Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Early Voting

Yesterday was the first day of early voting in Massachusetts. Not just the first day this year, but the first day ever, as I understand it. In Lowell, you can vote at the Election Office in City Hall, Monday through Friday this week and next, during normal City Hall hours of operation. Each night this week and next, and on the intervening Saturday and Sunday, the Lowell Election Office will also take to the field, partnering with a different community organization each day to provide an early voting site.

After work yesterday, I went to Temple Emanuel on West Forrest Street to vote. It happens to be in my neighborhood, but any city voter can vote at any one of these early voting sites. The process worked well: upon entering the room, I gave my name to a poll worker who entered it into a tablet device. That pulled up my voter record. I was asked to look at the record and click on a button that acknowledged I was there person shown in the record. That caused an attached label printer to produce a sticky label with my name, ward and precinct printed upon it. The label was affixed to an envelope which I was given along with my ballot. There were several portable but private voting booths available for filling out your ballot. Once that was done, you inserted the ballot into your envelope, sealed the envelope, and handed it to a poll worker who then gave you an "I voted" sticker. That was it. At the end of the evening, all of those sealed envelopes were taken to city hall and locked in the election office's safe. On election day, they will be distributed to the appropriate precinct and will be counted in the same way that absentee ballots are tallied.

Early voting was well-organized. It was also an interesting experience. The knowledge that you've already voted two weeks before election day is both comforting and, because it's a change from the norm, a little discomforting. I do think it's a great idea and hope that it is extended to all elections.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Foreclosure auctions: week of October 24, 2016

According to past legal notices, there are six foreclosure auctions scheduled in Greater Lowell this week. They are:

Wed, Oct 26, 2016 at 2 pm - 25 Wedgemere Dr, Lowell

Thu, Oct 27, 2016 at 4 pm - 3 Madeline Terrace, Tyngsborough

Fri, Oct 28, 2016 at noon - 200 Market St Unit 3008, Lowell
                            at 11 am - 64 South Loring St, Lowell
                            at 1 pm - 84 Tennis Plaza Rd Unit 2, Dracut
                            at 10 am - 106-108 Waldo St, Lowell

Friday, October 21, 2016

Lowell Real Estate: Week of October 17, 2016

The following Lowell properties sold this week:

October 17, 2016 - Monday
100 Park Avenue West Unit 3B for $200,000. Prior sale in 2013 for $165,000
212 Campbell Dr for $353,000. Prior sale in 2011 for $279,900
930-932 Lakeview Ave for $330,000. Prior sale 2012 foreclosure
22-28 Queen St for $305,000. Prior sale in 2010 for $200,000
698 School St for $320,000. Prior sale in 2012 for $234,000
22 Jewett St for $93,000. Prior sale in 2001 for $123,000
106 Mount Washington St for $500,000. Prior sale in 2016 for $380,000

October 18, 2016 - Tuesday
34-36 Stanley St for $183,000. Prior sale in 2004 for $228,800

October 19, 2016 - Wednesday
24 Waterford St for $217,757. Prior sale in 2001 for $188,900
71 Fetherston Ave for $269,500. Prior sale in 2010 for $199,000
75 Livingston St for $260,000. Prior sale in 1958
1506 Gorham St Unit 209 for $175,000. Prior sale in 1994 for $26,000

October 20, 2016 - Thursday
421 Lakeview Ave for $132,500. Prior sale in 1978
452-462 Fletcher St for $1,975,000. Prior sale in 2012 for $550,000
67 Inland St for $273,000. Prior sale in 2007 for $245,000
225 Stedman St Units 18 & 19 for $259,000. Prior sale in 2000 for $170,000
19 Smith St for $160,000. Prior sale in 2006 for $159,000

October 21, 2016 - Friday
110 Boylston Ln Unit 31 for $125,000. Prior sale in 2010 for $109,000
65 Woodcock St for $226,000. Prior sale in 2008 for $117,500
49 West 4th St for $132,000. Prior sale 2014 foreclosure
521 Lakeview Ave for $212,000. Prior sale in 2008 for $122,900
49 Lundberg St for $140,000. Prior sale in 1996 for $39,900
1366-1368 Gorham St for $290,000. Receiver’s Deed

Foreclosure deeds were recorded this week for:

44 Varnum St
115 Van Greenby Rd
16 Barclay St
110 Boylston Ln Unit 27
65 Arlene Rd

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Cyber Security and the Registry of Deeds

The Middlesex North Registry of Deeds created its last paper record book back in 2001. Today, we have more books that only exist virtually than we do books that exist in tangible form. Digitizing our records has made them much more accessible to our users while also reducing our costs. In recent years, however, increasingly sophisticated hacking attempts have become a substantial threat to digital records.

This past meeting, the Massachusetts Registers of Deeds Association convened a meeting about the threat that hacking poses to our records and our operations. In one presentation, a representative from the Hub Technical Services provided details about the threat environment. For example, five years ago, the preferred tactic of the bad guys was data exfiltration which means they penetrated your computer defenses, grabbed some of your data, and transported it electronically to a device on their control. That was complicated and resource intensive.

