Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sunday's Comcast internet outage

Sunday night as I settled in to watch the Chargers beat the Colts, I booted up my home computer to do some stuff online and was stunned to be met by an error message saying that my internet service was inoperable. I did the usual drill of unplugging the modem, waiting a few minutes, and then plugging it in again. All the lights came back on showing green, but still no internet. I then pulled out a recent Comcast bill - that's my internet service provider - and tried a couple of the 1-800 phone numbers. Any time I call a company's help desk, I'm prepared for a long wait, but Sunday night all I got was busy signals. Very frustrating.

Reaching for my cell phone, I decided to post mildly critical complaints about Comcast's lack of customer service on both Facebook and Twitter. As soon as I got to Twitter, however, I immediately noticed a steady stream of Tweets from Comcast users up and down the East Coast sharing their stories of internet-less woe. I immediately felt better, relieved the problem was "not at my end." Twitter's value also rose in my estimation. In times of breaking news, it once again showed it's the place for the latest and best information.

Comcast's problem was a failure of its DNS servers. An article on boston.com from yesterday does a good job of explaining what that means, so I leave you the link in case you want to read more.

Monday, November 29, 2010

History of Courthouse Slide Show

This video was put together by Register of Deeds Richard Howe, Jr. It gives a brief history of the Lowell Superior Courthouse and shows some of the wonderful architectural features of the building.

Friday, November 26, 2010

"No title exam requested or performed"

This morning I found an email from a registry customer asking about the significance of language in a deed that said "No title exam requested or performed." My experience has been that some attorneys, when retained to draft a new deed, add such language to that deed, presumably to make clear that any issues related to the title of the property were not missed or ignored by the attorney. I know of no requirement that such language be added, nor any benefit of adding it. I suspect some attorneys add it routinely, others might only add it in situations where they know there are problems with the property and are trying to avoid becoming ensnared in (i.e., "blamed for") subsequent efforts to fix the problem.

While most who deal with real estate regularly attribute any added significance to deeds containing such language, it seems that a lay person viewing such a deed might find the language to be of concern.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Talkin Turkey

Turkey Facts...

The wild turkey is native to Northern Mexico and the Eastern United States.

Ben Franklin thought the North American wild turkey should be the national bird (rather than the Bald Eagle) .

Most of the turkeys raised on turkey farms are White Hollands. They do not fly.

Adult turkeys can have 3,500 feathers. Most turkey feathers are composted. Feathers are spread out on fields, then plowed under in the spring. The feathers decompose and fertilize the soil.

Wild turkeys spend the night in trees. They roost (perch) on the branches.

Turkeys’ heads change colors when they become excited.

The male turkey is called a tom or gobbler. The female turkey is called a hen. Baby turkeys are called poults.

A turkey has 157 bones!

A spooked turkey can run at speeds up to 20 miles per hour. They can also burst into flight approaching speeds between 50-55 mph in a matter of seconds.

A wild turkey has excellent vision and hearing. Their field of vision is about 270 degrees.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

November stats - 3 weeks in

Recording statistics for October 2010 when compared to October 2009 showed positive trends in both a reduced number of foreclosures and a substantial increase in new mortgages. In November, I've been calculating these same statistics weekly to help determine whether October was an isolated upward blip in an otherwise dismal year or whether it was the start of a positive trend.

Three weeks into November, the news continues to be good. The number of mortgage recorded is up 54% from the same time in 2009 and the number of orders of notice, the document that marks the start of the foreclosure process, is down by 61%. Both are good pieces of news. Check back next week to get the end of November stats.

Monday, November 22, 2010

New Handicapped Access Ramp at Registry of Deeds

Over the weekend a new handicapped access ramp was installed on the front entrance of the Middlesex Superior Courthouse on Gorham Street in Lowell. Construction of the ramp is part of the on-going elevator project at the courthouse.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A decline in foreclosures?

Last month the number of foreclosure deeds recorded declined 29% and orders of notice declined 23% when compared with October 2009, making October the first month in 2010 that both those document categories saw a decline in the same month. That trend continued through the first half of November, with foreclosure deeds dropping 26% and orders of notice down 63% from the same two weeks last year.

Today, the New York Times reports that the number of mortgages that are "seriously delinquent" (i.e., more than three months behind) fell from 14.4% of all mortgages in the second quarter to 13.5% in the third quarter (July-August-September). This newspaper report tends to corroborate what we're seeing, but since this decline has been characterized by many up and down blips on the statistical meter, it's still too early to make any long-range predictions; still, it's a good sign.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Big changes coming to Homestead Law

Senate Bill 2406 has made its way through both houses of the legislature and is heading to the Governor's desk for signature. This bill makes some much needed changes to Massachusetts Homestead law. It's a radical change in a very good way. Here are some of the highlights:

All homeowners will receive an automatic homestead exemption of $125,000 without having to do a thing. Homeowners may also obtain a "declared homestead exemption" of $500,000 by filing a written declaration at the registry of deeds. Any existing homesteads will automatically be considered "declared homestead exemptions" under this new law. The "elderly and disabled" homestead will still exist as a separate section. On my first reading of this bill, I believe it expressly allows each co-owner with an elderly homestead to use the full exemption whereas with the "declared" homestead for those under the age of 62, the exemption must be apportioned among all the co-owners.

The homestead form itself will have to change. The new law requires the homestead to identify each co-owner to benefit from the homestead (plus the owner's "non-titled spouse"), the declaration shall state under the penalties of perjury that each person so named intends to occupy the home as their principal residence, in the case of spouses who both live in the house, both must sign the homestead. The new law specifically allows homesteads to be declared on property held in trust (in which case the trustee would be the only one to sign).

