Thursday, April 25, 2013

Registry of Deeds Modernization and Efficiency Commission

The Registry of Deeds Modernization and Efficiency Commission which was created by Section 124 of Chapter 165 of the Acts of 2012 held its first meeting yesterday. The mission of the commission is to "examine possible efficiencies" at the state's registries of deeds. The first meeting of the commission covered some preliminary and organizational matters. The second meeting which will be held sometime in June will focus on technology and computer systems. The commission has fourteen members: three from the state senate (James Welch of Springfield, Eileen Donoghue of Lowell, and Bruce Tarr of Gloucester); three from the house (Garrett Bradley of Hingham, Kevin Murphy of Lowell, and Vinny deMacedo of Plymouth); four appointed by the governor (Daniel Matthews of Needham, Sara McKee of Amherst, Hugh Fitzpatrick of Tewksbury, and Claudia Boldman of the state's Information Technology Division); the Secretary of the Commonwealth's designee (Michael Moresco) and three registers of deeds appointed by the Secretary (Tony Vigliotti of the Worcester District, John Buckley of Plymouth County, and Richard Howe - me - of Middlesex North District).

Monday, April 22, 2013

The FBI and accuate indexing

Lurking in the background since the two Boston Marathon terrorists were identified late last week was the news that a "foreign government" had requested in 2010 that the FBI check out Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Suspect #1, who died early Friday morning). Soon we learned that the foreign government interested in Tsarnaev was Russia and so it was very strange that he actually traveled to Russia in 2012 and sent six month there. How did the FBI and all our country's intelligence services fail to make the connection between the subject of the Russian intelligence query and a subsequent long visit to Russia? It turns out that the missed connection may have been caused by a database indexing error. Here's a report in today's Globe:
Tamerlan Tsarnaev had traveled to Russia early last year because of a clerical error: His name was misspelled. “He went over to Russia, but apparently, when he got on the Aeroflot plane, they misspelled his name,” Graham, a South Carolina Republican said on Fox television this morning. “So it never went into the system that he actually went to Russia.”
That might explain why the computer missed him and it would be a reasonable explanation if you were talking about a typo at a typical government office such as the registry of deeds, but you'd like to think that the computers employed by our national security apparatus would factor in the possibility of a typo - Google certainly can handle it but apparently not Homeland Security. Still, this is an area where information is leaked selectively, so the available information is insufficient to base any judgments upon.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Mid-month recording stats for April

Here's a comparison of the number of documents recorded for the first two weeks of April in 2012 and 2013. In this post, the "years" used (2012 and 2013) are shorthand for the period April 1 through April 15 for each of the years. In 2012 there were 193 deeds recorded; in 2013 there were 248 - an increase of 28% In 2012, there were 548 mortgages recorded; in 2013 there were 528 - a decrease of 4% In 2012, there were 21 foreclosure deeds recorded; in 2013 there were 12 - a decrease of 43% In 2012, there were 14 orders of notice recorded; in 2013 there were 12 - a decrease of 14% In 2012, there were 2496 documents recorded; in 2013 there were 2723 - an increase of 9%

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston Marathon bombing

While this site focuses on real estate and related subjects, we also write about significant events in the world around us. Sometimes they are joyful events as when the Red Sox or Patriots become world champions but other times they are tragic as is the case today. Our Patriot's Day holiday was shattered yesterday shortly before 3 pm when two bombs exploded almost simultaneously at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Current reports state that three people were killed and more than 150 wounded, many seriously. Information about the victims is slowly being made public as is information about the progress of the investigation. If the past is any guide, the search for those responsible seems to move slowly at first, but it inevitably ends with a full explanation of what happened.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Out of state medical liens

We recently received a document from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services that would place a lien for medical assistance provided on property in Massachusetts owned by the person to whom the assistance was provided. Under the general rule that a court or governmental agency in one state has no jurisdiction over real property located in another state, we returned the document without recording it. That, in turn, led to communications between me and representatives of the New Hampshire Agency. In the end, I was convinced that Federal Medicaid law does grant this type of power to the state agency which is administering Medicaid. Although we share common borders with other states, it is not a scenario that arises with any frequency. I invited the New Hampshire people to resend their lien. I will also add this issue to the list of items that will be considered for inclusion in the next update to the Massachusetts Deed Indexing Standards.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Foreclosures linger on

Despite some signs that the real estate market is improving, foreclosures continue to appear in our records. This January had some disturbing numbers of orders of notice (the document that signals the start of the foreclosure process) with the number district-wide up 61% and the number in Lowell up 112%, both when compared to the number recorded in the same month last year. The figures for February and March were much better, with orders of notice for the district down 59% in February and 49% in March (Lowell was down 61% and 67%). Unfortunately, the first ten days of April saw that downward trend reverse. Orders of notice for the district rose from 11 to 10 and for Lowell from 3 to 5. These numbers bear constant watching because they are an early indicator of trends in the business and right now, none of the trends are very encouraging.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Foreclosure Auction calendar

We continue to update our foreclosure auction calendar based on Notice of Mortgagees Sales advertisements. Click HERE to jump to the calendar and for future reverence, there is a link to the calendar directly from the webpage (it's in the lower left column near the bottom). Here is some of the information we post to the calendar (excuse the formatting): Auction Date/Time St # Street Town 4/18/13 10:00AM 21 C Street Lowell; 4/18/13 12:00PM 25 Hurd St Lowell; 4/18/13 2:00PM 110 Rock St Lowell; 4/18/13 10:00 AM 418 Parker St Lowell; 4/18/13 1:00 PM 89-91 C Street Lowell; 4/23/13 11:00 AM 375 Aiken Ave Unit 7 Lowell; 4/29/13 10:00 AM 71 Wedge St Lowell; 4/29/13 11:00 AM 100 Merrimack Ave Unit 20 Dracut; 4/29/13 9:00 AM 44 Trout Brook Rd Dracut; 4/30/13 10:00 AM 77 Queen St Lowell.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Thinking about a new computer system

