Friday, April 30, 2010

Law Day 2010 (Part II)

Congratulations to all involved in this year's Law Day ceremony, held earlier today in Lowell Superior Court. The primary organizers of the event were the judges and staff of the Lowell Juvenile Court and the Greater Lowell Bar Association. After a formal opening of the court session by Assistant Chief Court Officer Wayne McDaniel, the Lowell High Junior Air Force ROTC elite color guard presented the colors, the pledge of allegiance was led by students from the Lowell Middlesex Academy Charter School and the National Anthem was sung by by Tiernan O'Rourke, a young man with a wonderful voice.

After welcoming remarks were made by Judges Patricia Flynn, Christine McEvoy and Barbara Pierson and a proclamation from the city of Lowell was presented by Kevin Broderick, vice chair of the city council, the five entrants in the essay contest read their speeches. They were:

George Murphy of Dracut High (winner)
Elizabeth Pepe of Notre Dame (second place)
Molly Black of Lowell Catholic (honorable mention)
Joshua Bradbury of Greater Lowell Tech (honorable mention)
Kevin Sorota of Lowell High (honorable mention)

After the speeches (which were all excellent and well-presented), the Lowell High School Chorus entertained the audience with a medley of patriotic songs. At the end of the formal program, the Bar Association treated everyone to a luncheon.

This was the sixth year that the Juvenile Court and the bar association hosted this event. These days, everyone is so busy that people often pass on participating public events like Law Day, but these types of activities play a very important and positive role in our civic culture and are deserving of our full support.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Law Day

Since 1958, May 1 has been recognized as Law Day in the United States. Internationally, the day had long been known as "International Workers Day" and considered a celebration of organized labor. The Soviet Union, however, transformed "May Day" into an elaborate parade intended to show off Soviet weaponry and (by their thinking) military superiority. As a counterweight to that, President Eisenhower instituted Law Day, an opportunity to celebrate the rule of law and the democratic institutions in America that rest upon the rule of law.

On recent Law Days, the Lowell Juvenile Court and the Greater Lowell Bar Association have held a Law Day ceremony here at Superior Court. The event includes entertainment, speeches by dignitaries and an essay contest by high school students. This year, the ceremony will be held on Friday, April 30 beginning at 11:30 am at the Middlesex Superior Courthouse, 360 Gorham Street, Lowell. Everyone is invited to attend.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Apple vs Gizmodo

The saga of the stolen/missing iPhone goes on...

Remember I wrote about this last week? Well, the story just keeps getting better and better.
First a little refresher...After having a couple of beers at a local bar in Redwood, California an Apple Engineer left his iPhone on a bar stool. After a brief inspection, the person determined that was something different about this iPhone and he was right. The Apple engineer had actually lost a "not yet released" iPhone 4G.
The finder sold the new iPhone to a popular tech site named Gizmodo for $5,000. Jason Chen, the editor of Gizmodo filmed the phone and did what you would expect any techie to do...he showed it to the whole world on YouTube.
As you would expect Steve Jobs and company were furious. Chen responded by giving the phone back to Apple, but it was too late, the damage was done.
Here is where it gets good...Last Monday, Apple kicked it up a notch (as Emeril) would say). They called the cops...and the cops made a visit to Chen's house, while he was out.
The San Mateo County Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team forced entry into Jason Chen's apartment and confiscated his computers, hard-drives, digital cameras, cell phones and copies of his American Express bill...of course, this was done with a search warrant.
Wow, I guess there's a simple message here...Don’t mess with Steve Jobs and Apple. They play tough.
And its not over... County authorities are considering charging Chen with receiving stolen property.
But it still gets better...Today Apple announced the dates for its Worldwide Development Conference (WWDC)at which they will release the "kind of new" iPhone 4G.

The dynamics at this conference are going to be something else...questions abound: Does Jobs mentioned the theft?
Was the found iPhone really the 4G?
Will Apple hold the release modify the phone?

All this because a guy stopped to have a few beers on his way! I love this stuff?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Second mortgages and foreclosures

An article in the April 19, 2010 print edition of Banker and Tradesman quantifies the impact of second mortgages on the likelihood of foreclosure. B&T examined 320,000 single-family homes and condominiums that were purchased between 2003 and the end of 2007 and that (1) involved at least one mortgage and (2) are still owned by the original purchaser. Using an "automated valuation model", B&T concluded that 46% of those original homeowners are now underwater (meaning they owe more on their mortgage than the property is worth). Roughly one-third of those 320,000 homes involved second mortgages. Of that group, 69% are underwater.

