Lowell Deeds

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

July 31, 2008

Multifunctional Confusion

by @ 1:05 pm. Filed under Indexing

A few days ago I wrote about the new amendment that codified the previous registry practice of charging multiple fees for documents that performed multiple functions, a practice that was overruled by the Appeals Court in the Patriot Resort case. The new amendment cleared the way for registries to return to the prior practice. Unfortunately, the language of the amendment may be open to multiple interpretations, so individuals trying to record documents are apparently confronting unexpected fees, even under the new system. I’m confident the formula for charging for multiple documents will be clarified soon, but in the meantime, here’s a document that the Registers of Deeds Association produced back in 2006 that lays out the calculations of charging (or not chargine) multiple fees under a variety of scenarios.

July 30, 2008

Vista & iPhone

by @ 1:18 pm. Filed under Technology

I recently purchased a new HP computer. It runs Window’s new operating system, Vista. Many users have complained about Vista, but Microsoft is sticking with it. My attitude when I purchased the new computer with Vista was “an operating system is an operating system”…at least that is how I felt until yesterday. For the first time since purchasing my new computer I tried to download iTunes 7.7 and sync my iPhone. To my surprise I got an error…”I must have done something wrong”, I thought. I deleted and reinstalled iTunes and tried again..another error.Then a third time delete/ reinstall…a third error. ” What am I doing wrong?? I angusihed. Last night I spent numerous hours researching the problem on the Internet. Finally, I discovered it wasn’t me…there is a compatibility problem between Windows Vista and the iPhone and its little brother iTouch. I believe the only reason there isn’t more public outcry is most people are not running Vista, yet…but they will. Rememeber Microsoft is sticking with its new OS, so when you buy a new computer you’ll get Vista, simple. Luckily I came upon a solution to the problem in an Apple Support site. I tried it this morning and it worked…but, can you believe this absurdity? Vista, soon to be the most used operating sysytem in the world is not compatible with iPhone, the most popular cell phone in the world? Of course, Apple blames Microsoft and Microsoft blames Apple…me? I blame both of them.

July 29, 2008

Globe reports on June home sales

by @ 8:58 am. Filed under Real Estate

Citing Lowell and Brockton as the primary examples, today’s Globe reports that communities that have suffered the highest rates of foreclosure saw a significant increase in the volume of home sales in June. That people are buying and sellers are selling in higher numbers is certainly good news. The downside of the story is that the sales are for greatly reduced prices. For example, as shown on a chart that accompanies the paper-based version of the story, the average sales price of a property in Lowell was 29% lower than it was a year ago. The particulars of the sale of a four-bedroom home in the Upper Highlands section of Lowell is actually featured in the story. The realtor involved seemed to speak positively about how there were ten bidders for this one property. But this sale involved a home that went for $317,000 just two years ago and only $179,000 today - by my math, that’s a 44% drop in value in just two years, certainly not a good omen for those sitting on mortgages that haven’t been reduced at a comparable rate.

July 28, 2008

Cuil

by @ 1:59 pm. Filed under Technology

It is called Cuil (pronounced cool). Me? I would probably call it crazy (pronounced craaazzzyyyy). What is Cuil? Cuil is a brand new search engine just launch today. And the developers are pretty energetic. They plan to topple the search colossus Google. The word cuil comes from Gaelic and means knowledge (and probably highly optimistic). But seriously, taking on Google? That’s like me becoming the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots this year. Google has an estimated value of $66 billion…incredible! Here is a list of other search engines that have tried the David and Goliath thing with Google…Teoma, Vivisimo, Snap, Mahalo and Powerset… exactly, I have never heard of them either…so how is Cuil different? And why do its founders think they can succeed where others have failed? Well, three former Google employees have founded the company for one thing. And they intend to approach “search” differently…Here is a quote from BBC News “Instead of just looking at the number and quality of links to and from a webpage as Google’s technology does, Cuil attempts to understand more about the information on a page and the terms people use to search”. I tried Cuil this morning. It was very slow. That was probably becuase it was the newcomers first day. Once connected I loved the way results were displayed…give it a try.

