The latest on real estate recordings and new technology from the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds in Lowell
Yesterday we implemented some new procedures for customers recording documents at the Middlesex South Satellite Office here in Lowell. The major change is that all documents to be recorded at that facility must first be reviewed by our employees at the Customer Service Counter. This new process is our attempt to increase customer compliance with the simple document preparation rules we have always asked customers to follow including paper-clipping all pages of a document together, counting the number of pages in each document and writing that number on the document’s first page, ensuring that the return address is somewhere on the document, and completely filling-out the Satellite Office cover sheet. Compliance with these requirements has been spotty which has not posed a problem given the relatively low number of documents we have been taking in. But our volume is slowly rising and could surge upward with little or no warning which could result in long waiting lines of 2003-like proportions. To avoid this, we are trying to streamline our procedures in a way that makes it easier for those customers who come to the registry with their documents already prepared for recording.
The re-organization of the Recording Hall is working out well. Of course, like any other new venture there are a few chinks to be ironed out. We are working at alleviating these minor problems at this very moment. One of the things we like best about the new configuration is the continuity of having all recording counters in one area. One of our long-range goals is to cross train employees so they are capable of recording documents for Middlesex North, South and Registered Land. Since some recording departments are busy when other are not, this will give us the flexibility to move staff where needed. This will help us provide the public faster more efficient service.
While listening to the radio early this morning, I heard a segment about the Museum of American Finance. This little known museum, located at 48 Wall Street in the heart of New York City’s financial district, has seen a boom in the number of visitors since the current fiscal crisis began. These vistors are undoubtedly attracted by the museum’s current featured exhibit which is called “tracking the credit crisis” which has the following explanation on the museum’s website:
“Tracking the Credit Crisis: A Timeline” traces the development of the current financial crisis, which is the most severe and complex economic and financial challenge in modern experience. Presented as a monumental 8’ x 20’ graphical wall accompanied by a video presentation, the timeline begins with the bursting of the U.S. housing bubble in late 2006 through the unprecedented trillions being guaranteed and injected into the private sector in 2008-2009 by the government. President Barack Obama’s stimulus package of almost $800 billion is part of the stabilization effort to forestall a financial collapse, in a global environment in which some $40 trillion in wealth has been lost (on paper) in the last 18 months. The U.S. government’s actions represent a watershed in American economic and political history.
Try as I might, a comprehensible explanation for the current financial crisis still eludes me. Maybe a road trip to NYC and a visit to this museum might help clear things up.
The last of the electronic recording demonstrations for registry personnel was today at the Plymouth County Registry of Deeds. Monday’s was in Springfield and yesterday’s was in Lowell. Representatives of 15 of the state’s 21 registries attended at least one of the events and a few attended more than one. Besides being spread around the state geographically (Plymouth, Springfield, Lowell), each of the three sites uses a different electronic recording module. In Lowell, it’s the ACS system; Springfield has Browntech; and Plymouth uses the Simplifile system. It was especially valuable to hear and see how each of these three offices handles electronic recordings. Hopefully this weeklong orientation session will speed the rollout of e-recording to other registries.
Last week we moved the Registered Land Department to the front of the registry. To avoid mixing Middlesex North Documents with Middlesex South Documents we changed the color of the South Satellite Office cover sheets from white to yellow. We placed these sheets on a counter convenient for the public to pick up. To our surprise this plan didn’t work!…Unfortunately, for some unexplained reason people took these sheets by the 100’s. I am not kidding. On the first day three hundred were taken in just four hours. This prompted us to eliminate direct accessibility to these sheets by the public. When you come to the Registry and intend to record a South Document be sure to pick up a “yellow” cover sheet at Customer Service.