Besides increasing the likelihood of foreclosure, the existence of a a second mortgage greatly complicates any effort to have a short sale of the property since the consent of two lenders, both competing for the same too-small pool of money, must be obtained.

My own review of foreclosure cases in this registry district confirms the B&T findings: properties with second mortgages represent a disproportionate share of those undergoing foreclosure.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Numbers Game

According to the National Association of Realtors, sales in the month of March increased by 6.8%.

Honestly, activity here at the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds, just doesn’t reflect any kind of increase in business; in fact it is just the opposite. On April 26, 2009 we ended the day with 18,984 documents April 26, 2010, exactly one year later, that figure will probably be about 17,100. This represents a decrease of about 1,884 or 10%. That is significant number.

Of course, the NAR is talking about just Deeds(sales) and my numbers represent all documents. So let's compare Apples to Apples (as they say) and look at deeds only at Middlesex North...Last year we ended April 26, 2009 with 1,358 deeds, April 26, 2010 we will probably end the day with 1,450 deeds recorded. That is an increase of 92 deeds or 6.5%. OK, that number fits with the NAR numbers.

But our business is driven by mortgages, not deeds. We are busiest when refinancing is booming...Let's take a look. We ended April 26, 2009 with 4,509 mortgages recorded. We will probably end today, April 26, 2010 with 3,170 mortgages recorded, a decrease of 1,339 or 29.5%.
That's significant.

Friday, April 23, 2010

April 23 in Literary History

April 23 is one of the most important days in literary history. April 23 is the date William

Shakespeare was born and the date he died.

Shakespeare was born in Stratford on Avon in 1564. He married Anne Hathaway in 1582 and had three children with her...Susanna, Hamnet and Judith.

No one really knows what Shakespeare looked like or much about his philosophical or religious beliefs, but there are few that deny him the title of "greatest writer in the English language" and few that dispute his enormous influence on our society.

In all, the bard is credited with writing 38 plays and 154 sonnets. But what impresses me the most about Shakespeare’s words is that they are quoted more than any others except for the Bible.

Below are some of the more famous Shakespearean quotes…

  1. All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players:
  2. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.
  3. Brevity is the soul of wit.
  4. Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.
  5. "What's in a name? That which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet."
  6. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
    But in ourselves"
  7. "Nothing can come of nothing…"
  8. A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!
  9. Let's carve him as a dish fit for the gods,
    Not hew him as a carcass fit for hounds;
  10. Sweets to the sweet, farewell!

This is perhaps the most famous speech in dramatic history...Hamlet's "To Be or Not To Be" soliloquy. In this video Laurence Olivier plays Hamlet.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What a Buzz

Bees buzz, electric saws buzz and even people buzz, but now there is Google Buzz.

Google’s Buzz is the latest in social networking sites. Yes, it looks and acts similar to other social sites.

I must admit, I love Buzz, but then again I’m kind of an odd duck.
How odd? Well, lets put it this way, I am the only person I know that uses Buzz.

I have been on for about three months and right now I have no Buzz friends...but, don’t feel bad for me. I have no friends, mainly because I don’t know anyone on Buzz, accept for me that is.

OK, so why do I like Buzz so much...
Because it connects directly to my Gmail, YouTube and Blogger accounts. When I write a blog post it is immediately posted on my Buzz page. If I post a YouTube video it too is immediately posted on my Buzz page.

Its great.

When I first started to use Buzz and experienced its inter-connectivity I thought it was going to take over the world, or take over Facebook at least.

But, I seem to be wrong...Buzz just isn't, well, creating much of a buzz in the social networking world.

I still think the concept of Google Buzz is a winner...Now all Google needs to do is get someone besides me to use Buzz.

Wanna be my friend?

Work Begins, Maybe

There is buzz everywhere that tonight is the night...The night when construction on the Lowell Superior Courthouse elevator will begin. The first step is for crews to lay footings for the structure, which will be attached to the side of the building.

