The latest on real estate recordings and new technology from the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds in Lowell
In Tuesday’s post I got a head start on our November 2008 to November 2007 comparison of recording statistics for key documents. With the real estate market so slow, the numbers haven’t changed significantly, so please take a look at that post if you’re interested in those figures.
Today I decided to investigate the uptick in the numbers of deeds recorded during these two periods. This month for property in the city of Lowell, we recorded 178 deeds. In November 2007, however, we recorded only 155 deeds for Lowell leading to the reasonable inference that property sales were increasing. Unfortunately, a closer scrutiny of these transactions reveals something different. Of the 155 deeds recorded in November 2007, forty percent of them (62) were for no consideration. These transactions typically involved transfers between family members or into trusts. This means that only 93 of the deeds recorded in November 2007 were for consideration close to the fair market value of the property. While the number of deeds recorded in November 2008 rose to 178, only 94 of them were for consideration close to the fair market value of the property. The remaining 84 were for no consideration. These figures suggest that the higher number of deeds recorded this November is not indicative of an increase in sales.
More bad news is evident when the sales prices of the deeds that were for full consideration are scrutinized. In November 2007, the median sales price for the 93 sales was $215,000. In November 2008, the median for that month’s 94 sales had dropped to $156,000. The distribution of prices in the two months corroborates this decline:
1. How long did it take the Mayflower to sail to the New World? a. 23 days b. 65 days c. 82 days
2. What was the name of the Native American tribe that joined the Pligrims at the First Thanksgiving? a. Beothuk b. Mahican c. Wampanoag
3. Which president made the last Thursday of November officially Thanksgiving? a. Lincoln b. Washington c. Roosevelt
4. Which one of the following Founding Fathers wanted to make the turkey the national bird? a. Jefferson b. Washington c. Franklin
5. The first department store to hold a Thanksgiving Day Parade was a. Gimbels b. Macy’s c. J C Penny
6. Who was the Captain of the Mayflower? a. John Smith b. John Winthrop c. Christopher Jones
7. In what month is Thanksgiving celebrated in Canada? a. October b. Novemmber c. December
8. Where in the turkey is it best to place a cooking thermometer? a. breast b. thigh c. top of leg
9. Norman Rockwell’s famous painting called Freedom From Want was published in which magazine? a. Saturday Evening Post b. Yankee c. Life
10. On Thanksgiving Day in 2008 the New England Patriots record was? a. 6&5 b. 7&4 c. 8&3
Look below for answers
1) b 2) c 3) a 4) c 5) a 6) c 7) a ) b 9) a 10) b
With Thursday being Thanksgiving, we don’t expect much activity either tomorrow or Friday and with next Monday being December 1, our recording statistics for the month through today should give us a good idea of local real estate trends. Comparing the number of major documents recorded from November 1 through November 25 for both 2007 and 2008 for the entire district and for just the city of Lowell gives the following result:
For the entire district:
In 2007, there were 326 deeds recorded; in 2008 there were 351, an increase of 8%
In 2007, there were 742 mortgages recorded; in 2008 there were 489, a decrease of 34%
In 2007, there were 51 orders of notice recorded; in 2008 there were 38, a decrease of 25%
In 2007, there were 31 foreclosure deeds recorded; in 2008 there were 39, an increase of 26%
For the city of Lowell
In 2007, there were 84 deeds recorded; in 2008 there were 125, an increase of 49%
In 2007, there were 196 mortgages recorded, in 2008 there were 136, a decrease of 31%
In 2007, there were 26 orders of notice recorded; in 2008 there were 25, a decrease of 4%
In 2007, there were 21 foreclosure deeds recorded; in 2008 there were 27, an increase of 29%.
