The latest on real estate recordings and new technology from the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds in Lowell
Since its start in 2005 the video sharing website YouTube has taken the world by storm. It has entertained us, informed us and even changed the course of political history.
Here are some interesting facts about YouTube:
1. YouTube was founded by three former employees of PayPal, Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim.
2. YouTube’s first headquarters were above a pizzeria in San Mateo, California.
3. The first YouTube video was titled “Me at the Zoo”. The subject is YouTube founder Jawed Karim at the San Diego Zoo.
4. Experts estimates that 6 billion YouTube videos are watched every month and that 30,000 hours of videos are uploaded every day.
5. In 2006 Google purchased the twenty-month-old YouTube for $1.65 billion.
6. The most watched YouTube video ever is the “Evolution of Dance” with 122,500,000 views.
7. When the founders first picked the domain name YouTube they were sued by another video sharing website known as Utube.
8. YouTube’s bandwidth costs approximately $1 million a day.
Although a Middlesex South Satellite Recording Office still exists in Lowell, it is under the management of the Secretary of State’s Office and is currently only scheduled to stay open until Middlesex South activates its electronic recording system (which is expected to occur on or about July 24, 2009). The version of the Satellite Office that was operated by the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds since July 1, 2003 is now closed, having recorded its last document this past Tuesday, June 30, 2009. While a more detailed account of that office’s history will be forthcoming, here are some interesting statistics:
During its six years of existence, the Satellite Office recorded 237,781 documents, an average of 39,630 per year which was 14% of the Cambridge registry’s annual recordings.
The Satellite Office collected $62,455,051 in revenue
The busiest single day was the last day of August of 2003 when 902 documents were recorded.
This past Tuesday, June 30, 2009 (the last day of the Satellite Office’s operation) saw the recording of 440 documents, the highest single day recordings since the last day April of 2004.
While the Satellite Office has on average, handled 12% of all Middlesex South recordings, on the last day of the month, the Satellite Office accounted for 17% of all Middlesex South recordings.
A comparison of the number of key document types recorded in June of 2009 with those recorded in June 2008 yield some interesting statistics:
For the entire Middlesex North District,
Deeds - down 3%, from 542 to 527
Mortgages – up 54%, from 1044 to 1602
Foreclosure Deeds – done 56%, from 54 to 24
Orders of Notice – down 15%, from 72 to 61
For the city of Lowell,
Deeds – down 15%, from 171 to 146
Mortgages – up 6%, from 281 to 299
Foreclosure Deeds – down 47%, from 36 to 19
Orders of Notice – down 13%, from 38 to 33
The two numbers that I find most encouraging are the surge in the number of mortgages being recorded – an indication that more and more homeowners are able to refinance – and the number of orders of notice being down slightly. In our May to May comparison, while the number of foreclosure deeds was down by a dramatic 70+%, the number of orders of had climbed by more than 30%, suggesting that a new wave of foreclosures might be on the way. The June to June decline in this document type indicates that the May increase was probably just an anomaly.
I said I would report back on the last day of the fiscal year totals (June 30) and there is not time better than the present as Ben Franklin said, (or was it Wyclef Jean?) June 30, 2009 was a booming day for document recordings in both Middlesex North and the South Satellite Office. North recorded 484 documents and South recorded close to 450. These totals represent the highest number for both these departments since the beginning of the year. As far as North goes it was our first real test of the scan and return method of operation and, it went well. No one waited more than five minutes for a North document. Traditionally, July is the slowest month of the year…
I’ll report back again on the monthly total on the last day of July, 31 days from now.
The Secretary of State’s office has this notice on its website:
Secretary Galvin’s Office will temporarily bridge the satellite office services at the Northern Middlesex District Registry of Deeds in Lowell past July 1, 2009. Additionally, the Southern Middlesex District Registry of Deeds in Cambridge will continue its services temporarily as well. More information shall follow.
The changeover will occur tomorrow, July 1, 2009 at 8:30 a.m. Further, the Middlesex South Satellite office in Lowell will physically move to another location within the courthouse, the space currently known as the “Closing Room.”
Additional information will be posted here as it becomes available.