Bids, talks and meetings have filled the past year in preparation for this work. Last month an architectural artist began casting molds of the historic window frames on the old building built in 1845. These cast will be used to duplicate decorative windows on the outside of the new elevator.

But last week the biggest sign that construction was near occurred. Dig Safe outlined three safe areas in the Elm Street Parking lot for boring.

The plan is for work to begin at 6:00 in the evening and continue until 4:00 in the morning…we’ll keep you posted as the project progresses.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Give Me My iPhone Back...Now!

Did you hear the one about the Apple Engineer that walked into a bar?
This is priceless. As they say, you can't make this stuff up...we''ll be talking about this one for years to come…

On March 19 an Apple Engineer named Gray Powell stopped to have a few in a bar located in Redwood City, California. After a couple of beers Powell left the bar and headed home. Shortly after Powell's departure another person, completely unassociated with the Apple engineer found his iPhone sitting on a bar stool.

Innocently, "the "finder" unlocked the phone and discovered it belonged to Powell. He intended to return the phone in the morning, but the next day "the finder" discovered the memory of the iPhone had been completely wiped out, remotely.

He found this curious and began to examine the phone closer. "The finder" discovered this iPhone was like none he had ever seen before. This phone had a strange case disguising it to look like an iPhone 3GS. There were two camera openings and it was much squarer than the 3GS. "The finder" knew he had found something special.

Somehow a popular tech site named Gizmodo heard about the unique iPhone and purchased it from "the finder" for $5,000.

People are speculating that the iPhone Powell lost is actually the new iPhone 4G scheduled to be released in June.

And Apple wants it back, now!…according to one rumor Apple CEO Steve Jobs himself called Gizmodo and demanded the phone be returned. I see a law suit coming...

Below is a video Gizmodo made of the new Apple 4G iPhone. It is quite a sneak preview.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Elevator construction begins next week

Word is that construction of the new elevator for the courthouse will begin next Wednesday, April 21. Since the majority of the work will be performed between 6 pm and 4 am (i.e., in the middle of the night), court operations should not be unduly disrupted by the work. A good portion of the employee parking lot will be blocked off to accommodate the contractor's equipment and the excavation, but that should have little effect on the public.

The elevator will be for handicap accessibility only and not for the general public. It will be constructed in an external tower, constructed along the south side of the 1848 building (the brick one in the rear), adjacent to the employee entrance. The elevator will have stops at parking lot level, the first floor and the second floor. I believe that construction is expected to take six months to a year to complete.

On another note, please remember that the Registry of Deeds is closed this coming Monday, April 19, due to the Patriot's Day holiday.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Media reports increase in foreclosures

An AP story in today's Lowell Sun reports a nation-wide surge in foreclosures. This is old news to us here at the registry; so many of the documents we see these days are foreclosure-related or part of the debt collection process. And with each foreclosure, values slide a bit more which just traps more and more homeowners in a situation where they owe more on their mortgage than their house is worth.

Here's what I wrote on this site at the end of March about the direction of real estate:

Our recording statistics for March 2010 duplicate trends seen last month. When compared to the same time last year, the number of mortgages recorded is down substantially while the number of foreclosure-related documents is up. Specifically, the number of deeds recorded for the entire registry district slid slightly, from 439 in March 2009 to 414 in March 2010, a decline of 6%. Mortgages were down by a much greater margin, slipping from 1430 to 920, a drop of 36%. Foreclosure deeds jumped from 33 to 57, an increase of 73%, and orders of notice more than doubled, going from 43 to 112, a jump of 160%. The total number of documents recorded dropped 20%, from 5919 to 4709.

When these figures are broken out by the city of Lowell versus the nine towns in the district, the same trends persist, although there was a slightly greater drop in deeds and mortgages in the towns and a slightly greater increase of foreclosure documents in Lowell.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Timing Is Everything

More often than not, timing is everything. It is true in life, business and even the registry of deeds.
For the past two years the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds has had a twitter account. Every day we post at least one tweet. We usually tweet about projects or happens at the registry and/or the Superior Courthouse.
What does this have to do with "timing"?
I’ve written about the registry's foray into twitter before and truthfully, we are looking for more this time, as I blog about twitter, I hope is the right time to get you interested. Just go to sign up and look for lowelldeeds then start following.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Registry closed on Monday, April 19