Nicolaus Copernicus, born February 19, 1473…He called his book De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium. Simply put, Copernicus believed the planets, including earth, revolved around the sun. The theory was Earth shattering in 1514 (excuse the pun). Copernicus died in 1543, but through the centuries the location of his burial has baffled historians. Jerzy Gassowski, head of the Archeology and Anthropology Institute in Poland announced last week they had identified the body of the famed astronomer. Researchers have successfully matched DNA from strands of hair found in a book owned by Copernicus with DNA from an unknown body buried in the Frombork Cathedral in Poland. Using the scientific method (what else) researchers hypothesized that the unknown body is in fact that of the astronomer. Now that we have found the heliocentric’s corpse I think it is time we find his real name also. Through the years numerous versions of his name have appeared…there is Nicolaus Coppernic, there is Nicolai Copernici, there is Nikolaus Kopernikus and final there is Coppernicus…but I guess if I was expostulating a theory which turned the religious and scientific world upside down, I might go by a few different names also.
Last week I ventured into an Apple Computer Store at a local mall. Trust me, this is a big deal. I hate stores, shopping, sales, coupons and everything else associated with Malls. I literally drag my body from store to store as if my legs were chained to a fifty pound ball…But I must admit, I love Apple Stores. Every time I go into one I am amazed. The layout, organization and method of operation intrigues me. Apple Stores are completely hands on…by that I mean the configuration of the store encourages you to touch and experiment with all of the products. Now the point of this blog is not to promote business for Apple. During the above mentioned visit I saw something I thought would be useful at the registry of deeds… Toward the far end of the store there was a counter referred to as “the Genius Bar”. Genius is the name of a new iPod application that selects music according to the listener’s taste. I’ve got it. It is fabulous…but back to the registry. Above the Genius counter were two large screen monitors each flashing “tips” on how to use Apple products. Wow, that’s great, I thought. My head raced…“we can do this at the registry”. More ideas fill my head…“Using Windows Movie Maker (sorry Apple) I can develop a slide show that will “give tips” to new users explaining how to use the registry of deeds”. And best of all…this idea only requires a monitor and computer to work, both of which we have, so it will cost us $zero. So, coming soon…the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds Genius Screen…Sounds too egotistical, right…Well, maybe not genius. How about Help Screen.
It had to happen…We write about technology often in this blog. Mainly because its influence in the world around us is fascinating. This morning the Lowell Sun ran an intriguing article highlighting one of the main potentials of technology…education. It is happening at Nashoba Valley Technical High School in Westford. Rather than back away from cell phones , YouTube, etc Nashoba Tech is embracing it. To start, school officials have equip classrooms with “SMART Boards, “similar “to the ones CNN uses to illustrate voting trends and results” (Lowell Sun). Items normally banned in classrooms, cell phones, PDAs, digital cameras and iPods are welcome educational tools at Nashoba. This generation of children is comfortable with electronics and impatient with paper and pencils. The Sun article spotlights Nashoba Tech, but Greater Lowell Tech and other area schools are also implementing the same educational innovation using technology. Too often, I write about the “fun stuff” related to technology…it is great to be able to write about technology being used for education while being fun.
In a show of foresight that is unusual for government agencies, the registers of deeds in Massachusetts have begun investigating options for the next generation computer system for the Commonwealth. From my perspective, this is not driven by any dissatisfaction with the current system. I find that the ACS system now in use is perfectly adequate for our present and (short term) future needs. But the computer business changes with lightening speed, and it’s important for registers of deeds and everyone else to pay attention to trends and projections about where this is all heading. Otherwise, we risk being surprised by new and disruptive technologies. Rather than react to developments, we want to be in a position to anticipate and plan for new developments. The only way to do this is to look five or more years down the road and try to imagine how the registry of the future would best operate while at the same time using current technology to its maximum potential. Since our “replacement system” is something that doesn’t even exist yet (which is good because there won’t be money to buy anything for the next few years), our present task is to educate ourselves on the “big picture” in computer trends.
Every year we get these dag nab, confound it words or sayins put into our genuwine English Language dictionary…heck, this year its a lookin like its gonna be “meh”. Just this morning HarperCollins Publishers announced it was including “meh” in its dictionary. You’all ain’t never heard of “meh”. Well, here is its meanin:
A multi-purpose response, primarily used to imply a degree of indifference. Tone of voice and circumstance often implies a meaning. Can be used when you don’t want to answer an awkward or embarrassing question, or if you just plain have nothing else to say, and you want the other person to interpret the “meh” however he/she chooses. As in: Q: “What do you think of my new dress?” A: “Meh.” or Q: “What do you want to do tonight?” A: “Meh.”. I know thats some high falootin writing.
