Lowell Deeds

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

May 29, 2009

Mixed Message from May Foreclosures

by @ 1:32 pm. Filed under Statistics

The number of foreclosure deeds recorded in May 2009 was down drastically when compared to May 2008, but the number of orders of notice – the documents that signal the start of the foreclosure process – rose significantly during that same period. First the good news: During May 2008, a total of 75 foreclosure deeds were recorded for the entire Middlesex North District, while in May 2009, there were only 22, a decrease of 70%. For the city of Lowell there was an even bigger drop (77%) from 48 down to 11. But the number of orders of notice recorded have started to rise, signaling a new wave of foreclosures, perhaps. For the entire district in May 2008, there were 49 orders of notice recorded; during May 2009 that number rose to 11, an increase of 22%. In Lowell, the May 2008 total of 25 jumped to 33 this May, a rise of 32%. Unfortunately, the increase in the number of orders of notices recorded suggests that the real estate crisis is far from over. (Note: the May 2009 figures are as of noontime on May 29, the last business day of the month, so the final statistics could rise slightly).

May 28, 2009

Passports at the Registry of Deeds

by @ 10:21 pm. Filed under Registry Ops

For several years the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds has been a passport acceptance agent which means you can submit your application for a passport along with all required documentation and fees at the Registry. Today I attended a training session at the Regional Passport Office at the O’Neill Federal Building in Boston. Much of the training fell into the “unclassified but sensitive” so I won’t go into much detail. The primary duties of the acceptance agent are to gather proof of citizenship of the applicant and to positively identify the person submitting the application. The training, conducted by agency employees who brought a real world, practical approach to the lessons, was excellent. The quality of instruction plus observations made during a tour of the facility showed an efficient, well-run operation staffed with dedicated, conscientious employees performing an essential government service.

May 27, 2009

Semi-State of Confusion

by @ 2:32 pm. Filed under Real Estate, Current Events

Sometimes I wonder if I live in a semi-state of confusion. This morning while imbibing my first cup of coffee I heard a news report that grab my attention…
(I paraphrase) According to 90% of the economist polled the recession will end by the end of this year.
Wow, what great news…how these economist know this is far beyond my elementary understanding of supply and demand. Needless to say, I finished my first cup of coffee with a huge smile on my face. The country is back!..But things changed rapidly during my second my second cup of coffee.
While sipping away I began reading the online version of the New York Times…
Here is the first headline I saw “U.S. Home Sales Remain Sluggish as Supply Soars”
Hold on, this can’t be the case. I just read the opposite…remember 90% of the economist think the recession will be over in six months…
And more from the article “Sales of previously owned homes picked up last month, an industry group reported on Wednesday, as buyers went looking for bargains and lower –priced houses”.
What do you mean? Bargains? Lower priced houses? What about the end of the recession? …
Again from the article “But economists and housing specialists worry that foreclosures will continue to grow, swamping the market, as unemployment rises”
these can’t be the same economist that think the recession is almost over…Or can they be?
Welcome to my semi-state of confusion.

May 26, 2009

Will Rising Unemployment Cause Foreclosures to Rise?

by @ 10:04 am. Filed under Real Estate

A recent New York Times article described how the “third wave” of foreclosures was now arriving around the country, especially in regions that have sustained the highest increase in unemployment. The “first wave” were the riskiest subprime mortgages that failed almost immediately. The “second wave” were adjustable rate mortgages that had articificially low monthly payments for the first year or two but would then spike dramatically upward, a process that left many borrowers unable to keep up with the new, higher payments. This “third wave” is mostly prime mortgages, those granted to folks with the best credit. But as the rest of the economy stalls and these homeowners lose jobs or have overtime cut or fulltime positions shifted to parttime, many more homeowners are falling behind on their mortgage payments.

The foreclosure statistics here at Middlesex North do not yet show this trend. The number of foreclosure deeds recorded to date during this May (20 for entire district, 10 of which are for Lowell) is down dramatically from the same period in 2008 (60 for entire district, 37 of which were from Lowell). Hopefully this is a sign that the foreclosure crisis has hit bottom and not the calm before a rising unemployment driven surge in foreclosures.

