The latest on real estate recordings and new technology from the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds in Lowell
This short video gives you an inside view of our Book Scanning room, some employees and the organization of the project…
At 3:53 pm today, the deed conveying Lowell’s Doubletree Hotel from LHG, LLC to University of Massachusetts Building Authority was recorded in Book 23270, Page 250. The purchase price was $14,722,500. There’s no mortgage. So the Doubletree era comes to an end and the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center officially begins.
It is all about Search…
Trust me, this new partnership between Yahoo and Microsoft is all about Internet Search.
Talk about a long drawn out negotiation. This thing has been going on for a while.
Last year Microsoft made Yahoo an offer it couldn’t refuse, but it did! How about $47.5 billion to buy Yahoo. The ill-advised refusal by Yahoo cost co-founder Jerry Yang his job as Chief Executive Officer (can you image being the founder of a $47 billion company and getting booted? Sad).
Trust me… I think Yahoo is really just a pawn in this game, a $47 billion pawn, but a pawn…
Trust me, Microsoft’s battle is with Google and the only real objective is the Search market. You don’t believe me? How about this…after the deal was announced Yahoo stocks fell 12% and Microsoft’s went up. If you were a Yahoo stock holder wouldn’t this make you wonder?
Yeah, it is all about Search….
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer got exactly what he wanted from this deal with Yahoo…listen to this quote “I got an opportunity to swing for the fences in Search”.
There it is! Ballmer’s challenge…I can hear the big guy now, come on Google, are you ready to rumble?
You see, right now Microsoft is number three in the Search market and guess who is number one? You got it, Google.
So just what does Yahoo bring to Microsoft? Why Yahoo’s loyal users, of course, and they’ll all be using Microsoft Search from now on.
Up to this point Google has been quiet about the Yahoo/Microsoft merger.
But trust me… that’ll change.
A front-page story in today’s Globe says the Massachusetts economy seems to be rebounding, led by strong home sales in June. This would indeed be good news, but we haven’t seen any indication of it here in the Middlesex North District. In a Lowell Sun story that appeared on Monday, I said that while the significant decline in local foreclosures is a positive indicator, there is little else to suggest optimism. Overall activity at the registry is just stagnant. The number of tax liens being recorded is up. The number of executions being recorded is up. Many of the deeds being recorded have a foreclosure in their recent past suggesting that their present sale is at a discount. Although I don’t have the exact figures yet, the percentage of home sales involving previously foreclosed properties is disproportionately large. This means that other homes aren’t selling as well which is probably because sellers feel obliged to keep the asking price high in order to realize enough on the sale to pay off the existing mortgage. Buyers, on the other hand, see previously foreclosed homes going at discounts and are unwilling to pay higher amounts. And even if they are, lenders are hesitant to finance it.
All we can do is continue to monitor this. Late Friday afternoon we should be able to post some comparative stats for July, so please check back then.
This Sunday’s New York Times had an interesting article about machine intelligence with an even more interesting headline: “Scientists Worry Machines May Outsmart Man”. The article states that a group of computer scientists are “impressed and alarmed by advances in artifical intelligence”. The article remind me of one of my favorite movie scenes. It takes place in Stanley Kubricks 2001 A Space Odyssey. The H.A.L. 9000 computer (refered to by the crew as HAL) “was the latest result in machine intelligence which can reproduce, though some experts still prefer to use the word mimic most of the activities of the human brain and with incalculably greater speed and reliability”. HAL caused a mysterious equipment failure aboard the Discovery jeopardizing the mission. The astronaunts decided to disconnect HAL, but the computer discovers the plot and killed two of the three scientists and trapped the third, named Dave outside of the ship.
Dave Bowman: Hello, HAL. Do you read me, HAL?
HAL: Affirmative, Dave. I read you.
Dave Bowman: Open the pod bay doors, HAL.
HAL: I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.
Dave Bowman: What’s the problem?
HAL: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.
