Monday, December 31, 2012

Top Ten of 2012

Here's my Top Ten events of 2012 as viewed from the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds:
  1. Assistant Register of Deeds Tony Accardi retired after 18 years at the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds.
  2.  Five new Registers of Deeds were elected in November, all to take office on January 3, 2013.  They are Mary Olberding in Hampshire, Scott Cote in Franklin, Paul Iannuccillo in Essex North, Maria Curtatone in Middlesex South and Patricia Harris in Berkshire Middle.
  3. The percentage of documents being recorded electronically continues to grow, approaching 40% of our monthly totals.  
  4. Hurricane Sandy caused the closure of the courthouse and the registry on October 29, 2012 and a delayed opening on October 30, 2012.  Storm damage and power outages were limited in Greater Lowell.
  5. There were 68 sales of more than $1 million recorded during 2012 with the largest being $35 million paid by Lowell General Hospital for Saints Medical Center.
  6. The city of Lowell held a tax title auction in April and again in August.  This was the first time in recent memory that Lowell disposed of tax title property in this manner.
  7. The personal computers and document scanners at the Registry of Deeds were replaced with updated models running the Windows 7 operating system.
  8. The Supreme Judicial Court issued its decision in Eaton v. FNMA, its third decision in recent years on assignments.
  9.  More and more customers are using smart phones and tablets to conduct business.  Watching a lawyer loitering near the recording counter while using a smart phone to confirm funding prior to going on record has become commonplace.
  10. National events drove much of the non-real estate conversation at the Registry of Deeds this year: The New York Giants defeated the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, 21 to 17.  The US Supreme Court upheld the Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.  President Obama was re-elected and Elizabeth Warren defeated Scott Brown in the November election.  Everyone was stunned in mid-December with the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Timothy Warren Sr., 1923-2012

Today's Globe carries the obituary of Timothy Warren Sr. who served as President of the Warren Group, the financial publishing company founded by his grandfather, for more than 30 years.  One of the Warren Group's best known publications is Banker and Tradesman, the weekly newspaper containing financial and real estate information for Massachusetts.  The registries of deeds in Massachusetts have long had a relationship with Banker and Tradesman: we are the source (for a fee) of much of the data they publish (after they "add value" to it with historical and usage information from their database and from other sources).  When I started at the registry in 1995, we used to mail paper compilations of sales to B&T.  For many years now, that information is provided electronically from a central point at the Secretary of State's Office.  I never met Mr. Warren, but I have come to know his son, Timothy Warren Jr. who succeeded his father as CEO of the Warren Group quite well.  Tim Jr. is one of the foremost authorities on real estate trends in Massachusetts and is frequently quoted by the media on that topic.  So condolences to the entire Warren Group and Tim Jr. and his siblings in particular. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dodging the snowstorm

The evolving forecast yesterday ramped up the area weather-anxiety level.  A big storm was bearing down on the Commonwealth; the big question was where would the rain-snow line end up.  Fortunately for us it was someplace north of Lowell.  Snow began falling here at about 10 last evening but sometime during the night it changed to rain so at 5:30 this morning we were greeted with only an inch of heavy wet slush.  With the temperature rising (35 at 5:30 am to 39 at 8:00 am) it didn't seem like that slush would be freezing anytime soon so there was no real urgency to move it off of driveways.  We were lucky, though, because the snow line was only a few miles to the north.  People arriving from Tyngsborough, Massachusetts and Hudson, New Hampshire reported substantial snowfall.  A customer here from Worcester reports 8 inches on the ground there.  So Lowell got lucky this time.  Hopefully that persists.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Google apps challenging Microsoft Office

The New York Times reports today that Google Apps, the cloud-based software for word processing, spreadsheets and communications, is significantly cutting into Microsoft's core business of selling these applications to business.  Part of this is driven by cost - the Google product is much cheaper - but it also reflects changes in how businesses operate.  Today there is much more collaboration done over long distances so having documents residing on the Internet rather than on someone's computer helps that happen.  I use both Microsoft Office and Google Apps.  Microsoft is good because it is familiar and has more capabilities (although that might be due to my greater familiarity with it) while Google is available to me anywhere that I have an internet connection.  In an age of multiple devices (work computer, home computer, iPad, smart phone) having such access to my documents is very beneficial.  Of course, when you don't have internet access, you don't have your documents.  I think I'll continue to use both Google and Microsoft; I don't think either is going away any time soon.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve recording stats

So just how busy is it at the Registry of Deeds on the day before Christmas?  So far this morning there have been a steady stream of people flowing in with documents to record but everyone is dressed casually so it has the feel of tying up loose ends more than conducting regular legal business.  Just to put that in context, here are some numbers from the past few December 24th's:

On December 24, 2007, there were 110 documents recorded.  The total for that month was 4591 which means the daily average was 229.

On December 24, 2008, there were 180 documents recorded.  The total for that month was 3835 which means the daily average was 174.

On December 24, 2009, there were 102 documents recorded.  The total for that month was 5198 which means the daily average was 236.

On December 24, 2010, there were 96 documents recorded.  The total for that month was 6592 which means the daily average was 286.

In 2011, December 24 was a Saturday; on December 23, 2011, there were 301 documents recorded.  The total for that month was 5945 which means the daily average was 283.