Yesterday I travelled to Springfield for the first of three regional meetings of the state’s registers of deeds on the topic of electronic recording. The second meeting will be held here in Lowell tomorrow and the third and final meeting will be Thursday in Plymouth. Besides being spread around the state, these three registries are the only ones in the Commonwealth that are currently using electronic recording. These meetings have a number of objectives. One is to allow personnel from other registries to see electronic recording in action and to discuss it’s impact on registry operations with those who are actually doing it. Another objective is to work on a standard contract between the registry and the end-user of the electronic recording system (i.e., the lawyer submitting the documents) that clearly lays out the duties and responsibilities of the parties. The meeting in Hampden County was informative and well-done. It was attended by representatives from the following registries: Berkshire Middle, Berkshire South, Essex North, Franklin, Hampden, Middlesex North and Norfolk. Check back for updates on Thursday and Friday on the upcoming meetings.
Do you subscribe to Mass Moments? Its a very interesting website. Every day Mass Moments sends an email detailing a historical event that took place in Massachusetts on that day in history. I love it.
I found today’s Mass Moment especially interesting…“March 23, 1948: Kerouac Writes First Novel”.
This Mass Moment brought an old memory back to me.
In college I earned my Master Degree in American Literature. Strangely, I actually read the other Beat Generation Poets (Ginsburg, Corso, Ferlinghetti) more than Kerouac. But there is no question amongst this group “Jack” was the man. In the early 1970’s while in college I saw Allen Ginsburg and Gregory Corso on stage with several other poets…I can’t remember their names but one might have been Ferlinghetti. Ginsburg, who had recently broken his leg, sat with his casted leg stretched out playing an accordion and monotonously chanting Buddhist hymns . Corso sat beside Ginsburg taking large, frequent swigs from a bottle of bourbon. He was plastered by the end of the night. The “colorful” language they used on stage amazed me. I wasn’t offended, but I had never heard “celebrities” talk like that before. And talk they did…they talked about poetry and they talked about life. At the time I was twenty years old and this group was the wildest thing I had seen. Kerouac was dead at the time, (he died in 1969) but he was the center of a great deal of the conversation. At one time Corso looked at Ginsburg and said “You know Allan, Jack killed himself”, a reference to Kerouac’s drinking. This certainly was an ironic statement coming from a man guzzling bourbon straight from a bottle.
By the way the Kerouac novel Mass Moments is referring to is The Town and the City…You can sign up for Mass Moments here…
www.masslandrecords.com, the central website that hosts land records data from all the registries of deeds within state government, will be shut down this weekend beginning at 5 p.m. tonight. It is expected to be back online by 8 a.m. on Monday, March 23. As I understand it, the technicians will be performing maintenance to the central website. www.lowelldeeds.com will continue in operation through this period, so older documents will continue to be available from the “Record Books” link.
The entire registry staff did its usual superb job in executing the movement of our Registered Land section into the former record hall, a task that was completed days ahead of schedule. Now, Recorded Land, Registered Land and the Middlesex South Satellite Recording office have been united in the same place, a configuration that will allow us to operate most efficiently. All Registered Land certificate books have been moved into a room opposite the Customer Service counter where the public and our employees will have easy access to them. For accountability purposes, we cannot permit the Registered Land books to be taken from the room where they’re shelved. We have made a photocopier available to the public in that room but it is not of the coin operated type. Instead, the payment for copies (at $1 per copy) will be paid at the Registered Land counter. In another move, the public “closing tables” that were displaced from the old record hall by the move of registered land have been re-established in the room that formerly housed registered land. We expect to make that room available to the public on a first-come, first-served basis in the coming days.
We completed the reorganization and move of the Registered Land Department today…here are some pictures of our new areas.
Today is Evacuation Day, the anniversary of the day the British withdrew from Boston in 1776. The exact date of the event was sometime in early March, not necessarily the 17th, but for other reasons the 17th seemed like a good day to have a holiday.
But the registry was open for business today and we had a flurry of activity related to the movement of our Registered Land section from their 10+ year home in the rear portion of the building to their new quarters in the old Record Hall alongside the Recorded Land counter and the Middlesex South satellite office. By close of business tomorrow, the Registered Land section should be completely moved and fully in operation in their new home. The most significant casualty of this move is the closing tables that formerly sat in the Record Hall. We hope to reposition them to the former Registered Land area in the back of the building, but it will take some time to clean that area and remove floor mounted electrical and computer drops. There will also be some changes in the way the Middlesex South satellite office operates. Because everything is online almost instantaneously, we will no longer fax receipts to customers. Customers who wish to wait for their receipts or who have ordered certified copies will pick them up at our Customer Service counter. There will undoubtedly be other changes as we tweak the design of our new recording area. We will do our best to keep you apprised.