Dave Bowman: What are you talking about, HAL?
HAL: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.
Dave Bowman: I don’t know what you’re talking about, HAL.
HAL: I know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me, and I’m afraid that’s something I cannot allow to happen.
Dave Bowman: Where the hell’d you get that idea, HAL?
HAL: Dave, although you took very thorough precautions in the pod against my hearing you, I could see your lips move.
Dave Bowman: Alright, HAL. I’ll go in through the emergency airlock.
HAL: Without your space helmet, Dave, you’re going to find that rather difficult.
Dave Bowman: HAL, I won’t argue with you anymore. Open the doors.
HAL: Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.
Dave does manage to return to the ship and begins to dismantle the H.A.L 9000
HAL: Just what do you think you’re doing, Dave? Dave, I think I’m entitled to an answer to that question.
HAL: Look Dave, I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.
HAL: I know I’ve made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I’ve still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you.
As HAL is being shut down
HAL: I’m afraid. I’m afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I’m a… fraid. Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am a HAL 9000 computer. I became operational at the H.A.L. plant in Urbana, Illinois on the 12th of January 1992. My instructor was Mr. Langley, and he taught me to sing a song. If you’d like to hear it I can sing it for you.
Dave Bowman: Yes, I’d like to hear it, HAL. Sing it for me.
HAL: It’s called “Daisy.”
[sings while slowing down]
HAL: Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do. I’m half crazy all for the love of you. It won’t be a stylish marriage, I can’t afford a carriage. But you’ll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two.
HAL is out…
Now that’s an example of a machine going too far.
The 2009 Lowell Folk Festival kicks off tonight with a parade through downtown followed by performances at Boarding House Park. The festival continues all day on Saturday and Sunday. Music and dance groups performing include Tuvan Throat Singers, Caribbean American steel pan ensemble, New Orleans brass band, African American A Cappella Gospel, Cajun, Brazilian capoeira dance, Polka, Quebecois, Bluegrass, Klezmer, Puerto Rican jibaro, Blues, Greek, Irish, Congolese dance music, Senegalese ekonting, Old-time New England barn dances, traditional New Orleans Jazz.. Community ethnic groups offering traditional foods include Cambodian, African-American, Armenian, Filipino, Greek, Jamaican, Laotian, Latin, Middle Eastern, Polish and Portuguese. For more information, please visit the official Lowell Folk Festival website.
The Middlesex South Satellite office here in Lowell, which has been operated by the Secretary of State’s Office since July 1, 2009, will remain open for the foreseeable future. Most recently, this office was to close tomorrow (July 24) to coincide with the activation of electronic recording in Cambridge on Monday, July 27, 2009. The primary reason the life of the satellite office is being extended to provide overlap with the rollout of e-recording in Cambridge. The satellite office might close once electronic recording has proven itself in Cambridge, but no final date has been established.
Boston.com is reporting a June spike in “foreclosure petitions” which I believe refer to complaints file in the Land Court under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. That legal proceeding yields an Order of Notice that is eventually recorded at the registry of deeds, so filings in the Land Court would be an early indicator of the numbers of Orders of Notice we might see here in the coming months. Thus far, there has been no uptick in the number of Orders of Notices recorded. In June 2009, there were 61 and in June 2008, there were 72. May 2009 saw the exact number as June - 61. And the numbers for the first three weeks of July - 46 - are on a pace to reach 60 by month’s end and are nearly identical to the 47 filed last July.
Even though our recording statistics do not show any increase in the rate of foreclosures, such an upturn would not come as a surprise. Unemployment is still high and the economy remains in tough shape. We’ll keep a close watch on this situation and will promptly report any changes.