Today, the preferred tactic is to encrypt on-site. There, the bad guys insert an encryption program onto your computer and execute it. This encrypts all of your files which means you cannot open them even though they are still on your computer. The only way to get access to your data is to pay the ransom, obtain the decryption key from the bad guys, and use it to decrypt your files. Of course, that assumes they give you the key even after you pay the ransom.

So how does this malicious encryption program get on your computer? Usually it comes via email. Bad guys will disguise an email to look like something coming from someone you know, or at least to resemble something of interest to you. We live in a "click happy" culture, so the recipient of the will often open it and click a link in it. That launches the encryption program.

The Hub Tech representative said one in ten of these infiltration efforts is successful and that there are 316 new malware threats made every minute.

How to protect against these attacks? It's difficult. User education is very important (Don't click on unknown emails!). So is keeping security software up to date. But it's almost inevitable that an attack will succeed, so having good backups that can be quickly restored are key to preparedness.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Boston to vote on Community Preservation Act

Besides voting for president, members of congress, members of the state legislature, and some other state and county offices, Massachusetts residents will answer four statewide referendum questions on the November 8, 2016 ballot.

Question 1 will allow the Gaming Commission to issue another slots license;

Question 2 will authorize the creation of up to 12 new charter schools each year;

Question 3 will prohibit “certain methods of farm animal containment;” and

Question 4 will legalize recreational marijuana use.

Voters in Boston will have a fifth question: whether the city should adopt the Community Preservation Act. The CPA requires voters to assent to a property tax surcharge to be used for affordable housing, open space protection, and historic preservation. The amount raised would be increased with money from a state matching fund that consists of money raised through a surcharge on documents recorded at the registry of deeds. The Boston proposal would raise $16mil from property taxes. That amount would be increased by $4mil from the CPA fund for a total of $20mil.

Mayor Walsh and other leaders in Boston have endorsed the proposal. The Boston Globe did that today in an editorial.

The Community Preservation Act was born in 2003. More than 150 communities in Massachusetts have taken advantage of it. Some like Lowell have never even tried, presumably because few leaders are willing to ask people to voluntarily raise their taxes. Still, people who live in communities that don’t use the CPA are subsidizing everyone who does, because everyone contributes to the fund. Since 2008, the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds has collected nearly $10mil in CPA surcharges which are $20 per document in most cases. Perhaps if Boston voters endorse Question 5, other communities in Massachusetts will be inspired to do give the CPA a shot.

Monday, October 17, 2016

This week's foreclosure auctions

Foreclosure auctions are scheduled this week on the following properties:

Monday, Oct 17:
  • 12 Linden St, Lowell at 11 am

Wed, Oct 19:
  • 132 Boylston Ln, Unit 38, Lowell, at 2 pm
  • 161 Flower Ln, Unit 19, Dracut, at 11 am
  • 40 Ruth St, Lowell, at 9 am
  • 120 Thissell Ave, Unit 101, Dracut, at 11 am

Friday, October 14, 2016

Lowell Real Estate: Week of October 10, 2016

The following real estate sales took place in Lowell last week:

October 10, 2016 - Monday
Columbus Day holiday

October 11, 2016 - Tuesday
64 Foster St for $260,000. Prior sale in 2003 for $200,000
14 Tenth St for $168,500. Prior sale 2016 foreclosure
1224-1226 Lawrence St for $218,000. Prior sale in 2004 for $294,900
780 East Merrimack St for $250,000. Prior sale in 1958

October 12, 2016 - Wednesday
47 Gertrude Ave for $197,400. Prior sale 2016 foreclosure
27 Madonna Circle Unit 8 for $174,000. Prior sale in 2010 for $90,000
1021 MIddlesex St Unit 1 for $179,000. Prior sale in 2014 for $165,000
52 Lawrence Dr Unit 304 for $165,000. Prior sale in 2006 for $160,000
16 Montgomery Ave for $280,000. Prior sale in 1998 for $123,000
180 Moore St for $269,900. New construction
34 McKinley Ave for $230,000. Prior sale in 1999 for $130,000

October 13, 2016 - Thursday
665 Chelmsford St for $112,500. Prior sale in 2003 for $155,000
214 Thorndike St Unit 10 for $159,900. Prior sale in 2016 for $87,500
44 Carriage Dr for $385,000. Prior sale in 1995 for $147,000

October 14, 2016 - Friday
240 Acropolis Rd for $315,000. Prior sale 2016 foreclosure
153 Westford St for $253,700. Prior sale 2015 foreclosure
140 Bowers St Unit 13 for $124,000. Prior sale in 1994 for $37,500
204 Lincoln St for $60,000. Prior sale in 1994 for $119,000
24 Belvidere Cir for $316,000. Prior sale in 2001 for $50,000
22 YMCA Dr Unit 7 for $220,400. Prior sale in 2008 for $229,000
424 Princeton Blvd for $270,000. Prior sale in 2015 for $225,000
40 Andrews St Unit D for $201,000. Prior sale in 2009 for $165,900
361 Aiken Ave Unit ( for $126,000. Prior sale 2015 foreclosure
61 Clare St for $125,000. Prior sale in 2000 for $88,000
144 Chase Ave for $215,000. Prior sale 2011 foreclosure