Lowell Deeds

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

September 29, 2008

Its the Boss

by @ 12:30 pm. Filed under Current Events

This morning the NFL announced that Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will provide this year’s Superbowl entertainment. Even though our Brady-less Patriots are unlike to be there, I thought it might be fun to look back at some past Superbowl entertainment…So in reverse order, here are the last ten years…

2008: Tom Petty and Heartbreakers
2007: The Artist Formerly Known As Prince
2006: The Rolling Stones
2005: Paul McCartney
2004: Six star performers…Jessica Simpson, Janet Jackson (wardrobe malfunction), Justin Timberlake, Nelly, P.Diddy and Kid Rock
2003: Shania Twain, No Doubt and Sting
2002: U2 and a tribute to 9/11 victims
2001: Aerosmith, N’Sync, Britney Spears, Mary Blige and Nelly
2000: Phil Collins, Christina Auguilera, Enrique Iglesias, Toni Braxton, Edward James Olmos

Good luck to The Boss…he’s got to be better than the 1970 Superbowl entertainment, Carol Channing.

September 26, 2008

The foreseeability of the bursting bubble

by @ 5:03 pm. Filed under Real Estate

This blog was created on December 23, 2003. Almost from the beginning, one of our regular topics has been the rise and fall of the housing market. Revisionists will say that no one could see the current financial crisis coming, but a review of our posts on the topic show some felt unease about housing years ago. A compilation of these posts is here and some highlights follow:

    January 12, 2004 - “I’m no economist, but something about this economic “recovery” just hasn’t seemed right.
    February 29, 2004 - “Lately, however, things have been quite slow . . . due almost entirely to the collapse of the refinance market that began last fall.”
    May 20, 2004 - “Economists predict that this will cause a slight slow down in home sales and will begin to depress the value of real estate.”
    October 12, 2004 - “The problem with this approach is that it makes it twice as likely that you will lose your home to foreclosure.”
    October 20, 2004 - “This could spell trouble if housing prices fall.”
    December 6, 2005 - “The problem with both of these situations is that heavily-leveraged homeowners have no equity cushion.”

    The problem was apparent more than four years ago. Recent events should come as no surprise.

September 25, 2008

Fiscal Woes Around the Corner?

by @ 1:48 pm. Filed under Current Events, Local Govt

A story in today’s Globe reports that the country’s financial crisis is creating numerous challenges for state government. Tax collections are down and the cost of borrowing is up. There is now some question whether the $1.3 billion in local aid payments due to cities and towns next week will be made on time. With municipal and school budgets already strained and reeling from cuts last spring to balance the books for this fiscal year, any cut in the money communities were planning to receive will have devastating consequences. The same holds true for state agencies. Back in 2001, the state budget was not finalized until mid-November. From July till then, most state agencies were operating on 1/12 budgets - meaning that the agency could spend 1/12 of its prior year’s budget each month. But in November, budgets were cut 15 to 20%, but because funds had already been spent at a higher rate for July, August, September and October, when the cuts were finalized, the impact was greatly magnified. If the recent news stories are to be believed, it looks like history might be repeating itself.

September 24, 2008

North in South

by @ 1:15 pm. Filed under Registry Ops

The Middlesex South Registry of Deeds is opening a terminal that record Middlesex North documents in Cambridge. Right now details are still being work out so there is no set date for the “opening”. But officials expect it will be in the near future. The concept of a reciprocal satellite office in Cambridge has been on the table for several years…but the reconfiguration of the South’s recording area was the factor that made it become a reality. Middlesex North documents recorded in Cambridge will be scanned and returned immediately the same as here in Lowell. At this point in time there will be only one remote terminal. Check back in for more details…

September 23, 2008

Multiple Documents

by @ 4:18 pm. Filed under Indexing

Earlier this year, much attention was paid to so-called “multifunction documents.” Such a document would consist of a single paper that performed multiple functions. The most common example is probably a single document that discharges a mortgage, an assignment of leases and rents and a UCC financing statement. That document performs three separate functions. The
Appeals Court, in the Patriot Resort case, ruled that the plain language of the recording statute allowed the registry to only charge a single fee - $75 – for such a recording. In an outside section to the FY09 budget, however, the legislature amended the recording statute to charge a separate fee “for each document referenced.” Consequently, the fee to record the document described above would be $205 - $75 for the discharge of mortgage, $75 for the discharge of the assignment of rents, and $45 for the termination of the filing statement.

