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).