May 22, 2009

Electronic Recording Stats

by @ 3:33 pm. Filed under E-Recording

I’ve compiled some statistics on our volume of electronic recordings. Since we activated the system in June 2005, we have recorded more than 13,000 documents that were submitted to us electronically. The average per year continues to increase: In 2005 (June thru December) we averaged 151 per month; in 2006 the average rose only to 156; in 2007 the average reached 291; in 2008 it grew to 330; and for the first four months of 2009 it has exploded to an average of 588 documents per month. April 2009 saw the highest number of electronic recordings (781) followed by March 2009 (679).

May 21, 2009

Elevator News

by @ 1:23 pm. Filed under Registry Ops

I’ve received some more information about the elevator that’s coming to the Superior Courthouse. Construction is to begin in November and should last about a year. A brick tower/enclosure for the elevator will be constructed at the site of the present side door that opens to the employee parking lot. The elevator will open on ground level and then have stops at the first floor and the second floor. Because there is no ramp between the two levels of the first floor, an elevation difference of 2.5 feet, a ramp will be constructed through several existing registry offices. The ramp will terminate in the vicinity of the current customer service counter. The elevator will not be open to the general public; just to individuals with mobility issues. The construction of this device is long overdue, nevertheless its construction will cause significant disruptions to our operations during its year long contsruction period. Consequently, spaces now used by the public might have to shrink considerably to make space for more important functions that are displaced by the construction.

May 20, 2009

Real-Time Game

by @ 2:27 pm. Filed under Current Events, Technology

Come on, right now right here. Lets go…

Did you know there is a real-time game going on right in front of our faces? And the main combatants are Google and Twitter. What is a “real-time game”? It is a race to provide the public with up-to-the-minute news and conversation…in (you guessed it) “real-time”. And right now the leader by far is Twitter…Now, this isn’t my assessment of the race, it is the assessment of none other than Larry Page, Goolge co-founder and Eric Schmidt, Google CEO… and they should know.

Here is what Page had to say, “People really want to do stuff real-time and I think they (Twitter) have done a great job about it. I think we have done a relatively poor job of creating things that work on a per-second basis”.

Google did try to make a run at Twitter in the early days. It purchased a micro-blogging company called Jaiku…but Google squandered that opportunity and stopped funding the infant Twitter competitor. Today there is speculation that Google will (excuse me) buy Twitter by making it an offer it can’t refuse. Twitter has already refused $500 million from Facebook. But CEO Schmidt says don’t be too sure about a Google purchase “We do not have to buy everybody to work with them, the whole principle of the Web is people can talk to each other”.

That’s easy for a guy to say who runs a company with $15 billion in cash and liquid assets.

May 19, 2009

Update on Registry Copiers

by @ 2:00 pm. Filed under Registry Ops

While flipping through the print edition of today’s Boston Globe, the name “Mac-Gray Corporation” jumped out at me from a column in the Business section. Mac-Gray, a company primarily in the business of providing coin operated washers and driers to apartment buildings and college dorms, has also been the provider of our coin operated and administrative copiers for a number of years. More accurately, Mac-Gray purchased Copico, the company with which we initially entered into our copier contract back in 2001.

About a year ago, Mac-Gray informed us that they were getting out of the copier business entirely and that they would be in on June 30, 2009 to pick up their machines. Right now, we only have four of their copiers in operation: a coin operated machine outside the “closing room” in the rear of the building; a publicly accessible machine in with our Registered Land Certificate Books; another in the Middlesex South Satellite Office; and a fourth in our mail room which is adjacent to Customer Service. We used to have four or five others but once we took all of our record books out of public circulation, the already depressed need for coin operated copiers dropped to almost nothing.

We’ve now finalized our plans to replace these machines. We will be leasing two new copiers which should be delivered in the coming weeks. One of these copiers will be with the Registered Land Certificates – the public will have the opportunity to use this machine although the $1 per copy charge will be paid either at the Registered Land Counter or at Customer Service. The second copier will go in the mailroom. It will handle the majority of all admin copying needs. As soon as the new machines arrive, the old ones will be taken out of service and eventually be retrieved by Mac-Gray.

As for the business column about Mac-Gray; it described a fight over control of the board of directors of this surprisingly large company.