They did it, oh yeah, they went ahead and did it…even after they said they won’t do it, they did it. I don’t know about you, but it aggravates me? Whenever someone tells you one thing and then does something else, it annoys the heck out of me. I am trying to just let it go…but truthfully, I can’t. I said to myself, hey what’s the big deal, just live with it, but I can’t. I can’t let it go.
Who and What am I talking about?
Its Microsoft…THEY did it. THEY developed a new Operating System to replace Vista. THEY said THEY were not going to drop Vista. THEY said THEY were “sticking with it”. Doesn’t it aggravate you too?
It should, because if you bought a new computer in the last two years your Operating System is going to be outdated on October 22….nice huh.
I am one of those people…can’t you tell.
I bought my newest computer about six months ago, so in three months I’ll be running a nine month old outdated computer… Did you hear that? nine months old and its outdated. It gets me…really perturbs me.
I know what you’re thinking…just upgrade to “Windows 7”…Yeah, right….if I’m willing to shell some more money, I can.
How much more?
Here is the official pricing for the upgrades…
Windows 7 Home $120
Windows 7 Professional: $200
Windows 7 Ultimate: $220
I told you!, I told you, they did it…and worst yet, I’ll bet they’ll do it again.
It is the last Friday of June and there are only two business days left until the end of the fiscal year. This has traditionally been a very busy day at the registry of deeds. So far this morning, the end of the fiscal year is living up to its reputation. It has been busy. But will it last all day? That’s the question. And we expect with the closing of the Middlesex South Satellite Office only a few days off that department will also be busy. In the past South usually gets busier in the afternoon than the morning. Lets see what happens…we’re prepared. I’ll report back on Monday.
I am a complete Twittermanic. If the originators of Twitter shaved their heads, I would too (if my wife let me). I love Twitter and think it is a communication revolution, just look at Iran. Yes, I have written about it many times on the lowelldeeds blog…to some, too many times. In my travels (this includes the three miles I live from work) I have discovered that many people are interested in using Twitter but haven’t quite figured it out yet…I found this great Twitter Tutorial on YouTube and thought it would be very helpful for newbees. It was originally posted by alienfromneptune (I know, try and ignore the name. It is a good video)…so enjoy and don’t forget, you can follow the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds on Twitter. Our user name is lowelldeeds (what esle).
They’re called emoticons…we’ve all seem them. A smiley face made by putting a colon before right parenthesis, like this : ) and this could be changed to a sad face with a left parenthesis, like this : (
Here are some of the more common emoticons you’ll find in text messages and emails:
=D Large grin or big laugh
:(] I’m shocked or surprised
:< Frowning sad
=P I’m an idiot
:-\ I’m bored annoyed or awkward
;-) a wink
<3 I’m in love
:S I’m confused and embarrassed
These are all interesting and you’ll see them often…but, what about when you want to express an “out of the ordinary” emtion? What do you do? Well, this morning I took the time to create some emoticons that although its unlikely you’ll need to use in a text message mioght just come in handy on that rare occassion:
############ Good Fences Make Good neighbors
************ Its snowing again
<> You go your way I’ll go mine
| | | | Is that your Jeep?
Lo Anyone for soccer?
“~î~” I think I’ll shave my mustache
_///__\\\_ Take the bridge, its faster
OK, so maybe some are a little silly….but I’ll bet the time will come when you need to use one. Then you won’t think its silly. Will you?
This is a short video on the new Judicial Center to be built in Lowell. The pictures were taken from the state’s Administration and Finance Department website. More details on the project can be found here.
Last week I wrote a post about In re Giroux, a Bankruptcy Court case (District of Massachusetts) in which the judge held that a second mortgage on which the acknowledgement clause was incomplete (”. . . then personally appeared ____ and acknowledged the foregoing . . .”) was improperly recorded by the registry of deeds. The court held that for a document to be recordable, the acknowledgement clause had to be complete. Since then, we have come across numerous already recorded documents that suffer from this same defect. An attorney also contacted me to say he had discovered two such documents in the chain of title of a property he was examining.
