Lowell Deeds

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

August 29, 2008

August recording statistics

by @ 9:54 pm. Filed under Real Estate

Here are the numbers of key documents recorded this August compared to August of 2007 for the entire ten town registry district:

In August 2007, 648 deeds were recorded. In August 2008, just 495, a drop of 24%.
In August 2007, 1311 mortgages were recorded. In August, 2008, just 798, a drop of 39%.

There may be some good news on the foreclosure front, however:

In August 2007, 54 foreclosure deeds were recorded. In August 2008, there were 47, a 13% decline.
In August 2007, 83 orders of notice were recorded. In August 2008, there were 63, a 24% decrease.

August 28, 2008

Home Prices Continue to Decline

by @ 10:56 pm. Filed under Real Estate

Based on a Warren Group report, the Herald today reported that the median sales price for a home in Massachusetts dropped 12.5% this July compared to July of 2007. With tomorrow being the last business day of August, we’ll try to post our August to August comparisons by the end of the day. As for the decline in this region, my preliminary research showed that if a home sale involved a foreclosure somewhere in the process, the decline in price was substantially more than 12.5%, but if there was no foreclosure involved, the decline was less. My study, however, was based on multiple sales of the same property during the past five years which might lead to misleading conclusions given the rapid ascent and equally rapid decline in values during that very period. I have to scrutinize the figures more closely to validate my findings. Those results will come next week.

August 27, 2008

Google Suggests

by @ 1:48 pm. Filed under Technology

Google Suggests (yes, that’s a capital “S”)
Suggests what?…
Why whatever it thinks you’re looking for. That’s what.
Google’s latest innovation is called Google Suggests and it is designed to facilitate your Internet searches. Here is an example…Did you ever misspell a word in Google search and get that helpful message “Did you mean_______ ? Well, that won’t happen anymore. Instead, Google Suggest will correct your misspelling as you type (believe me I ned that feeture). And Google Suggest goes beyond just correcting spelling mistakes. Suggest is smart, very smart. Listen to this….As you type, it guesses what it thinks you are looking for, and begins to offer its “suggestions” while you are still typing. It sounds to me like Google has another winner with Google Suggests and it’s up and running right now…check it out.

August 26, 2008

Website Problems Persist

by @ 1:45 pm. Filed under Website

The www.lowelldeeds.com site has been inaccessible for most of today. We can reach the site through our internal network and it’s working OK by that route, so that tells us that the server that hosts the site is working OK and that the problem is with its connection to the outside world. A number of technical people are working on it. If you’re able to read this, it means the problem has been fixed, at least temporarily. As a long term solution, we’re in the process of transferring our website to a more reliable setup. Unfortunately, since that is a major change, it will take some time to get it done. In the meantime, we will continue troubleshooting the existing setup.

August 25, 2008

Weds Night Work

by @ 12:06 pm. Filed under Registry Ops

On Wednesday night employees of the Secretary of State’s IT Department will be working on the registry computer system. We do not expect any interruption in service to the public. Last spring we replaced ACS Database Server that was installed in 2001 with a new SAN system. It has more memory, speed and physically it is about one third the size of the old one. The new servers memory is so big it also replaced four other old servers. The
elimination of these emptied three racks in our computer room. One of SEC IT jobs on Wednesday night will be to remove these racks. The new space will be used to store our new Kodak Archive Writer. SEC IT also intends to reorganize the patch cords used to connect the computer drops to the router switches. They were installed poorly way back in 1999. This must be done after hours since it requires disabling every device in the registry.

August 22, 2008

Electronic Recording Update

by @ 4:35 pm. Filed under E-Recording

Last week, the Plymouth County Registry of Deeds began accepting deeds submitted electronically with excellent result, I’m told. Plymouth had launched electronic recording several months ago but had deferred taking deeds until now. Plymouth now joins Middlesex North as full-service electronic recording registries. Hampden County (Springfield) is also accepting documents filed electronically, but it’s my understanding that neither deeds nor mortgages are permitted as of yet. Other registries are inching closer to activating electronic recording systems. While the number of documents we receive electronically varies from day to day, throughout August we were routinely recording more than 20 electronic documents on many days which, with the very slow pace of overall recording activity, would represent more than 10% of our daily volume. As more registries turn on the system, I believe that our volume of e-recordings will rise substantially.