May 18, 2009

Online House Buying

by @ 1:22 pm. Filed under Real Estate

In a past life I sold real estate… in those days the Multiple Listing Service was the Holy Grail of the business. Real Estate office managers taught agents to never, never give out an address to a phone inquiry about a property…rather, politely nudge the customer into making an appointment to see the property. Wow, have things changed since those days. Today the Internet gushes information out about every topic imaginable…including real estate. Sunday the New York Times ran an article about a couple that found their dream home by surfing the web. “Increasingly, virtual shopping especially during the early stages of looking for a home, is a major component in the real estate business. Buyers, sellers and agents are using social networking sites like YouTube and Facebook, online classifieds like Criagslist and enhanced real estate sites like Listingbook”. Agents are using the Internet and electronic devises like the Blackberry and iPhone to provide pictures, listing information, comparables and more to potential buyers. Of course, the MLS still exists and probably will for a long time, but today the name of the game in real estate is getting as much information to buyers as quickly as possible and in as many ways as possible. This I am sure is only the beginning.

May 15, 2009

Satellite Office to Close

by @ 5:03 pm. Filed under Archived, Registry Ops

The Middlesex South Satellite Office in Lowell will close permanently on June 30, 2009. Beginning July 1, 2009, all Middlesex South documents must be recorded in Cambridge.

In light of the state’s fiscal crisis, it is clear that the FY2010 budget will substantially cut the funding for this registry. But financial concerns are not the only reason for closing the Satellite Office. The recent retirement of three of our employees has shrunken our workforce to its lowest level in history. Because of changes in the way we operate (immediately scanning and returning original documents, for instance), the recording process today is much more labor intensive at the point of contact with the customer than ever before. Consequently, continuing to operate the Satellite Office with such reduced staffing levels will degrade the quality of service provided by the Middlesex North Registry, a situation that would be completely unacceptable.

May 14, 2009

Status of Federal Mortgage Modification Program

by @ 11:22 am. Filed under Real Estate

The New York Times reports that the two month old Federal home loan modification program, designed to help homeowners avoid foreclosure, is only just getting off the ground. Two big stumbling blocks – how to deal with the many second mortgages out there and providing protection investor lawsuits against mortgage servicers who modify loans – have taken this much time to resolve. However, another factor that many deem critical – a provision that would allow Bankruptcy Court judges to reduce the amount of principal owed on mortgages – was recently defeated in the Senate and is no longer an option. The inability to reduce principal owed is a major obstacle to any recovery. More than 20% of the owners of single family homes in America owe more on their mortgages than their houses are worth. Even if their monthly payments are reduced through reduced interest rates or extending the term of the loan, any kind of disruption of income flowing into such a household sentences that family to foreclosure since they would be able to sell or refinance given their negative equity in the home.

Still, it is anticipated that up to 4 million American homeowners will be able to take advantage of this program. When it finally kicks into gear, we can expect a wave of refinancing to hit the registry and a resulting spike in our level of recording activity, a development that would be welcomed by everyone.

May 13, 2009

Surgical Accuracy

by @ 1:28 pm. Filed under Registry Ops

Our Back Scanning Project is going well, but slowly… We’ve run into a huge problem/issue. It relates to the disassembly of the books mainly in the 600 series. When these books were created registry employees often wrote close to the edge of the page. Now remember, we need to “chop” the binding off these books and then “cut” off the remaining glue and thread. The problem is removing the binding and glue without removing any characters along the tight edge. This is no easy task…in fact, we’ve had to stop using our heavy duty “book cutter”. Instead we have switched to a large “paper cutter” whose blade we can pinpoint for precise and accuracy. Trust me it takes a great deal of patients and a surgical eye. I’ve done it…of course, we’ve had the unfortunate experience of cutting a little too close and removing some of the letters. What do we do then? We painstakingly tape the cut strips containing the letters back on to the pages. Even with this obstacle we are still re-scanning 100 books a week. And I’m happy with that.