A related formatting practice that has largely gone unnoticed is called a “multiple document” in which a document that would be recordable in its own right (such as a death certificate or trustee’s certificate) is attached to another document (such as a deed) as an exhibit. Today I received the following email from an area law office:

There has been discussion on various list serves of incorporating a trustee certificate inside a deed. We have questioned a few attorneys and they confirm they routinely do it. We are wondering if we adopt the same practice could we save our clients the extra $75 of a separate filing fee. (This is simply for a deed out of a nominee trust. Thoughts?

Here’s my response:

The Massachusetts Deed Indexing Standards (standard 7-9) specifically prohibit that practice so if the registry personnel spot the attached certificate, they should refuse to record the document. The deed and the trustee certificate should be recorded as separate documents. I suspect that the enforcement of this and the rules regarding “multifunction” documents (such as a discharge that discharges both a mortgage and an assignment of leases and rents) will be enforced more strictly in the coming weeks.

As the economy worsens, there will be more pressure to save on recording fees, but there will be equal pressure on the registry to maximize the revenue coming into the state.

September 22, 2008

It Was Easy

by @ 1:58 pm. Filed under Current Events, Technology

The FBI is investigation a 20 year old college student for alledgely hacking into Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s Yahoo Mail Account. How is this possible? These people must be computer wizzards…Hardly. Most of us feel relatively safe about the security of our home email accounts, but should we? The alleged hacker, David Kernell used a pretty simple method to access Palin’s account. Almost all free email accounts like Yahoo and AOL allow users to “recover or reset” their password. And Kernell allegedly did exactly that to Palin’s account. Here is the scary part…Using readily accessible, personal information found on the Internet the hacker reset Palin’s email password. The new password…”popcorn” (get it Kernell/popcorn” allegely, of course). Later the hacker posted details of the break-in on the Web…This is from CNet: “When Yahoo prompted for Palin’s birthday, one poster said it took only 15 seconds on Wikipedia to answer that question. When prompted for ZIP Code, Wasilla, Ala., has only two ZIP Codes. As for Palin’s personal security question, “Where did you meet your spouse?” that did slow the process. The poster claimed it took several tries but eventually hit upon the correct answer: Wasilla High”. It is pretty discomforting to learn that our email accounts are so vulnerable especially considering that a national figures account was violated in minutes.

September 21, 2008

Budget Cuts Coming?

by @ 8:21 am. Filed under Registry Ops, Current Events

It was unlikely that the current economic crisis would spare state government. It seems that Governor Patrick is contemplating extensive emergency cuts to the current state budget. While the governor only has the power to reduce funding to agencies within the executive branch (the registry of deeds is within the Secretary of State’s office, a separate branch of government), the legislature could and probably will make across the board emergency cuts if the tax revenue situation is as bleak as this article makes it appear.

September 17, 2008

Reorg Projects

by @ 1:58 pm. Filed under Registry Ops

We are in the middle of planning a minor staff/work reorganization here at the registry. The objective is to revitalize several of our enhancement projects. Here is a list of the projects we intend to bring back: adding back title references for the GIS project; quality checking and correcting our Marginal Reference database; re-scanning images of our older record books; and scanning the county layout plans. We started all of these projects a number of months ago but they fell to the background for various reasons. Over the years we have discovered timing is everything with a reorg and with business as slow as it is this is the right time.