Monday, April 19, is Patriot's Day here in Massachusetts. It's a state holiday, so all state and municipal offices will be closed. Patriot's Day commemorates the events that occurred not too far from here on April 19, 1775, when a regiment+ of British soldiers ventured into Middlesex County in search of arms and munitions. At day break, they were met at Lexington by that town's militia; shots were fired and the American Revolution commenced. The British continued on to Concord where they were engaged and driven back by other area militias which, later in the day, included men from towns in this Registry District including Tewksbury, Dracut, Chelmsford and Billerica.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Google Tablet

Just when I had convinced myself that I needed to buy one of Apple's new iPads, I find out that Google is making a tablet computer too...and it will run on Google's smart-phone Android Operating System. Now I don't know what to do...Apple? Google? Apple? Google?

Below is a "concept video" of the soon to be released Google tablet...once you see this you'll know why I am so confused. It looks like Google got a real winner coming.

Friday, April 09, 2010

iPhone OS 4.0

What a week Apple Computer is having…first the company release the revolutionary iPad and yesterday Steve jobs announced a brand new operating system for the iPhone. It is called OS 4.0 (one problem worth noting, OS 4.0 can NOT be downloaded to first generation iPhones, like mime)

If you are an iPhone user (other than first generation) here is what OS 4.0 will give you:

1.You’ll be able to run two Apps at the same time. As an example you could listen to Pandora music while playing a game.
2.You’ll be able to organize your Apps into folders rather than having page after page of icons on the phone’s desktop.
3.If you have an AOL email account and a gmail account you’ll finally be able to get email from multiple accounts.
4.And gamers, you’ll love this one…OS 4.0 will allow you to play games against friends “online”.
5.You’ll be able to wipe out data on your phone, remotely (don’t know why I would want that but…).
6.The same software now offered in the new iPad for e-reading will be available for iPhone allowing you buy and read books on your phone. I like this one the best.

Apple continues to be the industry’s leader mainly because of innovation like this. Thanks to Brian Caulfield of for info used in this post.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The condominium market

The records here at the registry of deeds provide us only a limited ability to discern what is built upon each property, but we can usually pick out condominiums with ease. Consequently, I've applied a "condominium filter" to some of our recording statistics. In 2009 in the city of Lowell, for instance, condominiums accounted for one out of every three foreclosures. In the nine towns in the Middlesex North District, one out of every four foreclosures was a condominium.

The primary reason condominium foreclosures are relatively high is the roller coaster ride of prices through the last decade. Back in 2000, the median price of a condo in Lowell was $90,000. In 2005 when prices reached their peak, that number rose to $194,900. By 2009 it had slid to $147,000. If you bought a condo in 2000 and still owned it (and hadn't refinanced in the interim), you'd be in pretty good shape. But if you bought anytime near mid-decade, you probably paid more for the unit than it is now worth.

Similar trends apply to condo values in the towns of the Middlesex North District. In 2000, the median condo price was $142,900, in 2005 it was $256,500, and in 2009 it was $215,500. The 2005 to 2009 drop was 16% which means that if you bought in 2005 and borrowed more than 80% of the then value of the property, you now owe more on your mortgage than your unit is worth.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Net Neutrality

Earlier this week the FCC lost a huge ruling when a US Appeals Court shot down its attempt to control net neutrality. Haven’t heard of net neutrality? Trust me…you will in the near future.

First, What is net neutrality?

Net Neutrality is the concept that Internet Service Providers must treat all Internet traffic the same. That’s the way the Internet world works today. You pay one monthly fee and download anything you want with no additional charge. You can search for a particular site and you'll get it. This is net neutrality.

If net neutrality is gone this “might” not be the case. The Internet Providers (companies like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T etc) want to create a kind of two-tiered Internet. One tier of information would be provided to the consumer free, the other tier would be assessed an additional charge paid by the consumer or it would download slower.

For instance, just image if Comcast or Verizon made a deal with Microsoft and when you searched using Internet Explore it came up faster than when you searched using Mozilla Firefox.

Scary? You bet.

But there is another side to this story….The Internet Providers argue they own the pipes that deliver the data and they have the right to surcharge Internet gluttons. They even state a two-tier system would benefit the average user. How? Providers believe limiting big downloads would speed up the average surfer's Internet experience.