It’s a seemin like that little rascal Bart Simpson started the fussin about “meh”…doggone it, I never thought I’d a see the day when a cartoon character would be inventing words. Shoot.
Notice to all federal agents Bamboo has arrived and Renegade and Renaissance are boarding Angel…
The Secret Service interpretation…Notice to all federal agents the presidential motorcade has arrived and President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are boarding Air Force One…wow I love that talk.
The Secret Service started using code names for important government officials and locations in the 1930’s. Since then all Presidents and their entire family have been given code names.
Below I have listed the code names for the most recent presidents and first ladies:
Barack Obama: Renegade
Michelle Obama: Renaissance
George W Bush: Tumbler
Laura Bush: Tempo
Bill Clinton: Eagle
Hillary Clinton: Evergreen
George H W Bush: Timberwolf
Barbara Bush: Tranquility
Ronald Reagan: Rawhide
Nancy Reagan: Rainbow
Jimmy Carter: Deacon
Rosalynn Carter: Dancer
Gerald Ford: Pass Key
Betty Ford: Pinafore
Richard Nixon: Searchlight
Pat Nixon: Starlight
Lyndon Johnson: Volunteer
Lady Bird Johnson: Victoria
John Kennedy: Lancer
Jacqueline Kennedy: Lace
This past Tuesday, the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency announced the launching of a streamlined program to modify the loans of homeowners heading for “preventable foreclosures.” The program is available to homeowners who have missed three or more monthly mortgage payments and who own and occupy the home as a personal residence. The program would use several tactics – reducing the mortgage interest rate, extending the life of the loan, or deferring the repayment of part of the principal – to reduce the monthly mortgage payment to no more than 38% of the household’s gross monthly income. None of these methods is intended to give the homeowner a windfall; the objective is to keep people in their homes by making the monthly payment affordable.
Unfortunately, this program will only be available to a minority of homeowners who have troubled mortgages. According to FHFA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac own or guarantee about 58% of all single family mortgages in the US, but mortgages in this group account for only 20% of seriously delinquent loans. So called “private label securities” while only accounting for 20% of single family mortgages, are responsible for 60% of serious delinquencies.
The problem with these “private label securities” is that no one has final say on the fate of any one mortgage. Instead, thousands of mortgages were pooled together and then divided up into mortgage backed securities. A single bond from this fund might contain a fractional share of hundreds of different mortgages. To get the “owner” to modify a particular mortgage might require the consent of dozens of bond holders, an unlikely idea made even more fanciful by the fact that the value of these bonds is also insured by companies such as AIG. If the loan is modified and the bond loses value, does the insurer make up the difference? It’s such a tangled web of relationships and legal obligations that no one can predict with any degree of confidence what will happen in the coming weeks and months.
We finished creating our first roll of microfilm using the Kodak Archive Writers. The outcome was “semi successful”. Let me explain…First, we had a problem connecting the Writer to the registry’s database. Our MIS Director solved this problem by rebooting and reconnecting the Archive Writer.Then shortly after a second problem occurred…A roll of film holds about 4,000 images. It takes approximately an hour to transfer the images from the database to microfilm. For the first 59 minutes everything went fine. But, it was that last minute that caused us concern. As the final images sped to the Archive Writer the operator received a message….”unable to connect to the database”. We are not sure if all of the images transferred successfully. Unfortunately, there is only one way to check, develop the film. Tomorrow we will do just that…then once developed we’ll check the film to find out if our attempt was “successful” or “semi successful”. Still, even if the film is complete I am not happy with the errors received during transfer. Consequently, we’ll try a second roll and if the same problems persist call Kodak for help.