September 16, 2008

Coming Soon: Satellite Office in Cambridge

by @ 6:58 pm. Filed under Registry Ops

Within the next few weeks, the Middlesex South Registry of Deeds plans to activate a satellite office for Middlesex North. Once that happens, customers in Cambridge will be able to record documents for Lowell and the nine other towns in the Middlesex North District in Cambridge. This is part of a reciprocal arrangement put in place back in 2003 when we activated the Middlesex South satellite office in Lowell. It’s my understanding that the extensive renovations to the Cambridge recording counter are just about finished and a cut over to the new setup is imminent. Part of that new setup is a dedicated recording station for Lowell documents. Lowell documents recorded in Middlesex South will be immediately scanned and returned to the customer, just as is done in Lowell. When Cambridge switches to the scan and return process for its own documents, however, those documents recorded in Lowell at the Middlesex South satellite office will continue to be retained by the registry, scanned later in the process, and eventually mailed back to the customer. In other words, the system in the Middlesex South satellite office in Lowell will not change. The main reason for this is that there are not enough employees in the satellite office to perform all the steps necessary in a scan and return system and still wait on all customers in a timely manner. Please check back with this blog in the coming weeks for more news on this development.

September 15, 2008

Virginia

by @ 1:42 pm. Filed under Current Events, Technology

I love Virginia…honestly, my father-in-law was from Virginia (great guy), Thomas Jefferson, my favorite founding father was from Virginia, Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains are breath taking…but, what the heck are they doing down there? Last week the Virginia Supreme Court overturned an anti-spam law. Listen to this…the court said the statute violated the First Amendment right to free and anonymous speech. Sorry, to all those Virginians I love…but are these people crazy?! Since when does anyone have the constitutional right to cram my inbox with unwanted solicitations? The spammer in question is named Jeremy Jaynes.

“Jaynes was convicted in 2004 of sending tens of thousands (did you get that? tens of thousands) of emails through America Online servers in Loudoum. He was the first person tried under the law enacted in 2003, and Loudoum Circuit Court Judge Thomas D. Horne sentenced him to nine years in prison (Washington Post).

Way to go Judge!… But now the Supreme Court of the home of my beloved father-in-Law and Thomas Jefferson negated this decision…but, let us not forget, American Liberty incubated in Virginia, like it did in Massachusetts. Virginia’s Attorney General Bob McDonnell is appealing the decision to the United States Supreme Court…

”Today, the Supreme Court of Virginia has erroneously ruled that one has the right to deceptively enter somebody else’s private property for purposes of distributing his unsolicited fraudulent emails. I respectfully but fervently disagree…We will take this issue directly to the Supreme Court of the United States. The right of citizens to be free from unwanted emails is one that I believe must be made secure” (Washington Post).

Wow, I couldn’t agree more. In the words of another great Virginian…”I know not what course others may take, but as for me give me anti-spam or give me death” …or something like that.

September 12, 2008

More Bleak Economic News

by @ 3:47 pm. Filed under Real Estate

Today’s paper reads like a who’s who of the mortgage industry: Lehman Brothers, Washington Mutual, AIG or all in financial death spirals with the only question being whether potential buyers of the companies will balk unless there’s some kind of backing by the federal government. With the earlier governmental takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the US government has become the nation’s largest property owner. There’s no telling how this is going to end.

September 11, 2008

September 11

by @ 4:55 pm. Filed under History

It’s hard to believe that the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred seven years ago today. It was a beautiful, sunny, late summer day, just like today. Using some notes that I scribbled down the next day, here’s what I remember. At about 9:00 a.m., someone told me that a plane had flew into the World Trade Center. My initial reaction was that it had to be an accident. I quickly got to a TV and actually saw the second plane strike the second tower, live on TV. Although the second plane caused me to dispense with the accident theory, I still assumed that it was a small, private plane such as a Lear jet. In what I can only describe as a failure of imagination, I was unable to consider the possibility that several commercial airliners had been hijacked and turned into flying bombs. That same failure of imagination occurred when the towers collapsed. Even though I saw it live on TV with the reporter saying what had just happened, I could not comprehend that the towers had actually collapsed – it must have just been the façade that fell. Soon enough I and everyone else realized the extent of the destruction although internet service was completely disrupted so it was hard to get much information. Shortly after noon, the governor (Swift?) ordered all state buildings closed so we all went home and spent the rest of the day watching CNN.

