a sitting judge at any level write a blog is historic. The Globe story discusses the challenges she faces in navigating the Code of Judicial Conduct and her “day job” on the bench. Blogging is a flexible, effective, efficient way to reach a constituency and, while many blogs are heavy with opinion, just as many others are informative and as objective as anything composed by a human being can be. My experience is that if readers have a neutral to good opinion of the writer and agree with what the writer has composed, then it’s OK to be blogging. If the reader is predisposed against the writer or disagrees with what has been written, then blogging is a bad idea. But that’s been the case anytime someone has shared an opinion with others. The only thing different with blogging is the technology.

May 23, 2008

A Title Problem

by @ 1:46 pm. Filed under Indexing

A local attorney discovered a tricky title issue today that shows up on a mortgage recorded in Book 21582, Page 1. The property involved is at 16 Congress Street in Dracut and the current owner is Empire Property Management Corp which bought the property from the town of Dracut back in 2002. The mortgage in question (from 2007) gets the parties mixed up. In the granting clause, it says “White Fox Development (the lender) grants to Empire Property Management Corporation (the property owner) with mortgage covenants . . .” While the correct property owner did sign the mortgage, when we enter indexing data into our database, we use the identities and spellings set out in the granting clause so we indexed this one with Empire as the grantee and White Fox as the grantor. If we noticed the discrepancy between the granting clause and the signature on the mortgage, we may have entered Empire twice, once as grantor and once as grantee. But our checklist requires us to ensure the document is signed, not to match signatures with the names in the granting clause. Now that we’ve learned of the discrepancy, we’ve added Empire’s name a second time with a “grantor” annotation and have made a marginal reference to the deed. Hopefully, the someone with the authority to do so will record a Scrivener’s Error Affidavit to clarify the record.

May 22, 2008

Foreclosure Prognostications

by @ 12:31 pm. Filed under Statistics

Even though there’s still a week left in May, the number of foreclosure deeds filed for Lowell thus far exceed the monthly total for all months back to mid-1994 except for March and April of this year. Last fall, it seemed that foreclosures had peaked during the summer. June, July and August had all averaged more than 30 per month, but then the numbers tapered off to the low 20s for the balance of the year. That trend continued in January and February of this year. But in March, the number of foreclosure deeds spiked to 38, a monthly amount exceed only by 39 in August 1994 and 44 in March 1993. The high volume continued through April (37) and as of today, 32 have been filed in May and that’s with five more recording days until the end of the month. Including only the May figures to date, 2008 is averaging more than 30 foreclosures per month, the highest monthly average for a year since 32 in 1993. It doesn’t take a mystic to predict that a turnaround for real estate is nowhere in sight.

May 21, 2008

Interns Working

by @ 4:28 pm. Filed under Registry Ops

Our college interns arrived on Monday. All are repeaters and nice to have back. We immediately put them to work re-scanning record books. They are working in the area which used to the lower record hall. Three scanners are going all day long. The volume of work actually requires that two people are assigned the task of preparing books for scanning and reassembling them. I am having a little difficulty estimating how many books will be done by summer’s end…Why? The biggest reason is the varying condition of our record books. This means not every book can be scanned in the same way. Some have very light pages that need to be copied then scanned before a good/fair image can be obtained. This of course is time consuming. Then some books are in perfect condition and fly through the scanner. My best guess is the interns can re-scan about 200 hundred record books a week. That means about 2,000 books will be completed by the end of the summer. We intent to keep the re-scan project going even after they leave.

