The latest on real estate recordings and new technology from the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds in Lowell
T0morrow is Law Day which was established by President Eisenhower in 1958 in contrast to the Soviet Union’s “May Day” which was a demonstration of that country’s military might. Law Day was intended to publicize this country’s respect for the rule of law. Tomorrow at noon here at the Middlesex Superior Court, there will be a ceremony sponsored by the Greater Lowell Bar Association that will feature speeches by public and judicial officials, a student essay contest and entertainment by the Lowell High School choir. Also, the colors will be presented by the Lowell High School Air Force Junior ROTC color guard which regularly performs that task at important Red Sox games such as opening day and the World Series. Earlier in the day, beginning at 10 a.m., there will be guided tours of the Superior Courthouse that will focus on the building’s architecture and history. All are welcome to attend.
I’ve been working in the Superior Courthouse in Lowell for the past fourteen years. During that time I’ve passed through the front foyer of the building umpteen times. Sure I’ve noticed the beautiful relief sculptures on both the left and right that adorn the entryway, but not until this morning did I know that these friezes, as they are called, are much more than just decorations. These reliefs are made up primarily of various types of fruit. The artist did not randomly select these, each has a special, unique meaning and was selected for its relevance to the purpose of the courthouse. Here is a list of some of the fruit displayed on the Superior Courthouses Frieze and the meaning attributed to each fruit in art/mythology.
Pears: Virtue and Good works
Lemons: A symbol in art of a friendship gone bad
Grapes: Good works
Pomegranate: Hiden truth
Plums: Faithfulness and Independence
Apples: A symbol of family
Still no documented cases of Swine Flu in Massachusetts, but it might be wise to start following some common sense precautions. The following is some information I received about the current public health situation:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), human cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection have been identified in the United States. Human cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection have also been identified internationally. The current U.S. case count total is 40, with updates available at www.cdc.gov/swineflu.
Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people. There are many things you can to do prevent getting and spreading influenza:
There are everyday actions people can take to stay healthy.
Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
For more information on how you can protect yourself and your family, please visit the CDC Web site at www.cdc.gov/swineflu
Coming soon on Jeopardy starring Alex Trebek
Watson Vs the Humans in the battle of Champions
Contestant: Alex…I’ll take IBM for $500
Alex: Ok, good luck…IBM has built a computer that will challenge humans in a game of Joepardy
Contestant: What is Watson?
Contestant: I’ll continue with IBM for $600, Alex.
Alex: IBM worked on this project for two years.
Contestant: What is a computer that can answer complex questions quickly and correctly while taking into account puns and ambiguous expressions.
Alex: Correct, you’re on a roll
Contestant: IBM for $700
Alex: IBM named its new Jeopard playing computer after the founder of IBM.
Contestant: Who is Thomas Watson, Jr
Contestant: Alex, lets keep it going with IBM for $800.
Alex: The Watson system will be capable of handling complex questions like these…
Contestant: What is “handling semantics, identify relevant and irrelevant content, decompose questions into sub-questions and synthesize a logical answer”.
Alex: Correct…great answer.
Alex: Now, today’s Final Jeopardy Question…who will be the first human to take on IBM’s new Jeopardy Wiz…Watson?
These are some of the headlines I read this morning…
Ford lost $1.4 billion in the first quarter…and that is good news.
EMC has asked employees to take a 5% pay cut.
Honeywell’s 1st quarter net profit fell 38%.
Xerox is predicting that second quarter earnings will be less than originally forecast.
But of all the bad economic news I heard this morning the headline that struck me the most was this…
Microsoft’s Downbeat Outlook
Check out the first sentence of the article…Microsoft has said sales in the first three months of 2009 fell 6% from the previous year- its first quarterly drop in 23 years as a public company.