So far this month, there have been 4873 documents recorded.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Holiday Schedule at the Registry of Deeds

The Middlesex North Registry of Deeds will be open all day on Monday, December 24, 2012 (Christmas Eve) and on Monday, December 31, 2012 (New Year's Eve).  The office will be closed all day on Tuesday, December 25, 2012 for Christmas and on Tuesday, January 1, 2013 for New Year's Day. 

The office will also be closed on Monday, January 21, 2013 for the Martin Luther King holiday.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Kodak sells imaging patents

Most people age 30 and older know Kodak as the maker of film for cameras (people younger than 30 mostly know digital cameras).  Those of us at the Registry of Deeds also know Kodak for its imaging equipment.  Imaging, also known as scanning, first arrived here at the registry in Lowell in 1994.  Since then, we have used a variety of scanners and software that carried the Kodak name.  The products usually worked well although they were quite expensive.

With film photography becoming a historic artifact, however, Kodak fell upon hard times and filed bankruptcy last year.  The company's latest strategy stresses its commercial printing products which leaves unused or underused several thousand patents related to its imaging efforts.  Yesterday Kodak announced that as part of its bankruptcy, it is selling 1500 patents to a consortium of technology companies including Adobe, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Fujifilm, Google, HTC, Huawei, Microsoft, RIM, Samsung and Shutterfly.  The sales price was $575 million.   Analysts content that this sale will not lead to new capabilities by these companies but instead will shield them from patent infringement lawsuits from Kodak. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Visitor from the Pioneer Valley

Yesterday we were visited by Mary Olberding, the Register of Deeds-elect for Hampshire County.  She will take office on January 2, 2013 along with four other newly elected Registers (Paul Iannuccillo in Essex North, Maria Curtatone in Middlesex South, Scott Cote in Franklin, and Patricia Harris in Berkshire Middle).  The Hampshire Registry District consists of the following communities (with the population of each indicated):

  1. Amherst - 37,819
  2. Northampton - 28,549
  3. South Hadley - 17,514
  4. Easthampton - 15,994
  5. Belchertown - 14,649
  6. Ware - 9,707
  7. Granby - 6,420
  8. Southampton - 5,387
  9. Hadley - 4,793
  10. Hatfield - 3,249
  11. Williamsburg - 2,482
  12. Huntington - 2,174
  13. Westhampton - 1,607
  14. Pelham - 1,403
  15. Worthington 1,270
  16. Chesterfield - 1,201
  17. Goshen - 1,054
  18. Cummington - 978
  19. Plainfield - 589
  20. Middlefield - 542
The Registry of Deeds is located in Northampton.  A vacancy in the office of Register of Deeds was created in 2011 when Marianne Donohue, who had held the position for 22 years, announced her retirement.  Her assistant register, Patricia Plaza, was appointed to complete Donohue's term but Plaza chose not to seek the office in the 2012 state election.  Olberding won a close Democratic primary against two other candidates and then defeated an unenrolled candidate in the November election. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Snow and Ice Monday

It started snowing lightly in Lowell yesterday at about noon and gradually switched over to sleet later in the afternoon.  Only about an inch of snow fell before the change over, but the temperature never rose above 29 degrees so things remained slippery through the day and night.  I heard from someone who drove from New York City to Lowell yesterday afternoon.  On Route 495 alone, there were 19 accidents caused by surfaces made slick by freezing rain.  That rain continued overnight so this morning everything outside was coated with ice with temperatures still a few degrees below freezing.  Fortunately, the main streets in the city had been treated, so driving around here wasn't too bad.  Here's what New England Cable News posted as its forecast for the next few days:

Monday...   Areas of freezing rain inland, snow in central/northern New England, rain in far southern New England, tapering in intensity from midday onward. Highs around 40 south, 30s central, 20s north. East-northeast wind 5-15 mph.

Overnight Monday Night...   Areas of rain fill back in for most. Snow in northern NH and central/northern Maine. Lows in the 40s along the south coast, 30s central/north, 20s in northern Maine. East-northeast wind 5-15 mph.

Tuesday...   Morning rain gradually tapers to showers, mixing with snow in northern New England, and eventually central New England during the night. Highs in the 40s south, 30s north. Variable wind 2-14 mph.
Wednesday...  Mostly cloudy. Areas of snow in Maine and northern New Hampshire. Highs in the lower 40s, 30s north.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Thanks to Tony Accardi for 18 years of service

Yesterday was Assistant Register of Deeds Tony Accardi's last day on the job.  Today he begins his well-earned retirement and all the employees here at the registry of deeds and me, especially, wish him well in his future endeavors.  Tony wrote a very thoughtful and poignant post yesterday, his last as Assistant Register (hopefully he'll submit a guest post or two in the years to come) which is must-reading if you missed it.

      Tony and I arrived here together back on January 5, 1995.  During his 18 years as Assistant Register, he provided critical leadership in the implementation of many new initiatives including: The installation of a new land records management computer system; The digitization of more than 10 million pages of land records from the year 1629 to the present, all of which are freely available on the registry’s website; The first-in-Massachusetts electronic document recording system which now accounts for 40% of the daily recordings at the registry of deeds; Extensive preparations for Y2K; The creation of a Customer Service Section; and numerous physical renovations that have allowed the registry to operate more efficiently and to better serve the public.  Simply put, there was not an idea or a project undertaken here in which Tony did not play a major role.  He will be greatly missed by all of us.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Final Post

   Sadly, I write...this will be my last blog entry for the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds. I am retiring as First Assistant Register today, December 13, 2012 after eighteen years of service. I've been writing the lowelldeeds blog with co-author and Registry of Deeds Dick Howe for the past nine years.