September 10, 2008

Bad Board

by @ 1:04 pm. Filed under Registry Ops

Yesterday we experienced a major computer problem at the registry of deeds. Our computers were unable to connect to servers that reside “outside” of the registry’s own network. The problem shut down the Middlesex South Satellite Office, our internal email (it runs through Boston), and our ability to connect to the Internet. Once we discovered the problem we immediately called the SEC IT department . IT quickly determined the problem was Verizons. Fortunately, Verizon wasted no time and dispatched a tech to the registry within an hour. After some detailed testing he determined that a circuit board on the T1 line connection failed. The T1 line is the medium through which our computers access the outside world. The board causing the problem was located between the T1’s entrance point in the computer room and our main servers. It took the tech less than 30 minutes to install a new board and solve the problem.

September 9, 2008

To Queue or Not to Queue?

by @ 9:34 pm. Filed under E-Recording

One of the assumptions about electronic recording that I’ve been operating under is that for the system to reach a mature, fully utilized state, we must first have an electronic queuing system that regulates the order of walk-in customers and electronically submitted documents. Now I’m not so sure if that’s necessary. In theory, the queue is a good idea. When a walk-in customer arrives at the registry, he first stops and a registration kiosk and enters his name and the number of documents he has to record after which he is assigned a sequential number representing his place in the queue. Incoming electronic recordings would automatically be assigned numbers in the same queue. Registry recording clerks would process the documents in the order presented by the queue. This would keep electronic recordings that arrived at busy times from being neglected in favor of human beings standing in line with documents to be recorded. While such a queue would prevent e-recordings from being forgotten, there are other ways to accomplish that same task that don’t carry the downside of the queue. What down side? What if a major national lender suddenly sends two dozen mortgages electronically. They would take up 24 places in the queue and all would have to be processed by the registry staff before any customer who subsequently arrived in person could be waited on. That’s not how it works now. Today, a customer with many documents goes to a single recording terminal and we begin entering his documents while the next customers go to other recording terminals without having to wait for the first customer to have all of his documents recording. A queuing system would prevent us from doing even that. What is required is a disciplined approach to processing electronic recordings that handles them quickly but with common sense.

September 8, 2008

No Chrome

by @ 12:10 pm. Filed under Current Events, Technology

I cannot express my deep, deep, deep disappointment in google. First, some background…Just last week I spilled my soul to you in this blog. Remember these words?: ”I am a google geek”…”if google developed it, I want it!”…If google made a G-car I’d buy it”… etc, etc, etc. I wrote those accolades last Wednesday. Why? I had just discovered that google developed a new web browser called Chrome. Now, a little more background…Wednesday night after writing that blog entry I raced home, pulled out my laptop and began to download Google’s Chrome. My excitement grew as the download status bar edged toward completion. Bam, finished…Once downloaded I clicked on the Setup File icon “this is an executable file blah, blah, blah”…I know, I know…just set Chrome up for me. The “Set Up” bar filled and filled. “This is so sweet”, I thought.…then at around 80%, the filling stopped. I waited, the bar stopped moving…finally, a message, “your download has failed”…What?…I tried again, right from the beginning… “your download has failed” again. The actual error message was much longer, but it was a bunch of mumbo-jumbo to my dazed brain. I couldn’t believe it. This is google, the undisputed king of the Internet…The next day I tried again…same error message. The next day another try, then another. Finally, I stopped trying on Saturday…Why?, I thought. What is wrong? I may never know. But until google gets its act together call me FireFox guy.