The ACS land management system we now employ works pretty well even though it's been in place for more than 10 years which seems a lifetime in the computer business. But what we do isn't all that complicated computer-wise and there's always the old "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" admonition. Still, it's probably time to start considering what would go into a new registry computer system. The risk is that when the time comes, we simply look for an upgraded version of what we're already using. Instead, it would be preferable to analyze both the real estate business and the recording of real estate documents, and try to predict where they are both heading. There are a couple of features that come to mind right away. Documents and plans should be integrated and not in separate databases. For instance, when you're reading a deed on the computer, you should be able to click on a link to the plan that is referenced in the property description and have that plan appear, preferably in a separate window so you can toggle between the two. With electronic recording, something to consider is a video chat capability so that as we're processing and electronically submitted document, we have the ability to communicate in real time with the submitter, just as we would if the person had walked up to the counter. Finally, there should be across agency integration so that our records are linked to the local assessors records and perhaps even to Mass GIS and its overhead imagery. Those are just three things that might be desirable in a new system. There are many others. The time to consider them is before you start shopping for a new system, not when you are drafting the RFP.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Town Deed info (Part II)

Last week I posted the number of deeds recorded each year from 2008 through 2012 for Dracut, Tewksbury and Chelmsford. Today it's Billerica, Westford and Tyngsborough: Billerica: In 2008, there were 430 deeds; in 2009, there were 434; in 2010 there were 390; in 2011 there were 334; in 2012 there were 503. Westford: In 2008, there were 302 deeds; in 2009, there were 324; in 2010 there were 369; in 2011 there were 310; in 2012 there were 391. Tyngsborough: In 2008, there were 156 deeds; in 2009, there were 145; in 2010 there were 153; in 2011 there were 152; in 2012 there were 171.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Electronic recording statistics

For the third consecutive month the number of documents recorded electronically here at Middlesex North reached 40% of our total volume. In January, it was 41%; February was 40%; and March was also 40%. Of the 5842 documents recorded in March, 2357 came to use as digital images rather than on paper. The breakdown of document types was as follows: 1022 discharges, 131 deeds, 647 mortgages and 588 of other types.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Longterm deed trends in the towns

Someone since a request for info on sales in some of the towns in our district over the past five years. Here's what I found: Dracut: 2008 - 343 deeds; 2009 - 388 deeds; 2010 - 346 deeds; 2011 - 330 deeds; 2012 - 411 deeds. Tewksbury: 2008 - 332 deeds; 2009 - 367 deeds; 2010 - 335 deeds; 2011 - 320 deeds; 2012 - 460 deeds. Chelmsford: 2008 - 441 deeds; 2009 - 418 deeds; 2010 - 374 deeds; 2011 - 411 deeds; 2012 - 468 deeds.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Jeanne d'Arc Credit Union financial literacy event

I spent this morning at the Tsongas Arena helping to staff the housing booth at the Money Strong for Life Fair organized by the Jeanne d'Arc Credit Union and attended by nearly 300 seniors from Lowell High School. This is the third year that the fair has been held and each time it has gotten better and bigger (a class from Methuen High School participated this year). The purpose of the fair is to introduce students to the realities of managing one's money in a real-world simulation. Based on pre-interviews, students are placed in a job and then must visit the tables set up around the floor of the arena with each table supplying either necessities or luxuries. The large table in the middle of the room is "credit counseling" which is where many of the students end up after discovering that their income is inadequate to fund their desired lifestyle. The tables cover clothing, education, nutrition/health, luxury items, furniture, housing, insurance, savings, transportation, credit, and job skills. A "reality check" table gives students a dose of real life by confronting them with unexpected and unbudgeted situations that throw the best of budgets into disarray. This type of financial literacy training is of tremendous benefit to these high school students. (Many adults would benefit from it, as well). Jeanne d'Arc Credit Union is to be commended for the scale of its support of this effort. Not only was the arena rented and lunch provided to the students, but more than 60 employees of the credit union helped staff the tables at the event.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Sales and Foreclosure Report

At the end of each month we post a report on our website that shows a town-by-town breakdown of all properties sold during the previous month and all Orders of Notice filed during the same period. The sales reports show property address, date of recording, price and book and page number. Besides the monthly report, there is also a year-to-date version that shows the current month's sales integrated with those of all other months in the calendar year. The year-to-date reports turn into year end reports and are left on the website. They are available all the way back to the year 2000. These reports are formatted in PDF and they are created by running a query on our database. We look for all deeds but then exclude those on which the consideration is less than $60,000. The "foreclosure report" is a similar list of all orders of notice recorded for that month. It has two versions: the monthly report and the year-to-date version. These reports are usually posted on the third or fourth day of the month for the preceding month. Today, for instance (April 2), I posted the reports for March 2013. To check out our Sales and Foreclosure reports, check out this page on our website.

Monday, April 01, 2013

March document stats

The number of major documents recorded district-wide this March didn't change much from a year ago except foreclosure documents which were down substantially. Here are the numbers: Deeds were up 12% increasing from 471 in March 2012 to 526 in March 2013; Mortgages were down 3%, dropping from 1270 in March 2012 to 1235 in March 2013; Foreclosure deeds were down 87%, dropping from 47 to 6; Orders of notice were down 49%, dropping from 77 to 39. Overall documents were up 2%, rising from 5742 in March 2012 to 5842 in March 2013.