This morning while I sat drinking my morning coffee I read this headline. Truthfully, I almost fell off my chair.
iPod Shuffle Earbuds Contain DRM Chip…
I have an iPod Shuffle and I put the “Earbuds” in my ears. I don’t want any DRM Chips lurking around in my head!
What’s Apple trying to pull?
I wonder…Do you think DRM stands for Device to Read a Mind.
Is that it? Will this DRM Chip installed in my Shuffle’s headphones enable Apple to know which songs I am playing and singing along with the loudest. Really, who knows how sophisticated this Chip is… it might even know if I am dancing to a tune.
Its a crime, a despicable crime!
Steve Jobs? He’s not so smart…That DRM Chip won’t get me…I’ll fool it.
I’ll sing really loud to my granddaughter’s Miley Cyrus bubble gum music and I’llllll bareeeeelllllyyyyy hum to my Beatles music.
Yes, I know this won’t be easy…I love singing along to Paper Back Writer (especially the high notes)
But before I make such a major muscial sacrifice I need to check something…
What the heck is a DRM Chip?
Google is about to launch a new service called Google Voice. While I’m still a little fuzzy on all the details, it seems that this service will assign you a single telephone number that will ring at every phone that you indicate - at home, on your cell, and at work. No longer will you have to send emails that say “from 8:30 a.m. until noon call me at my office number but from noon to 1 pm call my cell phone but after 1 pm call my office.” Instead, all of your phones will ring at once with all calls and all voice messages will be routed into the same place, retrievable from any of your phones or from your computer. David Pogue, the New York Times technology correspondent, wrote a very positive article about Google Voice which I urge you to read.
An early draft of the Formatting Standards contained a prohibition on recording documents that contained a “watermark” but the final version that is contained in the current Deed Indexing Standards is silent on the watermark issue. That is unfortunate, because we have started to receive death certificates that have the word “copy” embedded throughout as a watermark. Presumably this is someone in government’s effort to prevent the copying of these documents so that people will be forced to purchase multiple copies of the document rather than relying on photocopies. It couldn’t be to prevent attempts to pass off photocopies as originals since all original death certificates always bear the raised seal of the issuing office, a physical change to the document that certainly can’t be reproduced by a copying machine. While I don’t want to question the motives of whomever designed this anti-copying system, I wll say that they have really messed up the ability of the registry of deeds to include such documents in our records. As you can see from this document, the watermark that was nearly invisible on the original has completely obscurred all meaningful information on the scanned copy in the official records of the registry of deeds - all but the social security number of the deceased which I have manually redacted with the blue box. I expect to raise this issue of unreproduceable death certificates at future meetings of the registers of deeds association so that we can take collective action to preserve the integrity of our land records.
Please Excuse Our Appearance…Yes, I am thinking seriously of putting up a sign that’s says Notice, Please Excuse Our Appearance”. You know the type I mean…nicely laminated, all words centered and in bold…and just maybe on colored paper. If you come and visit us you’ll know why I’m considering this. As you know we are moving our Registered Land Department. Of course, this takes preparation, most of which includes disruption of computers, furniture and people. So right now we are a little disheveled. If you come to visit the registry of deeds here are some of the changes and/or inconveniences you’ll see:
We moved two of our Middlesex South Public Access terminals to the hallway outside of the Research Room. This is a permanent change.
One Middlesex South Satellite Public Access computer has been moved to the hall across from Customer Service.
The old Copy Department Counter is sitting (obvious unused) in The Recording Hall. Unfortunately, it is squeezing our closing tables a little. Good news it should be gone by Friday.