May 12, 2009

Correcting “National Lumber”

by @ 3:13 pm. Filed under Archived, Indexing

On numerous occasions I’ve written about National Lumber v Lombardi, 64 Mass App 490 (2005) a case in which the Massachusetts Appeals Court held that a document was deemed to be on record when it was “delivered” to the registry of deeds, not when it was indexed and scanned by the registry. The members of the Massachusetts Registers of Deeds Association have been concerned that this holding could alter the longstanding practice that a document is “recorded” when it is entered into the registry’s computer system and not before.

Two identical bills, House #1527 and Senate #1826, are now pending in the state legislature. Here’s the language they both share:

SECTION 1. Section 14 of Chapter 36 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2006 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking out the last sentence and inserting the following:

“No deed or instrument shall be considered to have been received by the Register or left for record until said deed or instrument has been approved for recording by the register and an instrument number or document number or book and page has been assigned to said deed or instrument”

Hopefully this amendment will be enacted during this legislative session. I know if no case that has invoked the holding of National Lumber, but I suspect that is only a matter of time.

May 11, 2009

I’m Baffled

by @ 2:48 pm. Filed under Current Events

Some things baffle me…In less than an hour the Space Shuttle Atlantis will lift off on a mission intended to repair the Hubble Telescope. No, the mission doesn’t baffle me, what baffles me is the fact that on-board the Atlantis is a basketball. Not just any basketball, rather a ball belonging to the amazing clowns of basketball the Harlem Globetrotters. Come on, you’ve got to be baffled now too. I’m wondering, do you think its the basketball Meadowlark Lemon had attached to an elastic band so it would fire back to him when he shot it from the foul line? Or maybe the one that Meadowlark gives to the Washington Generals that hits the floor with a thud? Please, help me… Why would NASA send one of the Globetrotters basketballs up in space? You see, I’m right aren’t I, some things are baffling …And I’m baffled even more…Why? because NASA put a second basketball on the shuttle. This one belongs to the University of Chicago and was once “handled” by none other than the famed astronomer and namesake of the telescope Edwin Hubble himself. But…I image Hubble handled a baseball too, so why not a put a baseball on the shuttle? What then is the connection between Edwin Hubble and basketball? It seems Hubble was a star forward for the University of Chicago the year they won the National Championship in 1907-1908. Get it? Basketball, Hubble…Hubble Basketball…National Championship, Hubble…Telescope, Basketball…yes, yes it all relates, according to NASA anyway. Me? I’m still baffled.

May 8, 2009

Cemetery Tour Tomorrow

by @ 11:19 am. Filed under History

Tomorrow (Saturday, May 9) at 10 am, Catherine Goodwin, the author of Mourning Glory: The Story of the Lowell Cemetery will give a free guided tour of one of the Lowell Cemetery, one of the city’s most picturesque places. The tour will begin at the cemeteries Lawrence Street gate. The Lowell Cemetery was incorporated in 1841 and was inspired by Cambridge’s Mt Auburn Cemetery, the first garden-style cemetery in the United States. Overlooking the Concord River, the Lowell Cemetery features many acres of rolling hills and tree lined avenues and an amazing collection of Victorian-era grave markers, more commonly called “cemetery art.”

Like the land records we maintain here at the registry of deeds, our local cemeteries allow people of today to connect with those who have come before us. Given the number of people who contact me about obtaining copies of deeds to homes owned by long-deceased ancestors, the desire to learn more about the family’s past is as strong as ever.

May 7, 2009

Electronic Indexes for Sale

by @ 12:19 pm. Filed under Indexing, Registry Ops

At the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds, the Grantor and Grantee Indexes from 1976 to the present are available in a single, searchable computer database that is fully available on the registry’s website (www.lowelldeeds.com). Although Indexes from 1629 to 1975 are not yet on the internet, they are available as “electronic index books” at the registry.

These “electronic index books” were created by scanning the original paper index books and saving the resulting images in the PDF format. We have retained the original date ranges of the indexes (for example, 1916-1925; 1926-1940) but within each date range, we have separated the pages of the index into separate files based on the first letter of the last name.

Because some of the letter files are more than 1000 pages long, we have created a sub-index at the beginning of each file. This sub-index is a spreadsheet that contains the first name on each page of that letter file along with the corresponding page number. By finding the name closest to the one of interest to you and using the “go to” function in the PDF program, you can jump to the area where your name is located. Once there, you can use the forward and back arrow buttons to flip through pages just as you would with the printed/bound index book.