August 21, 2008

House Histories

by @ 3:28 pm. Filed under Real Estate, History

One of the most frequent inquiries I receive from the email link on our website is from those interested in researching house histories. Unfortunately, the Registry of Deeds is more interested in who owns the land and not what is built upon it, so our records are of limited use in that area. Still, inferences can often be drawn. For example, if a lot was purchased for $1000 and then a year later was sold for $5000, you can reasonably conclude that something was built upon it. But to get more precise information about a house’s age and architectual lineage, outside reference sources are needed. Two useful books are “A Guide to Tracing the Genealogy of Your Home” by Sally Light and “Discovering the History of Your House and Your Neighborhood” by Betsy Green is another. The website About.com also has a useful section on house histories.

August 20, 2008

End of Summer Thoughts

by @ 11:44 am. Filed under Registry Ops

As the summer winds down so does our pool of interns. We started June with five (four college and one from the Lowell Career Center) and on Monday we’ll be down to one. In the end these interns scanned over 1400 books for us (great job). But I must admit I was hoping to complete around 1600. In my enthusiasm I did not anticipate certain problems we encountered. As I mentioned in earlier posts, record books with grey scale pages caused the biggest problems. Interestingly enough, we run two types of scanners here at the registry…Kodak 2025 and Fujitsu 5650C. The Fujitsu’s are newer, but less much expensive than the Kodaks. Our Kodaks are higher quality machines that handle grey scale pages without a problem. On our Fujitsu’s the density needs to be changed on the Fujitsu. Unfortunately, we only own two Kodaks. We use one for the Record Book Re-scan Project and the other is being used to scan old Registered Land certificates. Good news…in about a month we are going to suspend the Registered Land project for a few months and retrofit the Kodak for use in the Record Book Re-scan Project. This decision was made not based on importance, but on organizational planning.

August 19, 2008

Hunting for Bargains

by @ 10:39 am. Filed under Real Estate

These days I’m often asked if it’s time to start buying property. Like most questions related to real estate, it’s tough to give a yes or no answer to that one. One observation I am comfortable sharing, however, is that properties that have already undergone the foreclosure process and are now owned by lenders are the best bargains around. A variety of statistics show that homes that have a foreclosure in their recent history sell for an average of 25% less than the price realized at the previous sale. Homes that have sold in non-distressed transactions have seen far less price depreciation (which is one of the reasons I’m hesitant to say overall prices have reached bottom). Today’s Globe has a front page story exploring the bargains that can be had in purchasing recently foreclosed properties. As the story suggests, getting new owners into these troubled houses is the first essential step to stemming the decline and stabilizing neighborhood prices.

August 18, 2008

Rickmat

by @ 1:06 pm. Filed under Current Events

gorilla2 “Bigfoot has been found in the Georgia woods and is being held in a cooler at an undisclosed location”. Don’t laugh, this quote is directly from the Washington Post. Could it be real? Has someone finally found the elusive Sasquatch? Well, Mathew Whitton and Rick Dywer say they have. What?, You don’t believe it? They have posted a picture of the deceased beast on searchingforbigfoot.com. Yeah, I went to the site…yeah, I saw the picture. My impression? Visualize this…remember the gorilla in the Eddie Murphy movie, Trading Places? Now, visualize it stuffed into an small ice cream freezer. Yes, this is a bad one. Our successful Bigfoot trackers affectionately named their find, Rickmat (get it…Rick & Mat). Rickmat stands 7’ 7” tall and weighs 500lbs. Dyer and Whitton claim an expert has analyzed Rickmat’s DNA and found three matches…indeterminate, human and possum. Possum? Come on now, that’s a stretch! And if this isn’t enough Dyer and Whitton are heading back to the same Georgia woods to capture a second Sasquatch. Maybe they should just head to Costume R Us…it would be faster.

August 15, 2008

Changes Coming to Blog

by @ 4:48 pm. Filed under Website

We’re in the process of modifying this blog to add more features, especially the ability for users to post comments. Overall the site will be more interactive and may have guest columnists. In other web-related developments, we’re still trying to track down the cause of the problems that users have experienced accessing www.lowelldeeds.com. The company that provides our communications link to the internet tested its lines last night and found no problems so we’re still searching for the cause. We also continue to work on the index image program that will make all pre-1976 indexes available online. The initial version that we’ve been testing is very promising and we hope to have a workable version online by mid-September.