Incredibly the once invincible software giant stated that profits fell by 32%…Wow 32% drop, this from a company that the Feds sued for heavy handed monopoly-like tactics. Sure, most of this is the result of the world economic crisis, but I think there is another factor at work also. Microsoft generates most of its profits by sales of its Windows Operating System and Microsoft Office. It is boxed software like Microsoft Office that is taking a big hit in the market place. As an example the search giant Google is pushing its own suite of Office software and its FREE. Google offers a FREE spreadsheet maker, a FREE word program, a Free database creator etc, etc…do you get it? Microsoft wants you to PAY about $200 for Office and Google is giving similar applications away FREE…Eventually, FREE has to have an effect of PAY…Am I right?
Whether this marks the beginning of the fall of the empire is yet to be determined…
Several people have asked me what has happened to all the properties in Lowell that experienced foreclosure auctions during the past few years. In almost all cases, the buyer at the auction is also the foreclosing lender, so that entity becomes the owner of the property until it can be sold to a third party. Our initial investigation reveals that these properties take on average 29 weeks after the foreclosure to be resold and that the resale price is a startling 36% lower than the owner who lost the property to foreclosure paid for it in the first place. While the lenders selling these properties might have a variety of motives to discount the price and move the properties off their books quickly, such low sales prices will undoubtedly have a detrimental impact on non-distressed sales.
I noticed that yesterday and today we have been busier than usual. No, I am not talking crazy busy, but there has benn a definite increase. I especially noticed more e-recordings over the past few days, so much so that one of my tweets yesterday addressed the topic. This morning I checked the figures and discovered we did 70 e-recordings yesterday. That number accounts for about 20% of the 366 documents we recorded in total. Today also seems to be a somewhat busier than normal recording day. During the first half we recorded over 200 documents…so it looks like we are heading for another 300+ day. 300+, ! I know, that number pales in comparison to the 800 and 900 per day we did back in the boom days of 2003…but again 300+ is definitely an increase over the past few months. Of course, the really big question is will this trend continue or will it even increase? We’ll see…
The cover story in the latest Time Magazine examines the ongoing transformation of America from a “consumer culture” to a “culture of thrift” and suggests that this society-wide adjustment in attitudes about spending and consuming will rival the one that took place during the Great Depression. This has some relevance to the Registry of Deeds and those in the real estate industry. When the current recession began back in December 2007, home equity loans accounted for 10% of all consumer spending in the country. In other words, people were spending considerably more than they were earning on new cars, college tuition, vacations and other consumer items. The Time article says that such behavior has totally ceased and that the rapid decrease in the amount being spent by Americans has contributed to the severity and depth of the current economic crisis. But the article also suggests that most Americans are approaching this with resolve rather than regret, so in the longterm, at least, there’s some cause for optimism.
This coming Monday, April 20, 2009, is Patriot’s Day here in Massachusetts. The Superior Courthouse is closed for the day as is the Registry of Deeds.
A decision issued by the Land Court on March 26, 2009 has thrown into question the quality of many property titles that were derived from recent foreclosures. This issue in the case, US Bank NA v Ibanez, was whether a Notice of Mortgagee’s Sale of Real Estate published and a subsequent auction conducted prior to the mortgage actually being assigned to the purported mortgagee conducting the foreclosure complied with G.L. c.244, s.14 and thus conveyed good title as a result of the foreclosure auction. The court ruled that where an assignment had not been executed prior to the first publication of the notice of mortgagee’s sale, the subsequent foreclosure auction was invalid. The court reasoned that given the potential difficulty in obtaining proper assignments in this world of the rapid transfer of mortgage loans amongst financial institutions, failure of the mortgagee to have actual possession of the assignment at the time the notice of sale was first published, and certainly when the auction occurred, would cause potential bidders to avoid participating in the sale or at least diminish their bid for the property, all to the detriment of the mortgagor’s interest (and subsequent liability for any deficiency). Given the turbulent nature of the mortgage industry over the past six years and the lack of diligence involved in executing and recording assignments, this decision could throw the validity of many foreclosed properties. Here’s an online copy of the Land Court’s decision.