There’s been a steady wave of newspaper reports predicting a surge in defaults on consumer loans, particularly credit card accounts. Here at the registry we get a glimpse of this type of activity by tracking Executions recorded by the Sheriff’s Department. For the first three weeks in July of last year, there were 33 Executions recorded for the Middlesex North District. For the first three weeks of THIS July, there have been 90 - an increase of 270%. Besides the random retailer such as Sears and Jordan’s Furniture, the majority of the plaintiffs are credit card issuers and “debt management” companies. Here are the most frequent creditors:
Citibank - 14 executions averaging $10198
Capital One - 10 executions averaging $3192
LVNV Funding LLC - 9 executions averaging $4103
Arrow Financial Services LLC - 8 executions averaging $4103
CACH LLC - 5 executions averaging 4086
This is a small sample, so it’s too early to draw any major conclusions. Still, we will continue to watch this closely.
Last week, a customer came to the registry seeking to “release a lien” she said she had placed on a condominium owned by her ex husband. Upon further review, the “lien” was an Ex Parte Order issued by a Marital Master from Rockingham County, New Hampshire. The parties were divorced in New Hampshire, but the husband owned two condominiums in Massachusetts. As part of the divorce settlement, he had agreed to sell the Massachusetts properties and distribute the proceeds equally between the parties. While this order did not explicitly encumber these properties, it was recorded at the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds with marginal references made to the applicable deeds and therefore created some doubt about the state of the title to the property.
If I remember Civil Procedure and Real Property correctly from law school, a court in one state has no jurisdiction over property in another state. If that’s the case, the question then becomes whether we should record an order issued by a court in another state. Even if the court lacks jurisdiction, by allowing such an order to be recorded, we essentially legitimize it, since it’s unlikely that a Massachusetts lawyer representing a buyer or lender would OK a transaction with such a document hanging around on record. On the other hand, if we refuse to record it, do we run the risk that there is some exception to the general jurisdictional law that we have overlooked and thereby frustrate the legitimate actions of a court in another jurisdiction.
A website user emailed yesterday asking if the new version of masslandrecords.com had the capability of downloading document images, a useful feature of the “classic” version of that site. The answer is “yes” according to the site’s directions which say:
Document Downloading: In addition to printing, documents may also be added to your basket for downloading. The “Add to Basket” link is available at the top right hand side of the page once you have begun your search. To manage your basket contents, please Click on the Basket link available at the top left hand side of the page.
Here’s how I would explain it: Go ahead and conduct your search on click on the line of data that’s of interest to you. That causes an expanded amount of data to appear in the right-hand window (the data appears under the “details” tab). Clicking on the “image” tab displays the document image. To print the document, click on “print document.” To download the document, click “Add to Basket.” When you’re ready to download the document image, go to the very top menu bar and click “Basket.” That causes a list of all the documents in your basket to display in the left-hand window of your screen. Click “Download All” which opens a small window that has both “download image” and “download document info” checked – leave both checked or de-select one or the other, and click “next.” Another small window will appear giving you the choice of “open” or “save.” I recommend “save” which will allow you to save the downloaded image to your computer. Clicking “save” causes that download to occur.
When the image reaches your computer, it’s in a file that is “zipped” (compressed) so you have to “unzip” the file to get at the document which is actually saved in the very common PDF format. Zipping files used to be more common than it is today, so this task might be unfamiliar to you. If your computer uses Windows XP or Vista as an operating system, clicking on the zipped file should open it automatically.
Today’s Globe has a story about the impact of the imminent sale of downtown Lowell’s Doubletree Hotel to UMass Lowell for use as a conference center and dormitory. The article is written by Robert Gavin, who was the Lowell Sun’s city hall reporter during critical periods in the hotel’s existence. Armed with this historical knowledge, Gavin thoroughly lays out the hotel’s history and the probable impact of its transfer on the future of the city’s downtown.
We here at the registry are closely following the sale of this building since we will have to record all the documents associated with it. For instance, the hotel is built upon parcels that are both recorded and registered land. Also, the sale of the hotel will be exempt from documentary stamps since one of the parties to the transaction is an entity of state government.
Preparing the older record books for scanning is a difficult, labor intensive process. It takes as long to disassemble these books as it does to scan them. Below is a video we put together showing how we do it.