There are two rooms across from Customer Service. Both are employee only area. Access to these rooms has been changed from the door on the right to the door on the left.
And finally we moved the Accessible Terminal to the Customer Service Hallway.
That’s it for now and as I said in the beginning “Please Excuse Our Appearance”.
During the past few weeks it seems that there’s been an increase in the number of documents recorded electronically. With more and more registries about to make the leap to electronic recording, I thought it might be helpful to quantify our volume of electronic recordings, probably for 2009 to date. Because that will take a considerable amount of time to compile the statistics, I did a quick snapshot of the first six days of March 2009. Here’s what I found:
During five days last week plus yesterday, 13% of the documents we recorded were received electronically (an average of 34 per day). Of the daily total, 66% were discharges, 3% were deeds, 17% were mortgages and other documents accounted for 13%. The first hour of each day is our busiest for electronic recording. During the 8:30 to 9:30 am hour, 42% of that days e-recordings are received. The next busiest hour is 2:30 to 3:30 when 14% come in. The least likely time of the day to receive e-recordings is the 9:30 to 10:30 hour - we only receive 4% of the day’s documents during that 60 minutes.
Once I’ve compiled the stats for the multi-month period, I’ll share the results here on the blog.
This is a picture of the area of the The Recording Hall where our registered Land Department will be moved. The work should be done by April 1. To put it in perspective, the Registered Land Recording Counter will face the Middlesex North Recording Counter.
This is another view of the future Registered Land Area. This view is from the entrance to “The Recording Hall”.
The counter shown in this picture will be removed opening a new entrance that will allow employees to access the Registered Land Certificate Books.
The lead editorial in today’s New York Times commends President Obama for trying to help the 13.6 million Americans who owe more on their mortgages than their houses are worth, but the paper also condemns his approach. Obama wants to reduce the interest rates on these loans and thereby reduce the monthly mortgage payment being made by these homeowners. The Times argues that while reducing the interest rate would reduce the monthly payment, it would still leave an enormous principal balance outstanding. With that dark cloud hovering above their residences, these homeowners have less of an incentive to stay with the home and might tend to just walk away rather than keep paying for something that’s never going to be paid off. I agree that dealing with the problem of “underwater” homeowners is critical, but I’m not sure which of these approaches (or if either) is the correct way to go.
April seems to be the month to change the physical layout of the registry. Last year, April 1 was the date we closed off the lower record hall and shifted to full reliance on electronic versions of our indexes and recorded documents. This April, we plan to move our Registered Land section from its current home in the rear section of the courthouse to our “recording area” in the old upper record hall. The recording counters of both Middlesex North and the Middlesex South satellite office are already in that room, but the rest of the space is currently taken up by a half-dozen small tables the public uses for real estate closings. Come April, our registered land section will move into the space occupied by those tables. (Eventually, a few of the tables will be set up in the area that now houses registered land). Once this move occurs, we envision a continuous “U” shaped counter with the public on the inside of the “U” and our employees positioned around its outside. This will bring almost all of our employees together in the same space and will allow us to work more efficiently in this period of extreme budget constraints. More information about this move will be forthcoming in the days and weeks ahead.
Many of you many remember that several months ago the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds started a Twitter account with the user name “lowelldeeds”. As I recall it was sometime in August when we were forced to stop twittering. Here is why we stopped…we put the twitter feed directly on our webpage. We did this to make it easier for people to follow us. People that come to the registry to do research know we use the face of the webpage in house as well as on the Internet. Unfortunately, our good intentions produced an unexpected bad result. We quickly discovered that the twitter feed was inadvertently slowing down the search process in the Record Book folder. This was only a problem for the in-house version of the Record Book folder search. The Record Book folder holds mainly books 1-1130. As soon as we found out about the problem we stopped twittering and removed it. But we still see great value for the public in the use of Twitter. For this reason we are bringing Twitter back. This time Twitter will reside separate where it will not adversely affect the in-house early record book search. So as of today you can keep up on what’s happening here at the registry of deeds by signing up to follow lowelldeeds on Twitter.
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