I’m not really sure how we at the registry should react to this case. Our attitude, and the attitude of the Deed Indexing Standards, has been to liberally interpret that acknowledgement - if there’s something there that looks like an aknowledgement by a notary public, we’ll take the document. But this case suggests we must set the threshold for recording much higher; that we should closely examine the acknowledgement clause of each document and, if there are any departures from the standard wording, we should not record the document. I suspect that this is not the last time I’ll be writing something about this case.
Last evening, the joint conference committee of the legislature issued its report resolving differences between the House and Senate budgets. Both houses of the legislature are scheduled to vote on the conference committee report (available online here) today, so presumably we will have a state budget ready for the Governor’s signature by the end of the day. As expected, the budget contains substantial cuts across the board including a 15% reduction in this registry’s funding. While it is understandable in light of the scale of the current worldwide economic crisis, such deep cuts will have adverse consequences on our operations (such as the elimination of our Middlesex South Satellite Recording Office). Fortunately, the cuts will leave us sufficiently staffed to perform our core statutory mission which is to operate the Middlesex North District Registry of Deeds.
Besides each registry’s individual line item in the budget, the line item in the report that provides the funding for the operation of the Secretary of State’s office includes several directives by the legislature to the Secretary that directly effect the operations of the state’s registry’s of deeds. The specific items I noticed were:
2. Giving the Secretary of State the authority to transfer money appropriated for the operation of one registry to the budget of another registry; and
3. Requiring the Secretary of State no later than June 30, 2010 to issue regulations governing electronic recording of documents and requiring each registry performing electronic recording to comply with such regulations.
For several years this registry has served as a passport application intake station. Recently, a few of us attended a training seminar held at the Boston passport office. The class was well-run, professional, and covered all the substantive rules. One thing that struck me as odd was the treatment of same gender couples who marry and assume the same name. Because passports are issued by the Federal government, the US Defense of Marriage Act would not recognize a name change based on a same gender marriage. Today’s Globe, however, reports that the Federal government has now modified that rule and will allow the issuance of passports in the married name based on a marriage that is recognized in the state in which the marriage occurred.
A recent decision by the United States Bankruptcy Court for Massachusetts dealt with the sufficiency of the acknowledgement of a mortgage. The case is In re Giroux, a May of 2009 decision and the alleged defect occured when the notary public failed to insert the borrower’s name into the notary clause (”Then personally appeared ______________ and acknowledged the foregoing to be his free act and deed”). The court held that even though the notary signed the notary clause which was located on the same page as the borrower’s signature, the absence of the borrower’s name in the middle of the clause invalidated the acknowledgement. Consequently, according to the court, the registry of deeds should not have recorded the document. Since the mortgage was therefore void, the lender was left as an unsecured creditor of the bankruptcy estate.
Ironically, the court cited the Massachusetts Deed Indexing Standards as support for its holding. The intent of the Indexing Standards was to be fairly liberal about what constitutes a sufficient acknowledgement, so the holding in this decision was certainly unexpected. Over the coming days, we’ll read the decision more closely, as well as the cases and statutes cited, to see whether it will alter our own standards for accepting documents for recording.
Tomorrow is Bunker Hill Day. This registry will be open during our normal hours. Despite all of the negative publicity that now surrounds this particular “holiday”, the Battle of Bunker Hill is worth remembering. To place it in context, the fight at Lexington and Concord occurred on April 19, 1775. In the aftermath of that British raid, thousands of colonial militia gathered outside of Boston and laid siege to the city. During the overnight hours of June 13, 1775, American forces occupied Breed’s Hill which was to the northwest of Boston and separated from the city by water. When the British discovered the colonial forces present and entrenched on the hill, they set out to attack. Although some British leaders recommended landing a force to the rear of the American positions and thereby cutting off any chance of retreat, the British commander, General William Howe, decided that a frontal attack was more appropriate under the circumstances. This they did on June 17, 1775. The first two British assaults were beaten back with heavy casualties and it was only after the Americans began to run out of ammunition did the British capture the position. The British suffered more than 1000 casualties, more than in any other battle during the entire Revolution, while the American casualties were 450.