May 19, 2008

Boston’s Winning WiFi

by @ 2:35 pm. Filed under Technology

I’ve written about municipal WiFi on this blog many times in the past. I truly believe in affordable Internet access for all. One post I wrote on this topic was a disappointment for sure…it dealt with EarthLink’s decision to terminate its agreement with the city of Philadelphia to install Wifi . When this information was released, many thought it spelled the end of municipal WiFi and affordable Internet. But the City of Boston proved once again why it is a world leader. As other WiFi efforts fail, Boston’s thrives. A Globe OpEd piece written by Brian Worobey explains why Boston is succeeding while others are not. According to Worobey Philadelphia tried a mass production approach using a “one size fits all” model. This corporate driven effort quickly led to financial problems. Boston is proceeding differently. Small sections of the city are being fired-up one at a time. And each with its unique coverage problems is a learning experience. Of course, this is a slower method than the one proposed in Philly and San Francisco, but Boston’s is working while the others have problems. Worobey explains it this way…”Rather than throw millions of dollars at a citywide solution that might well fail, openairboston.net has employed discrete investments in small scale rollouts that test technology against neighborhood needs to produce flexible systems that teach us how to do wireless right”. For instance Grove Hall and Dudley Square went online this spring. This was a 1.1 sq mile area project…the second section of the city slated for WiFi is Fenway and Mission Hill. Interest enough, “the technology employed in this second pilot will differ from that used in Grove Hall and Dudley” (Worobey). The solution (test, learn and be flexible) is so simple, yet ingenious…Great job Boston.

May 16, 2008

S.A.V.E. our neighborhoods

by @ 3:01 pm. Filed under Real Estate

“S.A.V.E. our neighborhoods” is the name of the city of Worcester’s action plan to deal with the current foreclosure crisis. City government in Worcester has clearly taken the lead on dealing with the many foreclosures in that city with all departments contributing to a central database that directs the city’s efforts to minimize the collateral damage on neighborhoods caused by properties left vacant because of foreclosure. The most aggessive tactic employed has been to petition the courts to appoint the city reciever of property that is seemingly abandoned. Other efforts include enlisting neighborhood Crime Watch groups to be the eyes and ears of the city in spotting properties when they first become troublesome, and educating tenants on their rights to remain in property that has been foreclosed upon until they are formally evicted. The approach used by Worcester in dealing with the foreclosure crisis could serve as a model for many other communities in Massachusetts and the region.

May 15, 2008

Condominiums and Foreclosures

by @ 3:28 pm. Filed under Real Estate

A story in today’s New York Times about the plight of surviving unit owners in condominium complexes that are hit by foreclosures caught my eye. Even though these folks are up to date on their own mortgages, their condo fees and special assessments are out of control because owners who fall behind in their mortgage payments also start missing their monthly condo assessments. This puts a greater burden on the remaining owners who must either contribute more than their share to make up the difference or allow the complex to fall into disrepair due to a lack of funds for maintenance and upkeep (or both, more likely). This story prompted me to scrutinize the foreclosure rate for condominiums in Lowell. While the overall rate of foreclosures in Lowell has doubled from the first four months of 2007 to the same period in 2008 (rising from 63 to 129), the rate of foreclosures of condominiums during that same period has tripled, going from 7 in 2007 to 21 in 2008.

May 14, 2008

Summer Interns

by @ 7:48 pm. Filed under Archived

Sorry for this short entry…I have been spending a lot of time setting up for the arrival of our college interns on Monday. We have out-fitted the former lower record hall for mass scanning. The interns will spend the entire summer re-scanning record books 1 to 2770. Three scanners will run the entire workday capturing new improved images that contain marginal references. I’ll write more about his next week.

May 13, 2008

Merrimack Valley Economic Development Council

by @ 9:13 pm. Filed under Local Govt

Today the Lowell Sun published the 2007 Annual Report of the Merrimack Valley Economic Development Council. The mission statement of the Council is

to advance the economic interests of the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts. The Council encourages greater communication and cooperation between the public and private sectors, and fosters collaborative efforts between and among communities, leading to sustainable economic growth and prosperity for all.

With tightening budgets and the competition of globalization, local government and quasi-governmental agencies such as the Economic Development Council are critical to our future economic well being.

May 12, 2008

The Old Ladies Home

by @ 4:55 pm. Filed under Real Estate, History

Last Saturday Lowell Sun Chairman Kendall Wallace wrote and interesting column which contained a “by the way” reference to The Old Ladies Home on Fletcher Street in Lowell. Reading it reminded me of this story.