The fight for net neutrality goes on…but has suffered a major set back.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Community Preservation surcharge may increase

Senate Bill 90 now pending before the state legislature makes some modifications to the Community Preservation Act. The CPA went into effect back in 2002 and allows communities in the Commonwealth to vote to increase their property taxes to raise money for a variety of uses including open space and historic preservation. Any amount raised by a town is matched by the state from a Community Preservation Trust fund maintained by the state. This CPA Trust is funded by a surcharge on documents recorded at the registry of deeds. Since 2002, the surcharge has been $20 per document with municipal lien certificates having a $10 surcharge and homesteads being exempt.

SB 90 retains these surcharges with one important modification: If the state's Trust Fund has insufficient money to support at least a 75% match to the towns that opt into the act, the Commissioner of the Department of Revenue may raise the surcharge by an amount sufficient to raise the needed funds. The maximum the surcharge could increase would be to $70 ($50 for MLCs). This means that if there is an acute shortage of CPA funds and the surcharge is increased by the maximum amount allowed, it would cost $125 to record a mortgage discharge (instead of the current $75), $175 to record a deed (now $125) and $225 to record a mortgage (now $175).

As a practical matter, having the CPA surcharge change by some random amount (the reset fee is "rounded up to the nearest $1) will be disastrous for the operation of the registry of deeds. Our diverse clientele has a difficult enough time getting the current fees right even though they have been in place and unchanged for seven years. Changing the fees on a yearly basis will create recording gridlock when mail is returned, e-recordings are rejected, and customers are turned away, all because they haven't updated their registry fee chart. The objectives of the CPA are commendable, but tweaking it in the manner proposed is not without some negative consequences.

Monday, April 05, 2010


It looks like the Apple iPad did not meet industry experts sales expectations. On its first day Apple sold 300,000 iPads units, including preorders. Experts estimated iPad sales would approach 600,000 to 700, didn't.
Most people I talk to ask..."what does the iPad do that a small laptop computer won't do. Truthfully, I don't know yet...and I wonder if that is the reason sales did not live up to expectations.
Regardless of the number of sales, Apple shares have jumped $1.59 in the past week fueled by iPad anticipation.
As far as I am concerned the jury is still out and the future of the iPad is in question.
Below is the Apple Company promotional tell you exactly what the iPad can do. You can make up your own mind.

Friday, April 02, 2010

First time home buyer credit expires soon

A glance at the calendar reminds us that the Federal First time Homebuyer tax credit will be coming to an end soon. The deadline for having a purchase and sale agreement executed is May 1, 2010 and the closing must occur before July 1, 2010. The credit available for first time home buyers is $8000 and for long time homeowners who purchase a new residence, it's $6500. According to the Treasury Department, more than 1.8 million taxpayers have collected $12.6 billion in tax credits due to this act. The nice thing about a tax credit is that you get the money whether you owe any tax or not, so even if you'd be receiving a refund anyway, your refund would be even larger, possibly even exceeding the amount of taxes you already paid in. Taxpayers who purchase homes during 2010 may also claim this credit on their 2009 tax return (which is due in 13 days) or can wait until their 2010 returns are due.

From our vantage point, homesales have remained flat during the first quarter of 2010. Hopefully the continued availability of this tax credit plus the return of nice weather will cause an uptick in real estate activity in the coming weeks.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

March recording statistics

Our recording statistics for March 2010 duplicate trends seen last month. When compared to the same time last year, the number of mortgages recorded is down substantially while the number of foreclosure-related documents is up. Specifically, the number of deeds recorded for the entire registry district slid slightly, from 439 in March 2009 to 414 in March 2010, a decline of 6%. Mortgages were down by a much greater margin, slipping from 1430 to 920, a drop of 36%. Foreclosure deeds jumped from 33 to 57, an increase of 73%, and orders of notice more than doubled, going from 43 to 112, a jump of 160%. The total number of documents recorded dropped 20%, from 5919 to 4709.

When these figures are broken out by the city of Lowell versus the nine towns in the district, the same trends persist, although there was a slightly greater drop in deeds and mortgages in the towns and a slightly greater increase of foreclosure documents in Lowell.