For several months now we’ve been experiencing outages of the connection between here and the Middlesex South Registry of Deeds in Cambridge. This forces our Satellite Office to shut down during the outage and disrupts the service we provide. We have had our computer repair folks look at it and Verizon look at it, because we suspect it’s a problem with the telephone line leading from this building out to the main line in the street. As is so often the case with technological problems that have multiple parties responsible, the problem is always “at the other end” and the resolution is evasive. The problem grew worse this past Friday because our entire connection with the outside world went down. This had two major (negative) consequences for users: (1) electronic recordings were unable to make it through to the registry for processing; and (2) the website was not being updated with newly recorded documents. Everything seems to be working satisfactorily now, but no one is sure if the problem is solved.
This year’s inductee into the National Toy Hall of Fame is….the Stick. Yeah, the old fashion stick. Christmas is still six weeks away, but I can hear my grand-daughter now…
Me: Honey, what do you want me to buy you for Christmas?
Grand-daughter: Papa I want an XBOX 360 Live with Halo so I can fight the Aliens with a my own semi automatic pistol, Alien Needler gun and a fierce rocket launcher. What do you think, Can I get one?”
Me: Well, I was actually thinking I would get you… “a stick”.
Grand-daughter: “A Stick”, you mean like the kind that fall off trees?
Me: Yeah or a stick can also be a broom handle…that kind of “stick”.
Grand-daughter: Can I use a stick as a weapon to defend earth against its sworn enemies and find the secrets of the Covenant?
Me: No, but you can play baseball and street cricket with a stick.
Grand-daughter: Why, wouldn’t I play baseball with a baseball bat and cricket with a cricket bat like you’re supposed to? I don’t want a stick for Christmas.
Me: But honey, the stick has been placed in the National Toy Hall of Fame. I played with a stick when I was a kid.
Grand-daughter: Is that because there was no electricity then, so there were no Xbox’s?
Me: No…we had great times with “a stick” in those days.
Grand-daughter: OK, I’ve got an idea…you give me an Xbox 360 with Halo for Christmas and I’ll give you a stick!
Me: I think I’ll pass.
Just a reminder that at 7 pm tonight at the Pollard Memorial Library in Lowell, I’ll be discussing the current foreclosure crisis and its impact on the region. I’ll also speak about the Registry of Deeds, its operations and its history. The event is open to the public and admission is free.
A comparison of recording statistics for October 2008 compared to October 2007 shows no sign of a rebound in housing. In fact, some of the numbers suggest the situation is deteriorating. The number of deeds recorded during this and last October were roughly the same. For the entire district, there was a 9% decline, sliding from 541 in 2007 to 493 in 2008; but in the city of Lowell the 2007 total of 167 fell by only 1 this year. Mortgages tell a different story. Both the district and the city of Lowell both showed a 25% decline in the number of mortgages recorded, undoubtedly reflecting the tightening of the credit market this year. The number of foreclosure deeds are up slightly. The district rose from 37 to 41, an increase of 11% from 2007 to 2008; the city of Lowell climbed only 9%, from 22 to 24. The number of orders of notice (the document marking the start of the foreclosure process) rose substantially, however. District-wide, the 48 of 2007 rose 48% to 71 in 2008. Lowell’s increase was a bit larger, growing 52% from 31 in 2007 to 47 in 2008.
FREE…everyone loves FREE. But there are those that say nothing is free? Well, AT&T doesn’t agree. Last week the mobile provider announced it was opening up 17,000 of its WiFi hotspots for use by iPhone and Blackberry users FREE. Before this generous offer, iPhone and Blackberry users connected to the Internet through AT&T’s 3G or Edge network. These services are good, but I can tell you from first hand knowledge, they are not great. Trust me, a WiFi hotspot blows them away. Hotspots are significantly faster and more reliable than Edge. You are most likely to find AT&T’s hotspots in airports, bookstores, restaurants etc. Ok, so visualize this…you’re an iPhone or Blackberry user. You are sitting in an airport that has an AT&T hotspot and you want to use it, for FREE of course…all you have to do to connect is enter your 10 digit cell phone number. Instantly, you’ll get a text message that provides a link to the AT&T WiFi. Pretty good right? and the link works for 24 hours… for FREE.
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