A couple of cases decided last fall by the Bankruptcy Court for Massachusetts recently came to my attention. In both cases, lenders seeking to foreclose mortgages who had filed motions for relief from the automatic stay imposed when a debtor files bankruptcy had their motions denied because they (the lenders) could not prove to the court that they were the record holders of the mortgages sought to be foreclosed. Reading between the lines, it looks like the lenders adopted a position that essentially said “we’re in high finance and shouldn’t have to waste time with trivial documents like mortgage assignments” to which the Bankruptcy Court replied (and I’m paraphrasing) “don’t give us that high finance stuff; this is all about your sloppiness and lack of attention to important details.” Needless to say, the courts won out and the ability of the lenders to foreclose was thrown into question until the precise ownership record of the mortgages was established. Both of these cases are better described in these newsletters, one from Edwards Angell, the other from Crowell Moring.
If you follow lowelldeeds you probably know here at the Registry of Deeds we are big believers in the Twitter revolution. I am prooud to report that as of today lowelldeeds has 47 people following it on Twitter. We Tweet numerous times everyday. The Tweets we post give followers a glimpse into the daily operations of the registry.
Here is a sample of some of our recent Tweets..
We are juggling some employees to fill a “backup” gap created by a retirement in our verification department.
We are hoping to make some improvements to the lowelldeeds blog in the near future.
I am having four pictures of the Courthouse Clock works mounted for use on Law Day.
Tomorrow morning Trial Court IT people will be here at the registry to upgrade our probate computer connection.
It has been a busy morning @ 2:00PM we have recorded 257 documents.
I am calling today…Twitter Encouragement Day..so sign up “today” to follow lowelldeeds on Twitter.
A new version of MassLandRecords, the statewide search site for registry records, is now in the hands of registry personnel for testing and evaluation. While we’re not able to open it up for public use just yet, I can describe some of the features. The test version we’re using has all of our existing data and images and is updated in real time with new recordings. The new website is designed to function more like the 20/20 Public Search system now in the registries than like the current MassLandRecords site. For instance, almost all data containd in a particular record is immediately visible on screen when that record is first returned in response to a search. Just a few clicks later, the image of a particular document will appear in the right hand portion of your screen with the indexing data on the left side, just as with the Public Search system. There are some changes that will take some getting used to: We’ve asked for a simplified search to be the first thing to appear with an “advanced search” just a click away. So when a customer first logs on, the first search screen only has fields for first and last names. To further refine the search (doc type, town, date range), you click through to advanced search. The reason for this change is that we found many casual users “overpopulating” search screens and thereby excluding documents of interest. If someone sees a field, it seems, they feel obliged to type something in it. As time permits, we will report on more of the features of this new system and on a possible timetable of its public release.
Here are a few techie briefs that caught my eye this morning…
Yahsoft- Microsoft and Yahoo are talking again…No, they weren’t mad at each other. They are talking about a collaboration/purchase/merge or something like that. Microsoft needs a “good” search engine and Yahoo has one…so Microsoft wants to buy Yahoo. Last year talks broke down between the two megacompanies when Microsoft gave Yahoo its last, best offer and Yahoo turned it down. We’ll see what happens this time.
Mikeyy-Just image someone not as techie savvy as you and I reading this opening sentence from a PC World article…” The malicious worm affecting Twitter over the weekend has now mutated and continues to invade the popular microblogging network… Wow, it sounds like the opening line of 1960’s monster movie. The reality is a 17 year-old hacker named Mickey Mooney has created a computer virus that is burrowing through Twitter. It leaves its mark by embedding the word Mikeyy in the Tweet.
Apple Apps- I have a first generation Apple iPhone. I love it. Apple is in bragging mode, big-time. Why?…Shortly, Apple will reach the one billionth download for its wildly successful App Store. Truthfully, I’ve downloaded a number of Apps for my iPhone…and truthfully, I have deleted as a number of Apps from my iPhone. I’ll say this…I’m intrigued by some of the Apple Apps, but I find most are useless. Supposedly, there are over 8,000 iPhone Apps. For me only a fraction of that number are even worth trying.
Last week we color coded our recording counters using material. We lined each counter with a cloth skirt that serves two functions. First, the skirts hide the maze of wires needed to operate the Recording Terminals and second they are helpful identifiers. Since we moved all the Recording Counters into one area, we felt using different colors for different counters would help direct the public..