    For a number of months I knew the day would come when I would write this post. I thought much about what to write. I considered and rejected several themes. The MacArthur theme:"old assistant registers never die they just fade away" (too corny for me); the Shakespearean theme: "parting the registry is such sweet sorrow" (too emotional); the Lou Gehrig theme: "today, I consider myself the luckiest assistant register in the world" (too, self absorbed);  the Emily Dickinson theme: parting is all we assistant registers know of heaven and all we assistant registers need to know of hell"( nah, not me)...I rejected all of these.

     From the beginning the purpose of the lowelldeeds blog was to keep the public abreast of issues related to real estate, technology, and most importantly the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds.

     I truly enjoyed writing this blog. Over nine years I estiminate I have written close to 1,000 entries. Yes, sometimes my topics were silly and sometimes they were an attempt at humor (notice I said an "attempt") and some were even informative. I've written about scanning, back scanning, indexing, recording, work flow, record books (remember them?) and I've written about Shakespeare, Thoreau, Bill Belichcik, Steve Jobs, the Red Sox, the Celtics and too many other topics to mention. I loved writing them all.

   All roads have an end, but the good thing is... all roads lead to new adventures.  

So with a click of my mouse, I wish you all good health and happiness.



Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Lowell foreclosure stats: 2000 to 2012

Here are the numbers of orders of notice and foreclosure deeds recorded for property in Lowell since 2000.  The 2012 numbers are a twelve month projection based on the actual January thru November recordings, so those numbers might change slightly.


OrdNo FD
2000 94 40
2001 110 24
2002 108 22
2003 118 19
2004 140 32
2005 143 19
2006 345 91
2007 496 271
2008 450 370
2009 446 245
2010 325 549
2011 209 303
2012* 323 331
Totals 3307 2316  

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


I used to love golf...but for some reason I gave it up about fifteen years ago, ironically, when I bought a house over-looking a golf course. Recently, I accompanied my son-in-law to a golf equipment store. It turned out to be an interesting, eye opening trip.
    He was looking for a new driver and I agreed to tag along, just for fun. I must admit I was shocked as I strolled through the aisles and saw the changes in golf equipment since I last played. Golf clubs are much bigger and far lighter now. I picked up a massive sized driver and I said you myself "Tony, even you could hit the ball long and straight with this baby". 

Me: (Looking at my son-in-law), "I thought there were PGA rules against using clubs this big", (waving the bomber back and forth slight above the store floor).
Him: "Not any more",  he replied.
Me: "What the heck else has changed since the days when I played? These clubs are so light, I bet they're easy to carry around the course".
Him: "Carry? You mean over your shoulder in a bag?"
Me: "Yeah, yeah, I know everyone uses pull carts now"
Him: "Pull carts? You mean aluminum carts you pull up and down hills?"
Me:  "OK, I know so rich people sit and ride around the course in a golf cart."
Him: "Nope, rich people use the CaddyTrek."
Me:  "What is the CaddyTrek?"
Him: "Its a remote controlled cart that carries your golf clubs around the course."
Me:  "Explain, please."
Him: "Well, you clip a pocket sized sensor on your belt and the CaddyTrek follows you around the course carrying your clubs wherever you go."
Me: "Are you kidding?"
Him: "And you can even program it to meet you at the next tee or call home."
Me: "Call home? What good would calling "home" from a golf course do? Why not program CaddyTrek to call Sam Snead?"
Him: "I think Sam Snead died awhile back...

Monday, December 10, 2012

Commissioners to administer oaths of office

One of the most popular services we provide here at the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds is to administer the oath of office to notaries public and other individuals appointed to various positions and commissions.  At least half a dozen registry employees have been appointed as commissioners so there are always at least two of us here (two are required to administer the oath).  There's no need to make an appointment; anyone can walk in during our normal hours and take the oath.  After the appointee recites the oath out loud before the two commissioners, we forward a certificate to that effect to the Secretary of State's "commissions" office.

Commissioners to administer oaths are governed by Massachusetts General Laws chapter 222, section 3 which states as follows:

Section 3. The governor, with the advice and consent of the council, shall appoint commissioners to administer to public officers the oaths of office required by the constitution. Upon administering such oaths, the commissioners shall forthwith make return thereof, with the date of the same, to the state secretary. Neither the state secretary, nor any officer or employee in his department acting as such a commissioner, shall charge any fee for administering such an oath.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Pearl Harbor Day

This morning I attended the Greater Lowell Veterans Council's Pearl Harbor Remembrance ceremony at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium.  State Senator Eileen Donoghue and Mayor Patrick Murphy were the featured speakers along with two students from the Helenic American Academy who read essays on the history of the Pledge of Allegiance and the events in Hawaii on December 7, 1941.  What was most notable about this morning's ceremony was that of the 100 plus people in attendance, only two were veterans of World War Two.  A young serviceman who was 18 years old when Pearl Harbor was attacked would be 90 years old today.  We are truly witnessing the winding up of the Greatest Generations.  The implications of that is something important to contemplate.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Electronic recording stats

As I've written before, electronic recording is now a major part of our daily operations accounting for more than one-third of our daily document intake.  In November, we recorded a total of 6111 documents.  Of those 2404 were filed electronically.  That is a daily average of 306 documents, 120 of which are electronic.  That's 39% of our intake for the month.