August 14, 2008

Cyber War

by @ 10:43 am. Filed under Current Events, Technology

The New York Times reports that just prior to the Russian military incursion into neighboring Georgia, many websites belonging to the government of Georgia came under attack from computers across the world. No one knows who exactly launched these attacks. There’s no hard evidence that the Russian government is responsible and the Georgian sites were defaced or altered in a type of electronic graffiti but were not knocked offline which suggests that it was unofficial mischief rather than a coordinated attack from a hostile government. Still, this incident should remind us that with the internet being such an integral part of our everyday lives, attacks on the internet will also be an integral part of warfare - conflict - terrorism in the 21st Century.

August 13, 2008

Fire Eagle…Yahoo!!

by @ 10:18 am. Filed under Technology

Look! Up in the sky, Its a bird, no its a plane…no its Fire Eagle (as of yesterday that is). Fire Eagle is a new location sharing platform being offered by Yahoo. And its Free. Fire Eagle allows you to share your exact location through your cell phone or computer (did I mention it is free?). Why would anyone want to let the world know his/her “exact location”? For one thing because it is free. And it can turn an ordinary application into something extraordinary. Let me give you an example. You’re in Washington DC. You feel like some Italian food for dinner. Log into a “place finding” application. Type in Italian Restaurants and then Fire Eagle tells the application exactly exact where you are, right down to the street…In seconds your computer/phone screen is displaying every Italian Restaurant in the area. Oh, I see, you want/need a little more privacy. Well “the service allows you to authorize just how much information you want to share with the apps” (PC World). And once a month Fire Eagle will send you an email reminding you what you are sharing. I know it all sounds very Orwellian, but it can offer some convenient services.

August 12, 2008

Website Peformance Issue

by @ 3:33 pm. Filed under Website

www.lowelldeeds.com continues to have some problems. The work we performed on our computer system last night confirmed that the problem is not with the computer server that hosts the website. That leaves the line that connects it with the internet as the most likely culprit. We’ve been advising people who call to report problems to use www.masslandrecords.com if the site. We have some long term changes planned for the mechanics of the website - nothing that will be noticeable to users except, perhaps, for more reliable performance.

August 11, 2008

Computer Repairs

by @ 4:53 pm. Filed under Technology

We’ve been experiencing sporadic outages of the www.lowelldeeds.com site for the past week and overall slow performance. We will be performing some maintenance on the site after hours today which will bring the site down for several hours. It should resume full operations later this evening.

Computer Security

by @ 12:32 pm. Filed under Technology

There seems to be rising concern about the threats posed by criminals to those who use the internet to do anything involving money. Just last week there was news that a major international credit card theft ring was broken up (they were selling credit card numbers, expiration dates and security codes for as little as 8 cents apiece). Over the weekend, a couple of MIT students were the target of an injunction requested by the MBTA when the T learned the students planned to give a presenation on how to hack the T’s Charlie Card system at a big computer hackers convention (DEFCON 15) in Las Vegas. But the news that concerned me most was a story about the weakness of passwords as a security measure. We’re not talking about simple passwords like “123456″ or “password” which might be easily guessed, but about sophisticated passwords that contain no discernable words and combinations of letters, numbers and punctuation marks. Instead, the risk in using a password is that you can’t be sure that the website in which you’re entering the password is authentic. Computer criminals now have ways of duplicating legitimate websites and diverting innocent computer users seeking real sites to the fake ones. The customer has no way of knowing that he’s at a bogus site until unknown charges start to appear on his credit card bill. It seems that the best way to protect against this kind of behavior is by having the customer’s computer and the correct internet server authenticate each other using advanced cryptography. Using this method, the only risk would occur if someone else got on your computer.

August 8, 2008

T-Mail

by @ 11:55 am. Filed under Technology, History

A new book is creating a buzz in the national media. In “Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails”, Tom Wheeler explains how Abraham Lincoln became and “early adopter” of his generation’s newest communications technology - the telegraph - and used it to help win the Civil War. The author’s website contains images of various telegrams sent by Lincoln to his generals as well as lessons about using email that the author learned by studying Lincoln. Long ago I became convinced that studying how new technology became integrated into everyday life in the past helps guide us through the rollout of new technologies in the future. This book makes a valuable contribution to this field.