A couple of weeks ago a friend (here at the registry of deeds) who is involved with the Old Ladies Home asked me if I could find its Articles of Association. Apparently, the group is doing some historical research and was searching for the names of the original founders. The first question I askedwas, “is it really called The Old Ladies Home?”…well, “it used to be”, he said, “now it is referred to as the Merrimack River Valley House”. My friend’s request came late in the day and I knew I was looking for document at least 160 years old. Truthfully, deep down inside I groaned “It will take me forever to find something called The Old Ladies Home and even then, what are the chances I’ll find the Articles of Association. Using our new electronic indexes I pulled up the 1855-1880 Grantors looking for the name “Old Ladies Home”…you are not going to believe this, bam..right their on the very first page I viewed was a document recorded on May 4, 1867 indexed under the Old Ladies Home…I crossed my fingers! Could it be the Articles? Please, please, please…my eyes glanced over to “document type”…There it was, as plain as could be “the Articles of Association” for The Old Ladies Home in Lowell. You can just image my excitement..and it listed every founder, attested by the registry’s first register A.B. Wright… Let me quote directly from the document…“In witness whereof we have herunto set our hand this twentieth day of April A.D. 1862 (it wasn’t recorded until 1867) Dr Sarah H. Young, Mary A. Hedrick, Mrs J.L.Corliss, Sarah S. Corliss, Rachel H. Allyn M.D., John Nesmith, John A. Buttrick, John A. Knowles, C.P. Talbot, Wm Kelley, Harriet Nesmith, A.L. Brooks & B. Patch”.

May 9, 2008

Homestead Seminar

by @ 10:03 pm. Filed under Homestead

Assistant Register Tony Accardi and I will be at the Lowell Senior Center (corner of Broadway and Fletcher) tomorrow (Saturday, May 10) at 10 a.m. to talk about homesteads. We’ll have blank forms available and will be able to notarize the signature of anyone wishing to declare a homestead on their property. We’ll bring the executed forms with us to work on Monday where they’ll be recorded. If you have any questions about homesteads and can’t make it to tomorrow’s seminar, please visit the homestead section of our website.

May 8, 2008

Indexes on the Internet

by @ 1:49 pm. Filed under Website

Since April 1 and the rollout of our pre-1976 indexes on our in-house computer system, many customers have asked us when they might expect these indexes to be available on the internet. The files we are using on the internal network are huge with each file eoncompassing 1000 or more separate images, so it would be useless to just place them on our website: your computer would time out before you could download one of them. We’ve known that for a while and have explored different (more streamlined) methods of presenting this information that would be more suitable to internet hosting. After several false starts, it looks like we have found a programmer who can make this happen. Our expected delivery date for this new application is June 30, 2008, just about seven weeks away and right in time for the really sticky weather that makes this old, only partially air conditioned building a difficult place to spend the summer.

May 7, 2008

Ticket to the Game

by @ 1:46 pm. Filed under Technology

I kept asking myself…what’s up with this Microsoft & Yahoo thing? Why would Microsoft want to invest $47.7 billion (yes, that’s billions not millions) to purchase Yahoo? Why?, Why does the world’s leading software maker need to purchase and Internet company? It finally occurred to me, well with a little help from a great New York Times article, that is. It is not about “Search”…its all goes back to Google, Microsoft’s chief competitor. Google’s strategy for defeating Microsoft is by offering Open Source software “free” through the Internet. Google offers a bundle of downloadable software products designed to perform the same functions as Microsoft Word, Excel, Access and Power Point, and they offer it free. Techie experts predict free “open source software” is the future, a forecast that will cut off the software giant’s life-blood…unless, of course, Microsoft gets in the game also. Ah, there’s the rub…The purchase of Yahoo would make Microsoft an instant player in the online software game…And Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is willing to pay $33 a share or $47.5 billion for a ticket to the game.