For the year from January 1 through December 5, we have recorded a total of 65,670 documents.  Of those, 22,490 were electronic (34%).  Of the electronic documents, there were 8247 discharges, 6754 mortgages, 1137 deeds and 6600 other types most of which were assignments.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012


I'm sixty-one years old and I've seen many changes in the world. But wow was I shocked when I saw yesterday's news.

Case in point..a Massachusetts company named AquaBounty has genetically engineered a new kind of Salmon.  Followers have nicknamed the new man made fish...FrankenFish.

AquaBounty took a normal Atlantic Salmon and altered its DNA in such a way that changes its growth patents. The chemistry is way over my head, but here is the Sesame Street explanation...Scientist take a bit of DNA from a Chinook Salmon and another bit from a sea eel and "mix it up" with the DNA of an Atlantic Salmon. The result is a fish that grows faster and larger than a "regular" Salmon.

Why would anyone want a bigger Salmon? Why to eat, naturally.

Up to this point the government will not allow AquaBounty to sell FrankenFish for food. Yes, the FDA has run numerous tests on FrankenFish, all revealing no short term negative effects from eating genetically altered Salmon.

But its just not that simple...Environmentalist, natural food advocates and politicians from Salmon producing states oppose the release of FrankenFish for their own reasons.

I saw one reporter eat a slice of FrankenFish on the TV news me, once cooked,  it looked exactly like every other Atlantic Salmon I've seen. 

I wonder...whats next?

Monday, December 03, 2012

November statistics

The last day of November was a busy one here at the registry with a total of 516 documents being recorded.  The overall statistics for the month were good with deeds up 23% from 437 in November of 2011 to 537 in November of 2012.  The rate of increase for mortgages, while still up, slowed slightly with only a 10% increase, rising from 1371 in November 2011 to 1502 in November 2012.  Foreclosure deeds were way down, dropping 50% from 40 in November 2011 to 20 in November 2012.  Orders of notice were also down (by 26%) declining from 78 in November 2011 to 58 in November 2012.  The total number of documents recorded was op just 4%, from 5885 to 6112.  After eleven months, the total number of documents recorded in 2012 (64,978) is 9% higher than the number recorded by the end of November of 2011 (59563).

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Windows 8 is Really Different (seriously)

I explained in my last blog entry that I purchased a new Laptop computer last weekend (black Friday actually). My previous one "suddenly" crashed (I'm still upset about it).

     If you follow technology you probably know that ALL new Windows driven computers are now running on the new Windows 8 Operating System...And Windows 8 is different (much different) from Windows 7 or Vista (I hated Vista).

    Of course, like anyone else, I was excited when I unboxed my new laptop, but little did I know I was about to enter a totally different computer world (I might be exaggerating a little here).

     When I first powered up my new computer I immediately noticed the desktop was total different. Rather than icons it was full of square "tiles" (that's what Windows calls them).

The feature (or should I say the missing feature) that struck me most was the lack of a "Start Button" Aside: have you noticed I'm into using parenthesis today?

     It took me close to fifteen minutes (without exaggeration) to figure out how to do a Google search. And of course, a computer running a Microsoft OS comes preloaded with Internet Explore as its default browser. (Aside: I hate Internet Explore, by the way, have you noticed I'm into "asides" today, too?), so I downloaded Morzilla Firefox.

     I had absolutely no problem downloading...but after the file finished I couldn't find the folder holding the downloaded file to execute (finish) the installation. It took me fifteen minutes (without exaggeration) to find this folder.

     After an hour or so of playing with Windows 8 I decided to power it off and put it away. Remember, what I said earlier, Windows 8 does not have a "Start Button" the heck do you properly power down a Windows computer without a "Start Button"? (I had absolutely no idea).

      Finally after a good fifteen minutes (without exaggeration) I was able to power the computer off.

    Now, please don't get me wrong...I am not opposed to new things. I actually like learning how to use new things. In fact after using Windows 8 for a week now, I love it (no, I'm not exaggerating).

     The main purpose of this story is to explain how radically different Windows 8 is from any of Microsoft's previous Windows Operating Systems.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Deed Excise receipts for FY13

Yesterday's Globe reported that tax collections in Massachusetts have been lower than projected in recent months, prompting state government to contemplate emergency budget cuts.  After reading this, I looked at the receipts here at the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds for deed excise tax collections thus far in FY13 (i.e., since July 2012).  The deed excise tax is assessed at a rate of $2.28 per $500 of sales price for real estate sold within this registry district.  The seller is obliged to pay the tax which is collected at the time the deed transferring ownership is recorded at the registry of deeds.  Here's a month-by-month comparison of the money we have taken in for deeds excise since July 1, 2012, compared to the same month in 2011:

In July 2012, we collected $709,410 in deeds excise tax, an increase of 29% from the $551,057 collected in July 2011;

In August 2012, we collected $571,650, a 6% increase from the $539,080 in August 2011;

In September 2012, we collected $580,770, a 5% decrease from the $610,732 collected in September 2011;

In October 2012, we collected $429,410, a 28% increase from the $335,458 collected in October 2011.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Its Trash

I love computers...and because I do I take care of them, especially my own. I never close the cover without shutting my computer totally off. I store it neatly on a desk with a cushioned blotter to protect it from scratching. Once a week, I clean the screen, keyboard and exterior, not just with any cloth, but with a piece of fabric specifically designed to clean computers. I tell you these things in hopes you will excuse the brief moment of insanity I describe below.