We have now established a pilot program to test the market for selling these indexes to our customers. We have purchased a number of 16 gigabyte flash drives and have copied the entire 1629-1975 Grantor and Grantee Indexes onto each. Customers may purchase one of these flash drives by coming to the registry in person and paying $50 (we can only take checks payable to “Commonwealth of Massachusetts” as payment). Once you have purchased one of our flash drives, you may copy the data to one or more computers and use it however you wish. It is not our intent to make a profit on these transactions: the $50 just covers the cost of purchasing the blank flash drives. We haven’t given up on getting all this data onto our website; it’s just taking much longer than we had hoped. These individualized copies of the index should serve as a useful bridge to the time when a web-based solution is available.

May 6, 2009

FaceFox Maybe?

by @ 12:55 pm. Filed under Technology

I never thought of this, honest. I never thought of the possibility of a web browser getting into the social networking business.
To me it was like mixing oil and water, apples and oranges, Red Sox and Yankees…you just couldn’t do it.
And I never thought of this either…I never thought, that if for some strange reason, a web browser DID get into the social networking business it WON’T be Internet Explore.
Hey, if any company was going to do it I figured it would be the big IE aka Internet Explorer.
And most of all…
Honest! I never thought for a second that my favorite web browser, Morzilla Firefox would even consider challenging Facebook…but according to the New York Times it is going to.
Woo, this should prove to be quite a battle…Firefox has an astounding 270 million users. That’s triple Facebook’s average number of daily users.
But, but, but there is more…
Someone once said “All Roads Lead to Rome”…today we might modify that old proverb to read “All Internet innovations lead to Google”.
The motivation for the battle is simple?… Firefox needs to change or die…
let me explain with this quote “in a bid to extend the reach of its new browser Chrome, we expect Google to build OpenID and its associated friend connections into the browser”, in other words make GOogle is going to make Chrome a kind of hybrid browser/social networking site.
I told you…All roads do lead to Google
With the emergence of Google’s Chrome, Morzilla needs to enhance its Firefox web browser offerings or Chrome will crush it. Google has the time, the money and the resources to empower Chrome to slowly squeeze the life out of Firefox.
This brings me back to my original point…The enhancements being explored for survival by Firefox are social networking enhancements…
But remember…by Firefox and Google/Chrome changing the dynamics of the web browser game, it puts them in direct competition with Facebook and MySpace.
That’s a story for another day.

May 5, 2009

Rebound of RE Market in Some Parts of Country

by @ 4:16 pm. Filed under Real Estate

Today’s New York Times reports that regions of the country hit earliest and hardest by the collapse of the real estate market (Florida and California in particular) are showing the signs of a rebound in sales and prices. Of course, what passes for good news - “a period of price stagnation would boost spirits” - is still pretty pathetic. One interesting note was that the first indicator of a turnaround, or at least a slowing of the decline, is a drop in the number of foreclosures. If this is true, it’s good news for Lowell where the number of foreclosures seen in April 2009 was 46% less than the number seen last April.

May 4, 2009

Law Day 2009

by @ 12:52 pm. Filed under Registry Ops, Current Events, History

Last Friday May 1 was Law Day. At the Lowell Superior Courthouse there were various happenings including speeches, an essay contest and tours of the historic building.

May 1, 2009

April Recording Statistics

by @ 12:04 pm. Filed under Statistics, Real Estate

Each month we compare the number of various documents recorded during that month with the same month during the prior year. Here’s what we found for April for the entire registry district:

Entire District

    In April 2009, there were 383 deeds recorded, a 14% decline from the 447 recorded in April 2008.

    In April 2009, there were 1374 mortgages recorded, a 14% increase from the 1206 recorded in April 2008.

    In April 2009, there were 29 foreclosure deeds recorded, a 57% decline from the 67 recorded in April 2008.


    In April 2009, there were 106 deeds recorded, a 30% decline from the 151 recorded in April 2008.

    In April 2009, there were 237 mortgages recorded, a 7% decline from the 254 recorded in April 2008

    In April 2009, there were 20 foreclosure deeds recorded, a 46% decline from the 37 recorded in April 2008.

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