August 7, 2008

First Look at Index Imaging Application

by @ 3:38 pm. Filed under Website

A frequent question asked by our customers is “when will the electronic versions of the pre-1976 indexes be available online?” Since April 1, 2008, such an application has been available on the computers at the registry (that’s the date that we took all paper books including old indexes out of public circulation). The in-house app, however, combines hundreds and sometimes thousands of images into single PDF formatted files. While they’re easy to use on the registry’s internal computer network, the files are too large to use efficiently online even with high speed cable or DSL connections. So to make a practical online version, we need something that will yield a much smaller group of pages, those pages grouped around the name that you’re searching. We received a prototype of this application several weeks ago and have been testing it ever since. The application shows much promise but there are some programming tweaks that must be made. I’m hopeful that an operational version will be available on our website in early September. For now, thought, you can catch a glimpse of the product as it stands today. The search page asks you to select the date range and index you wish to search then you enter the first and last name of the party. That returns a link with the first and last name on a particular page. Clicking on that link displays the page. The final version will return a group of pages that bracket the one with your name on it so you can quickly paginate forward and backward. We’ll share more news about this program as it becomes available but for now, here are some screen shots of what we’ve been testing.

August 6, 2008

Keep Yourself Informed

by @ 11:06 am. Filed under Registry Ops, Technology

If you are interested in whats happening at the Middlesex North Registry you should consider signing up to read our Twitter. Signing up is simple and free. Once you’re signed up you can ask to “follow” lowelldeeds. We make entries at least five times a day. Each one helps give you a glimpse into the inner workings of the registry and helps keep you informed on “how” and “what” we are doing. If a piece of equipment is down…we “tweet” about it, if we are busy we “tweet” about it, if there is an emergency situation and we need to close we “tweet” about it. Twitter is the newest form of rapid communication in the technology world. Just to give you a flavor of what you’ll read on the lowelldeeds Twitter, here is a sample of the tweets from July 24, 2008:

The Interns just informed me that we are getting water in the basement where some of our older books are stored…first tool, a mop. 11:15AM July 24

The rain has stopped, for now, but the water continues to enter the basement. We have added rags to our arsenal. 11:50 AM July 24

Good job by our Interns…the water has stopped entering the basement and everything is back to normal…for now anyway.1:10 PM July 24

Preparing Assessor’s reports for the towns…they should be ready to mail out by tomorrow. 1:52 PM July 24

Things have quieted down considerably over the past 30 minutes…just one closing going on in the building 2:23 PM July 24Final number of

Documents recorded for July 24: 188 4:15PM July 24

Once again…give Twitter a try

August 5, 2008

Multiple Fees and Statutory Construction

by @ 10:39 am. Filed under Indexing

The recent amendment to Chapter 262, section 38 (contained in Outside Section 74 of the recently enacted state budget) was intended to codify the method of calculating fees on “multifunction documents” as it existed before the Appeals Court issued its decision in the Patriot Resort case. By way of background, Patriot Resort is a time-share in the Berkshires that provided financing to hundreds of condos with each unit having separate mortgages for each owner of a week-long time share. When Patriot Resort assigned all of these mortgages to a large financial institution, it combined them all together into a single document that it sought to record at the Berkshire North Registry of Deeds. Because each of the aggregated assignments served a separate function (i.e., assigning a separate mortgage), the registry treated this as a “multifunction document” indexing each assignment as a separate instrument with a separate recording fee. With so many assignments involved, this resulted in an astronomically high recording fee and Patriot Resort sued for a refund claiming it should have been charged only a single fee for recording this single (albeit blanket) assignment. The Appeals Court agreed reasoning that the plain language of the statute did not permit multiple charges. Because of the revenue that would be lost and the damage that would be done to the indexing system by this holding, the Secretary of State in conjunction with the registers of deeds proposed an amendment intended to restore the pre-Patriot Resort practice. Here’s the key language of the amendment:

provided, however, that if the paper 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 $50 fee

While this language clearly permits the multiple charges that were imposed in the Patriot Resort situation, it may have overshot the mark. By its very nature, a subordination effects two documents – the mortgage being relegated to junior position and the more recent mortgage being granted a superior position. A literal reading of the recent amendment could lead one to conclude that since a subordination includes “multiple references” then “each reference shall be separately indexed and separately assessed an additional $50 fee” which is what some registries are doing. But subordinations were never considered multifunction documents, nor was the intention of the amendment to make them multifunction documents.

From my prior experience with the Deed Indexing Standards, I know that this whole area of multifunction and multiple documents defies clear and concise rules. There are so many different situations and different combinations, that the judgment and discretion of the folks at the recording counter play a much larger role than the words of any draftsman. All I can say is that the registers of deeds collectively understand the difficulties the varying interpretations of this statute are causing for our customers and we’re working to resolve them as quickly as possible.

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