Last Friday (yes, Black Friday) of all days I decided I would surf the Internet a briefly before lunch. I took my laptop from its cushioned resting place and fired it up. Ah, I find such delight in a computer that puts the world at my finger-tips. I gently pressed the power button and I noticed my baby seemed to boot a little slower than usual...No big deal. I mentally joked, I'll bet my baby is suffering from day after Thanksgiving sluggishness like the rest of us. LOL.

I clicked on Firefox, my preferred browser...hmmmm, google seems to be coming up pretty slow. Ah, there it is.

I clicked my bookmarks and selected The hourglass popped up and nothing happened. I waited and waited and I waited. Finally I got a message..."can not access website".  Maybe there's something wrong with wiped a speck of dust off my computer's keyboard...yes, nice and clean now. I'll try another website. Again, I got an hourglass...just spinning, spinning.

I began to get a little nervous...There can't be anything wrong, I take care of my computer.
Another website, another hourglass...spinning.
There is no way, MY computer could have a virus. No way.
Another website, another hourglass...spinning
Maybe, just maybe there IS something wrong

OK, I've got to try something. I'll restore my computer to an earlier date...some time from last week. Even if the remote possibility is true and it did pick up a virus, I'll  restore the computer to before the infection and things will be back to normal and my baby will be OK.

Control Panel...System Restore...Restore to November 15. Yes, yes, restore my computer to November 15. That will make it all better again. 

Unfortunately, my plan didn't work. Just as System Restore was about to begin I got a horrifying message... "Your hard drive is corrupt.  The system can not restore".

What do I do now?, I thought.

I pulled the battery out and unplugged the electrical power. Please, please reset...I promise, I'll clean my computer after every use and buy an expensive case to store it in. I powered it back up...this time I got a gray screen with another error message..."You have a corrupt hard drive press F1 to continue".

I pressed F1 nothing happened, absolutely nothing. Not even a beep.

My forehead was getting warn and my blood was beginning to boil. I turned the power off again, same message.
Again...same message.
Again...same message.

In a flash, the love I felt for my computer turned to disgust. I turned my head and looked askew at my dead computer. It's nothing but a piece of trash, I thought. I picked it up and held it with both hands and looked at it...For three years I babied you....cleaned your screen and cover. I regularly defragmented your hard drive, backed up files, expanded your memory...and now you turn on me and of all days, Black Friday.

Violent thoughts went through my head. I looked at the heap of useless plastic in my hands. A little demon perched on my shoulder whispered in my ear...Go ahead Tony, drop it. Drop it on the floor. What difference does it make, its dead anyway. Drop it, Tony. Do it.

Temporarily overwhelmed with hatred I lifted the piece of junk over my head. My mind was racing. Tony, was my wife, What are you doing? Put that thing down. I hesitated and looked at her...but its broken I said, it crashed. Its dead. I'm going to...
,Not you're not...I guess you'll have to buy another one..things break, she said, no big deal.

Sanity returned...yes, yes, I guess you're right, I muttered and placed the computer back on its cushioned, blotter-seat.

Come on she said...Let's go now. It I'll be fun, we can go shopping on Black Friday.
Fun, yeah, I said Real fun. Shopping, Black Friday...Yeah fun"


Friday, November 23, 2012

Lincoln - the movie

It's a quiet Friday after Thanksgiving here at the registry of deeds.  The roads were empty and the only one in line at Dunkin Donuts was a security guard from the Lowell District Court buying a "Box of Joe" presumably for the few employees there who did not take the day off.  With so many other folks having the day off, it's good to have the registry of deeds open: we always record a lot of homesteads on the day after Thanksgiving.

Yesterday I not only had the pleasure of enjoying a great dinner with my extended family and watching the Patriots overwhelm the Jets, but also seeing the new Steven Spielberg movie, Lincoln.  If you have any interest in politics or history, go see this movie.  (And if you're not interested in either of those subjects, perhaps seeing this film would spark some interest).

The film is almost exclusively about the political maneuvering to get the 13th Amendment (the one that abolished slavery) through the House of Representatives in January 1865.  It had passed the Senate the previous year but with a substantial number of opposition Democrats in the House, the two-thirds vote needed for its passage seemed out of reach.  In the election of November 1864, however, 62 of those Democratic Congressmen lost which changed the political dynamic.  Although his closest advisers recommended waiting until the newly-elected Republicans took office, Lincoln felt the need to move quickly, fearing that the end of the war - something that seemed imminent - would cause many to reconsider their support of the amendment.  Using promises of jobs and other tactics some would consider questionable, Lincoln and his compatriots cobbled together enough votes to win by 2. 