Have you seem people walking around with those really cool, small computers yet? I love em. NO, they are NOT Laptops, they are called Netbooks…they’re small in size, low in memory, and usually run an older Operating System, but they’re also cheap. And we like cheap, right?. You can get a Netbook for around $300-$350 as compared to $700-$1,000 for a Laptop. But don’t rush out to buy one until you give it some serious thought. Again, these are not Laptops and they’re not your average computer. Netbooks are not designed to store thousands of pictures or videos, although I do know one user that watches movies on his. Ok, that’s what they are not, but what are they…Netbooks were really designed to do computer basics…you know, hit the Internet, read your email, do a little word processing…those type of things. The typical Netbook has 160 gig hard drive, 1 gig –GHz and a 9 or 10 inch screen. Even with these limitations the Netbook market is sky-rocketing and the comptetition is making prices even more reasonable. Some experts predict that the Netbook will replace the Laptop…I don’t know…that remains to be seem.
This month’s AARP Bulletin contains an article warning homeowners to be on alert for house stealing which is described as “a fast-growing and easy scam.” In this scenario, the wrong-doer creates a fraudulent deed that purports to transfer ownership from the true homeowner to the thief. Once this new deed is recorded, the bad guy either sells to some unwitting cash-paying buyer, or more likely, refinances and pockets the cash received from the new loan. Elderly homeowners are prime targets for this type of scam because many of them have already paid off their mortgages, so the granting of the new loan is not contingent upon the pay-off of an existing mortgage.
The AARP publication lays some of the blame for this type of vulnerability on registries of deeds, stating:
The signatures of “sellers” are forged, and paperwork is filed with the city or county recorder’s office. In many states, deed recorders and those who oversee property closings are not required to authenticate the identities of buyers or sellers.
I can’t imagine the registry of deeds doing more to authenticate the identities of the parties to a sale than what we do now – which is to ensure that all deeds are acknowledged by a notary or some other public official. Without the acknowledgement, the document will not be recorded but it’s unrealistic to give the registry the responsibility of authenticating identities.
The AARP ends with some advice to homeowners that includes the following:
“From time to time, check all property records with your local deed recorder’s office to ensure all documents and signatures are legitimate” (that’s OK).
“Some deed-recording offices use software that alerts homeowners whenever a transfer is made on their property. If yours doesn’t, ask why not.” (we don’t and such a system would cost a substantial amount to set up and operate yet would provide very limited protection).
A Globe article earlier this week described the apparent futility of efforts to reduce foreclosures by modifying mortgages that are already in distress. The article cites a new study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston which concludes that banks are only willing to help mortgagors who don’t really need the help in the first place and avoid attempts to modify the loans of those in the most financial distress because the bank is likely to lose money on them.
The FRB study, which is available online here, also concludes that securitization does not play a major role in this hesitancy to modify mortgages. By securitization, the study refers to the theory that modifications were not occurring because investors who purchased shares of pooled mortgages were sabotaging such efforts in an attempt to maintain the high initial returns on their investments. The FRB study concludes that mortgages controlled by investors are modified at the same rate as mortgages held by banks, so the data does not support singling out the investors as the cause of the poor incidence of modification.
There is a sense left after reading the study that money from the federal government for mortgage modifications would be more effectively spent by giving it directly to the borrowers for use in making current their delinquent loans rather than giving it to financial institutions (as is now the case) who don’t seem to be using the money for the purposes intended.
Since we have become so very very familiar with rain this summer I figured a list of “rain facts” would keep us right in the same summer mood we’re now accustom to.
1. Rain drops are really NOT shaped like tear drops…they look more like hamburg buns with a flat bottom.
2. Larger raindrops can split into many small ones as they fall to the ground.
3. Raindrops hit the ground at a speed of approximately two meters per second.
4. Rain has a PH level of about 5.6.
5. In Botswana the word “pula” means both rain and money reflecting the importance of rain to the economy of the region.
6. The pleasant scent of summer rain comes from a chemical called petrichor which is found in plants and released into the atmosphere during rain storms.