So here we go
The Blue Counter is for Middlesex North Recordings
The White Counter is for Midllesex North “Registered Land” Recordings
And the Red Counter is for Middlesex South Satellite Office Recordings
An article in today’s Globe suggest that first time buyers are driving any revival of the long-sagging real estate market. Citing low interest rates, dropping prices, and a Federal income tax credit, the story lays out a compelling case that now is the time to buy a home. The problem is that such a window of opportunity is available almost exclusively to folks who don’t already own a home. Those who do tend to be encumbered by a mortgage obtained at a time when the home’s value was at its hyper-inflated peak and therefore lack sufficient equity to be able to refinance or sell under normal circumstances.
A regular website user emailed yesterday reporting an inability to view our web-based index and images on a Blackberry Curve cellphone, while an associate’s Palm Treo could access the index but could not display any images. Although I’ve owned a so-called smart phone for several years, I confess that I’d never tried viewing anything from the registry website on it. I’ve tried now but had no success. I did ask one of my associates who uses an iPhone if the Apple device did any better. The iPhone had no problem searching the registry index or displaying the document in the “quick one page viewer” (we stopped there). So now I’ve added “what can we do to make the registry website more accessible to cell phones” to my To Do List. In the meantime, if you think you might need that capability in the short term, your best bet is to go with the iPhone.
A substantial amount of stimulus money from the Federal government has been and will be distributed as “Neighborhood Stabilization Program” grants. In the first round of distributions last fall, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts received $43 million and the cities of Boston ($4.2 mil), Brockton ($2.2 mil), Springfield ($2.6 mil) and Worcester ($2.4 mil) all received grants. While Lowell didn’t get anything the first time, the city stands a good chance to receive future funds. The purpose of these grants is to assist cities in getting foreclosed properties back in operation so they will not remain abandoned and serve as anchors that drag down the value of the surrounding neighborhood. The primary approach is to assist non-profits in purchasing already foreclosed multifamily homes and then renting the apartments to families who might otherwise be left homeless. I’ve heard some statistics that say it costs $40,000 per year to care for a homeless family while subsidized rent for an apartment might be only $14,000, so this program makes a lot of economic sense from that perspective.
Here is a list of Opening Day pitchers for the Red Sox on six of the most significant years in the team’s history…
1967: Red Sox win the Pennant then lose the World Series to the St Louis Cardinals
Opening Day pitcher: Jim Lonberg, Sox beat Chicago White Sox (5-4)
1975: Red Sox win the Penant then lose the Worlds Series to the Cincinnati Reds
Opening Day Pitcher: Luis Tiant, Sox beat the Milwaukee Brewers (5-2)
1978: Red Sox lose a play off game to the Yankees losing the Pennant
Opening Day Pitcher: Mike Torrez, Sox lose to the Chicago White Sox (5-4)
1986: Red Sox win the Pennant then lose the World Series to the New York Mets
Opening Day Pitcher: Bruce Hurst, Sox lose to Detroit Tigers (8-2)
2004: Red Sox win the World Championship
Opening Day Pitcher: Pedro Martinez, Sox lose to the Baltimore Orioles (10-5)
2007: Red Sox win the World Championship
Opening Day Pitcher: Curt Schilling Sox lose to the Kansas City Royals (14-3)
2009: Red Sox ?????
Opening Day Pitcher: Josh Beckett
Yesterday at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Lowell, the Commonwealth, the City of Lowell and the Coalition for a Better Acre sponsored a Foreclosure Prevention Workshop at which homeowners with concerns about their mortgages had an opportunity to meet with representatives of many major lenders or with independent housing counselors in an attempt to find some remedy for their housing difficulties. As the photo above shows, several hundred people attended the event with the line stretching around the hotel parking lot at the 2 pm start time of the workshop. Although our foreclosure statistics have remained stable for about a year now, seeing the crowd that gathered for this event suggests that many are in distress and that any recovery of the housing market is still far off.
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