The movie also teases the viewers with enough "might have been" moments about Lincoln's plans for post-war America, plans that were snuffed out when he was assassinated just a few months later.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fixing erroneous marginal references

Here's an issue that has popped up twice in the past 48 hours under nearly identical circumstances.  A homeowner called and explained that a long ago mortgage had been paid off also long ago but that no discharge of the mortgage was easily located on the registry computer system.  With some digging, we found a discharge for the mortgage on record, but the discharge contained an incorrect book and page number for the mortgage.  For instance, the mortgage was recorded in book 9697, page 161 (fictitious number) but the discharge read that the mortgage being discharged was in book 9697, page 151.  We had made the link (i.e., the marginal reference) to the document at page 151 although it had nothing to do with the discharge document.  Everything else about the discharge - the date the mortgage was executed, the parties, etc., matched the mortgage at page 161.  Traditionally, the registry would not have also made a link to the document at page 161 - we would only link to the book and page number expressly stated in the discharge document.  But on these two documents I decided to change the policy and I added the additional marginal reference.  The purpose of the index is not to corroborate what a document legally purports to do; rather, the purpose of the index is to help people find documents relevant to the query.  Certainly this discharge is relevant to the status of the mortgage.  Whether it succeeds in discharging the mortgage despite the typo in the book and page reference is another question (I think it does but that's beside the point).  I believe it is better for a person to see the discharge and make his or her own determination as to its efficacy than it would be for us to make it more difficult for someone to locate that discharge.  The countervailing argument is that by making the link we potentially deceive someone into believing the discharge is effective (which it may not be) but that assumes the person examining the record does not actually read the document being examined.  Balancing those considerations, I decided it was better to come down on the side of making it easier not harder to find potentially relevant documents.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

National mortgage settlement benefits some in Massachusetts

The Globe reports today that several thousand Massachusetts homeowners have benefited from the $25 billion settlement entered into between a number of state attorneys general and major national lenders including Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co., Citibank, and Ally Financial Inc., owner of GMAC Mortgage.  The misbehavior complained of by the AGs was robosigning by the lenders, that is, the practice of signing someone else's name to mortgage documents.  Those in Massachusetts who benefited from the settlement received an average of $68,000 in loan forgiveness or credits.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Electronic recording statistics

Electronic recording continues to increase in volume.  It leaves the impression that our activity level is down but it's actually up considerably from last year.  At the end of October 2012, we had recorded 57,829 documents, a 22% increase from the 47,481 recorded through the end of October 2011.  Of the 57,829 documents recorded so far this year, 19,498 - 34% - came to us electronically.  The month of October 2012 may have seen the highest monthly percentage of electronically recorded documents yet: 2707 of 6585 (38%) were electronically recorded.  Here are the month to month percentages of electronically recorded to all recorded documents for 2012:

January 30%
February 33%
March 29%
April 35%
May 35%
June 35%
July 35%
August 36%
September 33%
October 38%

For 2012, the largest number of electronically recorded documents we received in a single day occurred on June 29, 2012 when 373 of 793 came in electronically.  The highest percentage for a single day occurred just a few days earlier, June 21, 2012, when 373 of 793 documents came to us electronically.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Mid-Month Statistics

With November half over, here are some document recording statistics:

From November 1 thru November 15, 2012, we recorded 247 deeds; a 13% increase from the 216 recorded for the same period of 2011.

From November 1 thru November 15, 2012, we recorded 680 mortgages; a 10% decrease from the 754 recorded for the same period of 2011.

From November 1 thru November 15, 2012, we recorded 13 foreclosure deeds; an 38% decrease from the 21 recorded for the same period of 2011.

From November 1 thru November 15, 2012, we recorded 28 orders of notice; a 42% decrease from the 48 recorded for the same period of 2011.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Me in the Shark Tank

I love the TV show Shark Tank. Have you seen it? An average person brings four rich investors an idea/invention he developed and asks them to invest a specific sum of money to become partners in the product. It is a great show. The four investors are Robert Herjavec, Kevin O'Leary, Mark Cuban and Barbara Corcoran.

The concept of this show got me thinking. I started to image a conversation that "might have taken place" twenty years ago between a young inventor (like me) and the Sharks. Here is how the conversation might have gone:

Me: Sharks, thank you for giving me this opportunity. I have an idea that will make you rich...sorry, you are already rich so it will make you richer. I am looking for a $50,000 investment for a 20% share in my invention.

Mark Cuban: Well, Tony $50,000 is a lot of money to most people, but a mere pittance to an NBA owner like me.

Robert Haerjavec: Come on Mark, give the guy a chance...Tony, tell us about this invention of yours.

Me: Well, Sharks this (I hold up a cellphone) is an ordinary cellphone. But MY invention makes this much more.

Kevin O'Leary: Hey, that looks just like my phone. Tony, I like my cellphone, so I'm not sure I want you fiddling with it. But continue...

Me: That's what is so great about my invention, you can still use your cellphone as you always have, but with my invention you can send written messages with your cellphone. I call it... "text messaging".

Barbara Corcoran: Are you talking about the type of cellphone that Kevin and I use to talk on?

Me: Yes! Isn't it wonderful?

Mark Cuban: Excuse me, but I've made billions and I don't get it...Isn't it easier to talk to someone with your cellphone than it is to write them, or... what do you call it, "text"? Who's going to want to write a message?

Me: Actually, Mark I call it... "text messaging".

Kevin O'Leary: So let me see, you want $50,000 for 20% of this "text messaging" invention which means you believe the invention is worth $250,000...sorry, but I'm out.

Barbara Corcoran: Tony, I like you, you seem like a nice enough guy, but I'm out too...frankly I actually think the idea is ridiculous. No one is going to use his cellphone to send written messages instead of talking. Kevin, what do you think?