Last week I commented on a story about the new reality of appraisals – that more and more often current valuations of properties are jeopardizing deals because the appraisal comes back for less than the agreed upon price. Now, another hindrance to the recovery of the real estate market has arisen. Mortgage interest rates have increased and are at their highest since last November. While rates are still low by historic standards, the increased amount of interest tends to increase the monthly payments to an amount high enough to disrupt deals. As fears of inflation continue to grow, it’s likely that interest rates will stay high or get higher. Of course, if potential buyers adopt the view that interest rates will only rise, that might be enough motivation to jump into the market and cause an increase in sales.
A recent story in the Globe detailed the negative influence that appraisals are having on the real estate market. Many sales and refinancings have been scuttled when the appraisal comes back and values the property at less than the agreed sales price or the amount needed to pay off the existing mortgage. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and if it had happened more often during the irrational run up to the peak of the real estate bubble, perhaps the severity of the present economic crisis would have been averted or lessened. Nevertheless, judging the value of real estate is an art not a science, so when an property with a P&S for $225,000 has an appraisal come back at $220,000 and thereby blow up the deal, it would be understandably frustrating for all involved. A number of factors are contributing to make the business of appraising properties tougher than ever: The slow market yields few comparable sales; Many comparable sales are of properties owned by lenders who gained title through foreclosure and who heavily discount the resale price and thereby artificially drive down values of like properties. And appraisers are naturally wary of setting a current value which, in a steadily declining market, might seem overpriced in just a few months. While this new diligence in valuing property will be beneficial in the long run (assuming the cautionary impulse continues with the return of rising prices), in the short term, it certainly is contributing to the persistent slowness of the real estate market.
When I arrive home after work today, I’ll look at my driveway in an entirely different way after reading today that the new owner of the property at 48 Commonwealth Ave in Boston paid an additional $300,000 for a parking space that went with the property. I know parking in Boston in expensive - that’s why I take the train whenever possible - but when the cost of ownership of space for a single car exceeds the purchase price of the majority of homes in Lowell, you know something is out of whack. I suppose I should have figured this out already. During past meetings and conferences on the Massachusetts Deed Indexing Standards, attorneys who regularly do real estate work in Boston would become obsessed with how the registry indexed parking spaces that were often buried deed in the description section of a deed conveying a residential unit. Those of us from outside of Boston never could summon much enthusiasm or concern for this issue. After today’s article, however, I know I’ll be paying much closer attention to documents related to parking spaces than I ever have before.
Several years ago we scanned all of our Registered Land documents and made them available over the Internet. The project took a lot of registry manpower and resources…but it was well worth it. In total employees scanned about 160,000 documents…pretty good, especially when you consider that each document was approximately 5 pages long…that’s around 800,000 scanned pages in total. During the project I intentionally skipped what are called Registered Land Book Form Documents…why? My philosophy concerning large projects has always been that more registry users benefit when we scan in bulk. Here is what I mean…We can scan 100 documents, each consisting of one page, in the same amount of time it takes to scan one, “one hundred” page document. I believe the probability is high that more people will use one or more of those 100 “one page” documents than will use the “100 page” document…so we held the Book Form Documents for later. These unusual documents are bound and very large. Fortunately, there are only about 90 of them, each about 150 pages long. Well, we decided that its now its time to scan these…so yesterday we scanned our first Registered Land Book Form Document. And hope to finish the rest in a month.
Robert Shiller, a Yale economists, suggests that US housing prices will continue to decline for a long time. He cites the bursting of the Japanese real estate bubble in 1991 and the resulting 15 straight years of declining prices as one example. In the most recent US experience, the bursting of the real estate bubble in 1990-91, it was not until 1997 that US home prices began to rise again. Shiller says that real estate does not follow the traditional rules of economics. In that universe, when the value of an asset declines, owners of the asset tend to sell quickly which allows the bottom of the market and the subsequent rebound to occur in relatively short order. Real estate doesn’t follow this curve for a couple of reasons. Most folks don’t own homes as speculative investments, so it’s an easy jump from home owner to home renter. That kind of switch brings massive lifestyle changes and occurs not for investment reasons, but usually as a result of severe economic stress. Consequently, most people who contemplate selling their home also plan to buy a replacement - they’re not “getting out of the market” like someone who was dumping all of their stock, for example. While a declining market favors home buyers, the home buyer is also a home seller and is thereby punished by that same market. This combination results on a type of paralysis that makes the effects of a declining market linger.
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