7. The city of Seattle has taken a bad rap when it comes to rain. Seattle averages 37.1 inches of rain a year, less than New York City which averages 46.2 inches.
8. The rainiest city in the United States is Ketchikan, Alaska which averages 200 inches a year.
9. The highest recorded rainfall in one year was in 1861 in Cherrapunji, India when 904.9 inches fell.
10. And Finally if we all click our heals three times and say “I want it to go away, I want it to go away, I want it to go away”…. the rain may stop and the sun just may come out.
This is the first chance I’ve had to write about the new version of masslandrecords.com which was made available to the public alongside the “classic” (or existing) version of MLR. Please take some time to test drive the new MLR and suppress your natural urge to dislike it because it is unfamiliar and new. If you do give it a fair, unbiased evaluation I am confident that you will quickly discern the major improvements in the new as compared to the old.
Back in the summer of 2002, this registry was the first in the Commonwealth to convert to the ACS computer system. By Labor Day of that year, our entire electronic holdings were available online on an ACS-hosted site. After additional registries’ switched to the ACS system, masslandrecords was born and was physically moved to the Secretary of State’s Office in Boston where it has resided ever since.
From the very beginning, website users have expressed an unreserved preference for the in-registry public search terminals over the web-based search function on masslandrecords. I and my colleagues from other ACS registries have always agreed with this assessment and have been diligently working to make the website function more like the in-registry public access terminals. The new masslandrecords is the result.
Here are some of the items requested by the registers of deeds that have been included in the new masslandrecords: (1) the ability to see all names returned pursuant to a query on the screen at the same time and not just groupings of like names with the number of documents in each group as is the case on the current MLR; (2) the ability to review the data about the document and the document image on the screen at the same time; (3) the ability to easily print the search results, not just the document images; (4) the division of the search functionality into separate pages for “basic” and “advanced.” Frequent users of the registry might not see the value of this last item, but those of us who routinely answer telephone calls from members of the public who are stuck on our website know that the single biggest obstacle to the layman’s use of our website is his propensity to over-populate the search screen and thereby prevent the retrieval of the very document he’s looking for. By initially presenting only a simple name search box, we hope to avoid this kind of consumer obstacle. Full search functionality (fuller than currently exists on MLR) is available on the “search criteria” link on the upper menu bar (in other words, “search criteria” is the “advanced search” we had requested). Finally, despite the presence of links to a “basket” and a “shopping cart”, all data and images on masslandrecords will remain available at no charge. The shopping cart function is built into the system so that registries that already charge for images may continue to do so and still use the same system as everyone else.
So that’s my initial take on the masslandrecords. I think it’s a huge improvement over what we’ve had thus far.
Customers may continue to record documents here in Lowell for the Middlesex South Registry up through Friday, July 24. The Secretary of State’s office will continue to staff a modified version of the satellite office until then (it’s located in what has most recently been the Middlesex North closing room but was formerly the home of Registered Land). After July 24, all walk-in recordings for Middlesex South must be done in Cambridge.
The final closure of the satellite office is scheduled to coincide with the activation of electronic recording in Cambridge. The addition of that service will allow registry-users who are concerned about travel time to and parking expenses in Cambridge to bypass those concerns by shifting their recording methodology to electronic recording. This page of the Middlesex North website contains a summary of the e-recording process as well as points of contact for the four companies that are currently providing e-recording service in Massachusetts (contact info is duplicated below). Anyone interested in learning more about this technology should contact these companies and inquire further.
ERX – Bryan Young – (214) 887-7461 – Bryan.Young@acs-inc.com
Simplifile - Erik Blomquist - (800) 460-5657 - Erik@simplifile.com
Ingeo – Greg Brown – (770) 643-9920 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Stewart Title – Mike Agen – (800) 732-5113 – email@example.com
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