September 4, 2008

Merrimack Valley Housing Report

by @ 1:48 pm. Filed under Real Estate

The Merrimack Valley Housing Report is an electronic newsletter produced by the University of Massachusetts Lowell and the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds. The newsletter is typically distributed mid-month to allow the inclusion of the prior month’s statistics. While most other reporting agencies (including the mainstream media) usually disclose statistics sixty days after the period being examined, the MV Housing Report has numbers that are just two weeks old.

Here’s a summary of the stories in the August edition:

Housing Prices: How Low will they go?

The bursting of the housing bubble caused real estate prices to decline, but by how much? To help answer that question, I researched 570 properties in the city of Lowell…

Rising Heating Costs

Merrimack Valley households heating with oil will pay approximately 46% more in 2008 than they paid in 2007, according to an UMass Donahue report released earlier this month.

2008 Foreclosures by Property Type for Haverhill and Methuen

The data for Haverhill and Methuen shows that once again foreclosures are distressing people across the housing spectrum. Although similar to Lowell and Lawrence with single family homes hit hardest; Condominiums were second hardest hit by foreclosures in Haverhill and Methuen.

Also Mortgage, Deed and Foreclosure figures for June and July.

To subscribe to the MV Housing Report, send an email to David Turcotte.

September 3, 2008

Chrome

by @ 2:39 pm. Filed under Current Events, Technology

I am a Google geek…if Google developed it I want it! I use Google gmail, Google’s zeitgeist, Google’s Page Rank, Google’s Tool Bar etc, etc, etc. If Google made a G-car I’d buy it. Now my dream has come true…Google has developed an Internet browser to compete with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE). It’s called Chrome? And it is open-source…that means a large number of independent programmers will be constantly improving it. OK first, why leave Internet Explorer? The biggest reason…because 80% of Internet surfers use it. And since most viruses are written to attack the most computers they mainly attack IE. A couple of years ago I lost a computer to an incurable virus. After that I stopped using IE and began using Mozilla’s Firefox for my browser. I love Firefox, but I can’t wait to try out Chrome. Here are some of the features Chrome offers…multi tabs so if one tab crashes the entire browser doesn’t…and these tabs can be opened in separate windows; the address bar is now called the omnibox (I love it)…it takes search information as well as a URL; Google officials say Chrome’s script is faster, safer and more stable… and there is more and more. The chances of Chrome overtaking Internet Explore are slim. Hey, every computer comes with IE pre-loaded (except Apple of course). But it is nice to have another alternative in the marketplace.

September 2, 2008

Foreclosures Year-to-date

by @ 1:35 pm. Filed under Statistics

www.boston.com just put up a Warren Group report that the number of foreclosure deeds recorded in Massachusetts for the first seven months of 2008 exceeds the total number of foreclosures recorded for all of 2007. I’ve made a similar comparison for the Middlesex North District (using statistics through the end of August) and found the following:

The number of foreclosure deeds recorded for the entire Middlesex North District for the period of Jan 1 through Aug 31 of 2008 (427) was 47% higher than the number recorded for the same period in 2007 (290). The individual towns in the district also saw significant increases. Except for Chelmsford (an 11% increase from 18 to 20) and Dracut (a 28% increase from 39 to 50), the other communities all had increases of 47% or more (because of the small number of transactions, Carlisle and Dunstable were not included in this analysis). Lowell had a 47% rise, from 177 to 261; Tyngsborough had a 50% increase, from 8 to 12; Dracut (24 to 40), Westford (6 to 10) and Wilmington (9 to 15) all saw increases of 67%.

If there’s any good news it’s that the number of foreclosures being recorded from month-to-month in 2008 seems to have peaked in May. Here are the monthly totals: Jan - 39; Feb - 36; Mar - 57; Apr - 67; May - 75; Jun - 54; Jul - 52; Aug - 47.

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