July 25, 2008

Multiple Documents - Multiple Fees

by @ 11:00 am. Filed under Indexing

In an outside section of this year’s state budget that was just signed by the governor, the confusion over the fees charged for multiple documents should finally be cleared up. You may recall that the practice in many registries was to charge multiple fees for documents that performed multiple functions. For example, if one piece of paper discharged a mortgage and an assignment of leases and rents, it was doing the job of two separate documents. The registries would therefore index it as two documents and charge as though it were two documents. This practice was challenged by the developer of a time share resort in Berkshire County who ended up paying about $70,000 in filing fees for a “multiple assignment.” With that much money at stake, the matter went all the way to the Appeals Court which ruled that the law allowed registries to charge a single fee for a single piece of paper regardless of how many matters were contained in it. This new amendment reverses the appeals court and not only permits the multiple fee practice, it mandates it. And it applies retroactively. Here’s the text of the amendment:

a) Except as otherwise provided, the fees of the registers of deeds to be paid when a document or instrument is recorded shall be subject to a surcharge of $20; provided, however, that if the document or instrument to be filed includes multiple references to a document or instrument intending or attempting to assign, discharge, release, partially release, subordinate or notice any other document or instrument, each reference shall be separately indexed and separately assessed an additional $20 surcharge. The fee for recording a municipal lien certificate shall be subject to a surcharge of $10; provided, however, that if the certificate includes multiple references to a document or instrument intending or attempting to assign, discharge, release, partially release, subordinate or notice any other document or instrument, each reference shall be separately indexed and separately assessed an additional $10 surcharge. The surcharges imposed shall be used for community preservation purposes. No surcharge shall apply to a declaration of homestead under chapter 188. No surcharge shall apply to the fees charged for additional pages, photostatic copies, abstract cards or additional square feet for the recording of plans.

July 24, 2008

Tragedy in Taunton

by @ 10:40 am. Filed under Current Events

A story in today’s Globe reminds us of the human cost of the housing crisis. Tuesday afternoon, just an hour before the foreclosure auction on her Taunton home was to commence, a woman faxed her mortgage company a letter saying she’d be dead by the time the auction began. The mortgage company called the police who arrived along with the bidders. They found the homeowner dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. She left a note urging her family to use the insurance proceeds to pay off the mortgage.

As we track the statistics on foreclosures, it’s important to remember that each represents a crisis for some individual or family. It should also remind us that as far back as 2003, this nationwide outcome was entirely predictable, yet too many people were making too much money to put on the brakes before the stakes got so high.

July 23, 2008

Good Health Steve

by @ 1:33 pm. Filed under Current Events, Technology

Using this blog I have often made fun of, or even bashed Apple Computer and its CEO Steve Jobs in a light hearted manner, of course…I just don’t like the proprietary nature of Apple products. Again, Apple is my topic, but today it’s serious. Recently, concerns that Steve Jobs has fallen sick have surfaced, once again. I say “once again” because the Apple master-mind battled pancreatic cancer four years ago. At the time, after having surgery, it was thought he had fully recovered. At the July 11 event introducing the 3G iPhone observers said Jobs appeared pale and gaunt. And check out this quote from Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer…”Steve loves Apple, he serves as CEO at the pleasure of Apple’s board and has no plans to leave. Steve’s health is a private matter”… Steve’s health is a private matter???…usually when you are in good health you do not say your health is a “private matter”. On a callous, materialist note the rumors of Job’s possible ill health have caused Apple’s stock to drop significantly. The fortunes of the computer giant have hinged on Job’s leadership. Case in point…In 1985 Jobs was fired as Apple’s CEO. Following his termination Apple entered a period of decline wallowing in creative misdirection. In 1996 the board of directors brought back the charismatic Jobs and the company he founded sky rocketed again…In the years since his return to Apple, Steve Job’s brought the world iTunes, the iPod, the iPhone, the iTouch just to mention a few innovation. This is one rumor I truly hope is just that, a rumor. Good Health Steve.

July 22, 2008

Addressee Unknown

by @ 2:26 pm. Filed under Registry Ops

Occasionally we will receive a piece of first class mail that is addressed to a member of the public in care of the registry of deeds at our address. In the past, when we have discovered an envelope so addressed, we have deposited it in a public pick-up box in the vicinity of the recording counter. Unfortunately, this has led to a variety of problems dealing with the chain of custody of such documents. To reduce the opportunities for such problems to arise in the future, we will now immediately return any mail addressed to a member of the public at this address to the sender, marked “addressee unknown.”

July 21, 2008

What Can I Do With Qik & Kyte

by @ 1:51 pm. Filed under Registry Ops, Technology

I came across two interesting Internet websites last week, Qik and Kyte. Both of these do basically the same thing…they are Internet sites that allow you to stream video. Yes, “you” can stream video for free. And get this, the source of the video can even be your cell phone. Kyte can also stream a web cam. It is amazing…people post the craziest things. The first time I logged on I watched a live video of a burning fireplace…a little later, I saw a kitten playing with a string and a ball. Fascinating? Well no…but think of the power of these sites. Just image…you are walking through Soho, you see Sean Penn…bam, you pull out you cell phone and begin live streaming the star as he approaches your with his fist clinched. What does this have to do with the registry of deeds? Well, since hearing of these sites I keep thinking there must be a way we can use free streaming video at the registry. I’ll keep thinking…and, if you see me in the registry feel free to give me your idea.