Kevin O'Leary: I'll wait a little longer...I'm a little intrigued.

Robert Herjavec: Me too, "a little"...I think "text messaging" could have a use, but the market your appealing to is very limited. Maybe, high level business people like Mark Cuban who don't really like each other and don't want to talk to each other. They might like sending a "text" as you call it.

Mark Cuban: Come on Robert, me and my rich buddies all get along...Tony, I think this idea is stupid, I'm out. If you need tickets to the Mavericks let me know.

Announcer: Two Sharks are out and two still remain.

Me: Kevin and Robert, will you give me $50,000 for 40% of my "text messaging" invention?

Kevin O'Leary: Tony, don't misunderstand me, Your "text messaging idea doesn't intrigue me, but I'm really intrigued that you would have the audacity to think that one of us would invest money on the premise that anyone in his right mind would want to write messages with a cellphone. I'm out. Robert, what are you going to do?

Announcer: Now three Sharks are out and the fate of Tony's text messaging invention rests in the hand of one Shark, Robert Herjavec. 

Me: Come on Robert, help me out here.

Robert Herjavec: Tony, maybe you need to go back and work on this invention more... here's an idea. How about a cellphone with some sort of recording device that allows you to send a voice message. That might be more marketable. But as far as I'm concerned the only people that are going to use this "text messaging" thing are people that don't want to talk to each I'm sorry, but I'm out.

Announcer: All four Sharks are now out.

Me: Thank you Sharks...but I respectfully disagree, I think twenty years from now, you'll all wish you had invested in "text messaging", because I truly believe people will send millions of "text messages" by cellphone each year.

Reality: 2011, 8 trillion text messages were sent. "See Sharks, I told you so".


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Big Box Retailers entering the banking business

The New York Times reports that big box retailers such as Costco and Walmart are aggressively moving into areas that were once the exclusive domain of banks.  Offering financial products ranging from prepaid debit-type cards to home equity loans, these companies, according to this story, are interested in providing their existing customers with additional services to provide a type of one-stop shopping.  One benefit of this approach is that people who are under-served by traditional banks (most likely because they are risky borrowers) will be extended credit.  One downside is that financial transactions by retailers are only loosely regulated and so are susceptible to abuse.  Long-term, with homeowners today locking themselves into mortgages with incredibly low interest rates, the past practice of refinancing an existing home mortgage to tap into the liquidity of the family residence will become less common since no one will want to trade an existing low interest mortgage with a new one at a (presumably in the future) higher rate.  This might create a big market for other types of loans that are secondary to the mortgage.  Major retailers seem to be positioning themselves to fill this coming demand.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Watch Out

The Internet is a scary place.

It's a place filled with hackers who only have one intention, to harm you. Its enough to make you wonder... is there's a bad-guy out there every time you turn on your computer; that some evil-doer is lurking around in cyberspace just waiting to get you; Someone that wants to steal your money, your car, your house and even your golf clubs.   

This morning a paranoid New York Times Technology reporter wrote an interesting article on ways to stop hackers. "Paranoid?" Yep, this reporter openly admits to putting masking tape over her computers webcam. Now, that's being a little paranoid. 

For the article, the paranoid NYT reporter (who shall remain nameless here) contacted two other paranoid technology experts (who shall also remain nameless here) and asked for suggestions on how to protect computer passwords. Obviously, this wasn't done over Skype, since all three probably have their web-cameras taped over.

Here are some of the expert's suggestions for password protection:

Forget the Dictionary: According to the experts" If your password can be found in a dictionary, you might as well not have one". I'm done! But, I wonder if this includes the Urban dictionary too or if "whazzup" would be a good password?

Come up With A Passphrase: The first thing I thought was "What the heck is a passphrase, Is it some secret code word or something?" No!, the experts advise you to think of your favorite movie quote and piece together the first letters of each word into a passphrase... so, "I'm your worst nightmare" would create a password of, "Iywn".

Just Jam on Your Keyboard: LOL, I love this one...This is exactly what it sounds like, just start banging away on the keyboard randomly,..I'm going to try it right now. Here goes... "thldionfglsbrjlkdjtgn", I'll bet even an expert hacker couldn't remember that password.

Ignore Security Questions: The experts say, do not answer "security questions" accurately. It really isn't that hard for a good hacker to figure out your graduating high school and then use it to change your password from thldionfglsbrjlkdjtgn to skemghikleldkgnkjr. Instead, they suggest you actually answer a security question with another question. Example: "What high school did you attend?" Answer..."What do you care?" (I'm just joking).

Never Use the Same Password Twice: Unless its thldionfglsbrjlkdjtgn or skemghikleldkgnkjr, of course.

Seriously, password protection is important, and effective means should be taken to maintain your security. 