May 6, 2008

Condo Liens and Homestead Law

by @ 4:25 pm. Filed under Homestead

A website user posed an interesting (and hypothetical) question via email over the weekend: Does an existing homestead protect the owner of a condominium from an action by the condominium association to collect unpaid condo fees? It’s a question that I’d never considered and I have not researched case law to find any decisions on point, but a close reading of applicable laws gives some clues. Chapter 188, section 1 sets out the exemptions to homestead protection. They are unpaid taxes, a debt contracted prior to the acquisition of the homestead, a debt contracted for the purchase of the home, child support, or “a judgment based on fraud, mistake, duress, undue influence or lack of capacity.” No mention of a condo lien there. But the condo lien is a type of super-lien that still may supercede the homestead. For instance, Chapter 183A, Section 6 specifically states (among many other things) that “Recording of the master deed constitutes record notice and perfection of this lien; no further recordation of any claim of lien for assessment under this section is required. I guess that means that the lien exists even before the individual unit is sold by the developer of the condominium but that the lien only becomes funded by the failure to pay fees when due. Under that interpretation, the condo lien would fall within one of the homestead exemptions (“a debt contracted prior to the acquisition of the homestead”). If this exception does apply, then the condo lien is entirely outside the homestead and actions to enforce it would not be barred.

May 5, 2008

CMLS

by @ 2:01 pm. Filed under Real Estate

The Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division has filed a lawsuit against the Multiple Listing Service of Columbia, South Carolina. According to the Feds the rules and regulations of the CMLS has resulted in higher costs to consumers. In the words of Assistant Attorney General Thomas Barnett “Today’s lawsuit seeks to remove unlawful impediments to competition for real estate services in the Columbia area, so that consumers will benefit from the additional options and reduced fees that competition can bring”…wow, pretty heavy words. According to the lawsuit, CMLS do not accept open listings that allow owners to sell their own property without paying a commission. The CMLS also requires that agents provide certain services even when the seller does want or need them…but it seems the Department of Justice’s biggest problem is “that CMLS’s rules give real estate brokers the ability to exclude rivals from outside Columbia who might offer local consumers innovative brokerage options that save them money or provide services that better match their needs”. It is worth noting here that the CMLS operates differently from most other Multiple Listing Services in the country.

May 2, 2008

Law Day at Fifty

by @ 4:18 pm. Filed under History

Congratulations to the Greater Lowell Bar Association and the local Juvenile and Superior Courts here in Lowell on an excellent Law Day ceremony held this noon in the civil session of Lowell Superior Court. Law Day was instituted in 1958 by President Eisenhower in reaction to the massive military parades held in the Soviet Union on May 1st. The message of Law Day was that while the legitimacy of the Soviet government rested on military might, the foundation of the US government was the supremacy of our laws. The program began with the presentation of the colors by the Lowell High School Air Force Junior ROTC Color Guard which was followed by the National Anthem sung by the Lowell High Spindles show choir. An eighth grade class from the neighboring Rogers School then led us all in the Pledge of Allegiance. After remarks by Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, State Senator Steve Panagiotakos and Mayor Bud Caulfield, the four finalists in the bar association essay contest then read their compositions. They were Caitlyn Connerty of Billerica High School, Christopher Heintz of Tewksbury Memorial High School, Katy Nowoswiat of Lowell High and Kelsey Wright of Notre Dame Academy. Katy Nowoswiat won the $1000 scholarship first prize by writing about how the lessons of our World War Two internment of Japanese Americans are instructive in today’s War on Terror. After a some patriotic songs by the Spindles and a rendition of Jackson Browne’s “I Am A Patriot” by Tim Bergeron, the winner of this years’ Lowell High Idol competition, the event adjourned and a luncheon was served to all in attendance.

May 1, 2008

April Recording Statistics

by @ 10:22 am. Filed under Statistics

Judging the direction of the housing market is a great challenge, but with the month of April now history, we can compare recording statistics for 2008 with those seen in 2007. Through the ten towns in this registry district, indications are that the market continues to slide, slightly perhaps, but slide nevertheless. The number of deeds and mortgages recorded were both down 17% (541 deeds in 2007 to 447 in 2008 and 1459 mortgages to 1206) and the number of foreclosure deeds was way up – The 29 of April 2007 grew to 67 in April 2008, a 130% rise. But that statistic is a bit misleading because we’ve known for months that those foreclosures have been in the pipeline. The positive news is that the number of Orders of Notice (the document that commences foreclosure proceedings) was down by almost 11%, slipping from 113 in 2007 to 101 this April. This trend of either steady or declining numbers (something that’s been seen since at least the beginning of 2008) of Orders of Notice being recording could suggest that the rate of foreclosures is easing somewhat.

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