July 18, 2008

Haunting Questions

by @ 3:29 pm. Filed under Pop Culture

I just got these in a forwarded email. They are called questions that haunt you. I bet at least one of these will make you wonder…”I never thought of that”.

1. Can you cry underwater?
2. Why do you put your two cents in…but get only a penny for your thoughts? Where does the other penny go?
3. Why does a round pizza come in a square box?
4. What disease did cured Ham actually have?
5. Why are you IN a movie, but ON TV?
6. Can a hearse carrying a corpse drive in the carpool lane?
7. Why does Goofy stand erect but Pluto is on all fours? They’re both dogs.
8. Do the Alphabet Song and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star have the same tune?

July 17, 2008

Re-Recording a Document

by @ 1:50 pm. Filed under Indexing

Questions about the proper procedure for re-recording a document have arisen lately, so that will be today’s topic. This typically becomes an issue when a problem is discovered after the original document has been recorded. Some of the cases we’ve seen involve ommitting the type of tenancy on a deed into multiple owners, placing the wrlong property address on a document or misspelling a party’s name. The standard practice has been to retrieve the original document, make the correction on it, add an annotation describing the reason the document is being recorded again, and then record it again, assigning a completely new book and page number to it. This was usually done without the knowledge of the party who had signed the document. The proper procedure for handling this situation from the registry’s perspective came up at several meetings on the Deed Indexing Standards. It seems that legally proper way to re-record the same document was to have it re-executed and re-notarized. The registers of deeds collectively decided that the cleanest way of handling this was to require an entirely new document and to completely prohibit the re-recording of any document (although I assume that if an original document was attached to an affidavit, then the document would get recorded as an attachment, but not as an independent document). This all led to the adoption of Deed Indexing Standard 7-11 which states: “The former practice of “re-recording” a document to correct an error or ommission is prohibited.” Although this office has not aggressively enforced this relatively new standard, we will do so now.

July 16, 2008

3G iPhone

by @ 9:48 am. Filed under Technology

The new iPhone was release on July 11 and already all the world’s techie expects are spewing their opinions (time for another personal disclosure)… I am an iPhone owner and I love mine. The new generation iPhone is referred to as iPhone 3G. The 3G stands for a newer, faster means of connecting to the Internet. 3G is thinner and smarter than mine. And the 3G iPhone costs only $199 which is less money than what mine costs. It all sounds great doesn’t it? But according to the experts it still has some of the short comings of the old cranker that I own. The camera has no flash, it cannot do video filming, it doesn’t have a rechargeable battery etc. To me the 3G connectivity alone would make this worth owning. The word is 3G blazes through the Internet…and I can tell you from first hand experience… you don’t know how nice it is to carry the Internet in your pocket until you’ve done it…then your hooked.

July 15, 2008

New Homestead Legislation

by @ 10:41 am. Filed under Homestead

Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly published an editorial in yesterday’s edition calling on the state legislature to act upon Senate Bill 2653 which would enact some fundamental reforms of the Commonwealth’s homestead statute. The proposed amendment would clear up two of the major ambiguities that now exist: whether a new homestead must be filed after refinancing (the amendment says “no”) and whether property held in trust can be the subject of a declaration of homestead (the amendment says “yes”). Additionally, the new law would allow the protection offered by an earlier filed homestead to continue once a new homestead was recorded. Under current law, the filing of a new homestead voids a prior homestead, so debts that came after the first homestead but before the second slip outside the homestead’s protection when the second one is filed. The new law would eliminate this inequity. The new law would also extend the homestead’s protection to the proceeds of insurance or a taking that converted the house to cash. It would even extend to the proceeds of a sale provided they were re-invested in a new home within a certain period of time. If for no other reason than to clarify the “new homestead after refinancing question”, we hope the legislature acts rapidly on this bill.

July 14, 2008

Historic Documents

by @ 11:04 am. Filed under History

On Saturday morning I appeared on the Warren Shaw show on radio station WCAP in Lowell to talk about historic deeds that were recorded here at the registry. I’ve now posted two of them on our website. The first is known as the “Wheelwrigth Grant” which is a 1629 deed for all the land “from the Piscataqua to the Merrimack.” It encompasses all of present day Southern New Hampshire and the portion of Massachusetts north of the Merrimack. The second deed is one from 1832 for property on Fenwick Street in Lowell. It specifically prohibits any Irish from occupying the property.

July 11, 2008

Mortgage System Meltdown?

by @ 11:51 am. Filed under Real Estate, History

I often wonder what it was like for most people on October 29, 1929. Were our predecessors here at the registry of deeds sitting around talking about the lack of recording activity, the high volume of recording activity, the weather, the upcoming city election? Today’s one of the days I’m thinking about this. Will our successors 79 years from now be asking “I wonder what was going on at the registry of deeds on July 11, 2008, the day the world’s financial system imploded?” Of course I’m being overly dramatic, but nothing in the news today excites confidence in our economy, especially the news from minutes ago that shares in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two giant corporations that own or guarantee half of this nation’s $12 trillion in mortgages have already lost half their value today on Wall Street. And it’s only 11 a.m. Stay tuned.