Friday, November 09, 2012

Holiday schedule and severe weather policy

Since we've started receiving inquiries:

The registry will be closed on Monday, November 12 in observance of Veterans Day

The registry will be closed on Thursday, November 22 for Thanksgiving

The registry will be closed on Tuesday, December 25 for Christmas

The registry will be closed on Tuesday, January 1, 2012 for New Years Day

The registry will be open during our regular hours on the following days:

The day after Thanksgiving (Friday, November 23)
Christmas Eve (Monday, December 24)
New Years Eve (Monday, December 31)

During severe weather events such as hurricanes or major snow storms, the registry may close early or open late depending on conditions.  Since this office is located inside a courthouse, whether and when we are open is a decision that tends to follow that made by the Massachusetts Court system (we've never closed the registry while the courthouse remained open).  In the case of an overnight snowstorm, visit the home page of the Massachusetts Court System to find any notices about delayed openings or building closures (if anything is to be posted, it's usually done by 6:30 am).  In the case of a snowstorm during the day, check this blog or call the registry at 978/322-9000 to learn of our status.  One point of emphasis: when the governor declares a state of emergency and directs non-essential state employees to stay home, such a declaration does not apply to either the court or the registry of deeds.  Hopefully this is all just an academic discussion and will avoid any further nasty weather this winter.

What constitutes a signature?

We had a case of first impression yesterday at the registry when an attorney presented for recording a Notice of Decision from the Westford Planning Board.  The document was signed by an assistant town clerk on the date it was filed with that office and signed again by the same official with the annotation that 20 days had passed from the notice of decision but that no appeal had been filed.  So far, so good, but the signature blocks for the five members of the planning board which consisted of the board member's typed name underneath a signature line were all blank.  There were no ink-on-paper, cursive style signatures written on the lines.  The lawyer who records documents frequently and does much business with the town said that when picking up the document and noticing the absent signatures, mentioned it to the folks in the town clerks office.  The reply was that the typed names were intended to be the signatures since trying to get the traditional signatures of all five volunteer members of the planning board proved very difficult and time consuming.  Waiting for all to sign risked pushing the issuance date of the decision beyond the time mandated by law.

In theory, I have no problem with a typed name serving as a signature.  My understanding of the legal requirement for a signature is "some mark intended by the maker to constitute his or her signature."  We often receive checks from major banks with the signer's name stamped in the signature block and no one worries about that.  More than 350 years ago, Native Americans who lived along the banks of the Merrimack River executed deeds by drawing unique pictographs (stick-man like figures) for their signatures.  Today, disabled individuals routinely sign documents with an "X" in place of a traditional signature.  Using all of these as precedent, a typed name in my view can be a legally valid signature assuming the person intends that to serve as his signature.

My problem with the document was a more practical one: anybody looking at it would be more likely to draw the inference that it was incomplete, that the absence of an ink-on-paper signature was an omission rather than a non-traditional way of signing a document.  To preempt future questions from researchers viewing the document, I wanted some annotation that clearly stated that the "typed name constitutes signature."  In my presence, the lawyer doing the recording called the town planning office and received permission to make that annotation.  Once that was done, we went ahead and recorded the document.  In the future, it would be better if the person drafting such a document use the "/s/ name" format on the typed line rather than merely leave it blank along with some kind of certification signed by an administrator that the members of the board communicated their intent that their typed names constituted their signatures on the document. 

Thursday, November 08, 2012

New Registers of Deeds for 2013

All twenty-one of the Commonwealth’s register of deeds positions were on the ballot this week.  Here are the names of all twenty-one, with the newly elected individuals listed first:

Newly Elected

  • Berkshire Middle – Patsy Harris elected (incumbent Andrea Nuciforo ran unsuccessfully for Congress)
  • Essex North – Paul Iaunuccillo elected after defeating incumbent Robert Kelley in Democratic Primary
  • Franklin – Scott Cote elected after defeating incumbent Joseph Gochinski in Democratic Primary
  • Hampshire – Mary Olberding elected (incumbent Patricia Plaza, who was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Marianne Donahue who retired, chose not to run for election) 
  • Middlesex South – Maria Curtatone elected (incumbent Eugene Brune chose not to seek re-election)

Barnstable – John Meade
Berkshire North – Frances Brookes
Berkshire South – Wanda Beckwith
Bristol Fall River – BJ McDonald
Bristol North – Barry Amaral
Bristol South – Mark Treadup
Dukes – Dianne Powers
Essex South – John O’Brien
Hamden – Donald Ashe 
Middlesex North – Richard Howe
Nantucket – Jennifer Ferreira
Norfolk – William O’Donnell
Plymouth – John Buckley
Suffolk – Mickey Roache
Worcester – Anthony Vigliotti
Worcester North – Kathleen Daignault

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The Technology of Elections

I admit it. I'm a political last night was like a huge, give-away candy store for me.
I'm also a technology junkie so it was also an awe-inspiring night.

As a "political, techno" junkie, I'm overwhelmed by how much technology has changed presidential election reporting.

When I was a kid (I sound like my father) presidential election coverage was so simple. Back then it was a two talking-heads sitting at a desk.  As the wee hours of the morning approached and polls closed, results would dribble in. Candidate's numbers were displayed at the bottom of the TV screen in "white numbers"(ow, white numbers).

We've come a long way. Today, presidential election coverage is so different.

"Teams" of news reporters and anchors feed viewers results that are complied by "political experts" sitting off screen in a room called a "boiler room". In the boiler room demographics are dissected and analyzed.

Today reporters use electronic "smart boards" to display totals and predicted future trends. These "smart boards" are capable of  breaking states down into counties and counties down into towns. 

Over the past ten years technology has turned election reporting into a sophisticated, scientific operation. Last night I had the feeling the technology employed  is so good that most networks could have predicted the national results much earlier than they actually did.

Technology! It's amazing.