July 10, 2008

Give Twitter a Try

by @ 10:37 am. Filed under Technology

One of my hobbies is to follow trends in “new media” by which I mean blogs, social networking sites and other internet-based technology tools that have revolutionized the way we communicate. Pursuant to this curiosity, a few Saturdays ago I attended the New England News Forum at UMass Lowell. This event brought together new media users from around the country to discuss the latest trends. One of the big topics, something I had missed previously, was the use of a site called Twitter which describes itself on its website as

a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

Reading that, your first reaction might be that the site is intended for people with too much time on their hands. That may be the case for some, but more and more businesses are using Twitter to keep in touch with and receive feedback from customers and co-workers. In fact, a Boston Globe article just last week discussed how major corporations such as Southwest Airlines and H&R Block use Twitter for customer service.

Given all that, we here at the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds decided to give Twitter a try. For us, it will be a method of communicating with our users in real time all types of information about registry operations. We’ve embedded a Twitter feed at the bottom of the front page of our website but that just gives you a small glimpse at the potential of this tool. Please check out our Twitter page itself and, for the full experience, sign up for a free Twitter account and click “follow” when you find LowellDeeds.

July 9, 2008

Doubtful

by @ 2:24 pm. Filed under Registry Ops

The Middlesex North Registry has 16 books referred to simply as “doubtful”. They are part of what we call the Middlesex South books. We have explained the Middlesex South books in earlier posts so I won’t belabor the explanantion. The Middlesex South books contain records of documents effecting the towns in the north district prior to the opening of the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds (July 2, 1855). These books were hand copied in 1855 (and later) by registry workers. The writing is art. The books are categorized by town and have a common Grantor and Grantee Index. This brings me back to the “doubtful books”. The “doubtful books” are kind of a “catch all” for documents that don’t quite fit into the usually mold. When we had electronic images created from the Middlesex South microfilm the “doubtful books”…I must admit, fell through the cracks. Since we have all the necessary equipment and personnel in place for mass scanning, we decided to scan these books in-house. I am hoping the whole project will not take more than a week.

July 8, 2008

Foreclosure Deeds: End the Arts and Crafts

by @ 11:32 am. Filed under Archived, Indexing

Clipping the Notice of Mortgagee’s Sale from the newspaper and taping it to the affidavit of sale on a foreclosure deed is a practice that has outlived its usefulness. I’ve often wondered why we require the orginal clipping rather than a photocopy of it. Admittedly, I’ve never inquired of anyone because up until now it was just a matter of curiousity. But with are relatively recent conversion to the “scan and return immediately” method of capturing images, the speed of scanning is at a premium. Feeding the page with the taped legal notice clipping through the scanner often results in a crumbled disaster, because the clip is only taped at the top and the bottom and it often becomes unsynched from the underlying page when travelling through the scanner’s auto feed. To prevent this from happening, we’re now photocopying the page of the document with the clip and feeding that through the scanner. If anyone can shed any light on the newspaper clipping requirement, please send me an email.

July 7, 2008

Malls Slumping

by @ 11:13 am. Filed under Statistics

I hate malls, shopping and stores…that said, the latest news reported by the Wall Street Journal still concerns me. “Vacancies at retail properties rose to a multi-year high in the second quarter as retailers closed stores and curtailed expansion plans”(Wall Street Journal). The Journal attributes the problem to the slow down in the housing market (it amazes me how the housing market touches everything) and weakening consumer confidence. “Vacancies at enclosed malls in 76 major US markets rose from 5.9% in the first quarter to 6.3% in the second quarter, the highest level since early 2002…” (The Journal). Enclosed malls??? “Faring worse were the open–air retail venues such as big-box centers and grocery-anchored strip centers” (The Journal)…open-aired??? “Vacancy in those formats climbed from 7.7% to 8.2% in the second quarter”(The Journal)…I’m not an economist (or a shopper as I mentioned). But why would there be a difference between the open aired and the enclosed mall vacancy rate? Well, it seems that most enclosed malls are composed of a well established group of franchised stores (I’ll bet you could name a few), while open-air malls have more local grown retailers. These mom-and-pop retailers are usually less able to with-stand an economic slow down. The Journal is also reporting that several major retailers have decided to shelf their expansion plans…Kohls, Chico’s and Starbucks to name a few. It is unlikely the vacancy rate American malls will change in the next few years.

July 3, 2008

by @ 4:21 pm. Filed under Website

The June sales and foreclosure reports and the 2008 reports to date (January 1 thru June 30) are now available online.

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