The new law also clears up the long-lingering question of whether you must file a new homestead after you refinance. The answer is unequivocally NO. In fact, lenders are specifically prohibited from having borrowers sign anything that waives or releases a homestead as a condition of the mortgage since that's what this bill accomplishes. Also, the bill requires all closing attorneys to notify clients in writing with a signed receipt of the availability of the "declared homestead."

The bill is quite comprehensive but that's enough for now. I'll try to ascertain when it might be signed into law. For now, here's the full text of the amended bill.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Beatles Finally on iTunes

The Beatles have finally agreed to allow iTunes to sell their music.
But, there's history here... I mean a lot of history.
Bad blood has existed between the worlds most famous rock band and Apple computer since 1978.


In 1968 the Beatles formed their own record label and named it "Apple Records".
Eight years later in 1976 Steve Jobs and Steve Wozinak formed a personal computer company called "Apple Computer".
I'll bet you can see where this is going.
Apple Records...Apple Computer.
Sounds like a problem, right?...The Beatles thought so too.

In 1978 attorneys for the Fab Four filed a lawsuit against Apple (computer that is) claiming trademark infringement.
And guess what...the Beatles won. As part of the settlement Apple Computer agreed to never, ever, ever enter the music business. Hey, at the time this was an easy one. Could you envision Steve Jobs with mop-top hair singing yeah, yeah yeah.

But Apple Computer was thinking short term back then.
In 1986 Apple added audio recording software to its computers and the Beatles sued again claiming the addition violated the terms of the prior agreement which barred Apple Computer from never, ever, ever entering the music business.
The Beatles won again.

And in 1991 there was yet another suit filed between the two. When this was settled the Beatles allowed Apple Computer to sell devices which "created music", but Apple Computer agreed not to "distribute music".

I know what you are thinking and you're right.
Enter iTunes.

In 2003 Steve Jobs inflicted "the most unkindest cut of all" to the Beatles.
Apple Computer introduced the world to its highly successful "music distribution" company, iTunes...and as expected the Beatles went wild.

The iTunes lawsuit continued for four years with both parties winning partial victories within various areas of the law.
Ultimately, this lawsuit brought the major settlement that paved the way for the Beatles to become available on iTunes.

In 2007 in the settlement of the iTunes lawsuit, Apple Records and Apple Computer agreed that Apple Computer will own all trademarks related to the name "Apple" but it will license back to Apple Records certain trademarks that are needed for its London based recording business to continue.

I told you there was a lot of bad blood between the Beatles and Apple...
Its great to finally see that end.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Globe reports on foreclosure process

Today's Globe has a front page story about the many foreclosure auctions taking place around the state these days. What's interesting about the article is not the stats - they are always difficult to put in the proper context - but the explanation and illustration of the way that foreclosure auctions have an impact on many lives - owners, tenants, neighbors, the entire community. The foreclosure process in Massachusetts is complex and conducted in a way that is neither logical nor easily understood by those not well versed in the law.

Several years ago I composed a Fact Sheet that sought to explain the foreclosure process; it's available here for anyone who is interested.

Monday, November 15, 2010

"My" Suggested NFL Rule Changes

What a great win over the Pittsburgh Steelers last night for the New England Patriots.
But you know me and my wandering mind...while watching the game I kept thinking of changes that would improve professional football...so I came up with five rule changes I think should be instituted immediately by the National Football League.

Rule Change One: The NFL should require each player to have an official "nickname". That nickname must be displayed on the back of their jersey rather than the players last name. Take Randy Moss, he could be "Problem Child".

Rule Change Two: In the NFL a play ends when the player with the ball is knocked "down", hence we call it a "down'. So I think, when the player with the ball is NOT knocked down and makes it to the end zone it should be called an "up" as a opposed to a "touchdown".

Rule Change Three: The whimsical toss of a coin to decide which team will receive the ball at the beginning of the game, should be replaced by a football trivia question.
NFL Official: Mr Brady, what is the name of the first team to win back to back Super Bowls?
Tom Brady: Green Bay
NFL Official: Correct, would you like to receive or punt the ball?

Rule Change Four: The NFL needs to change its scoring system.
Here are my recommendations...
Touchdown: 8 points
Point(s) After TD: Its stupid...eliminate it.
Field Goal: 4 points but, a team can only attempt a Field Goal if the line of scrimmage is the 30 yard line or further.
Safety: 8 points...Why? we should call these touchdowns not safeties. If a player tackles an opponent in his end zone, it should be considered a touchdown for his (the defensive) team.

Rule Change Five: Lets go back to the old days. If a night game is played on the West Coast it starts at prime time on the West Coast or around 1o:30 PM our time. If a night game is played on the East Cost it starts at prime time on the East Coast or around 7:30 PM our time. Who cares about the national audience!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Full text of "National Lumber" law

For several years I've been writing about a decision of the Massachusetts Appeals Court in a case commonly referred to as "National Lumber." In that case, the court held that a document was deemed to be recorded when it physically came into the custody of the registry of deeds. In that case, a mechanics lien received by Fedex was not recorded for a considerable length of time while a mortgage that was executed after the lien got on record before the lien. The court gave priority to the lien. This amendment to Chapter 36 now defines being "on record" more clearly. Here's the full text:

SECTION 1. Chapter 36 of the General Laws is hereby amended by striking out section 14, as appearing in the 2008 Official Edition, and inserting in place thereof the following section:

Section 14. Each register shall keep a record, in book or electronic form, into which the register shall enter recording information for all instruments accepted for record, in the order in which they are recorded. Upon recording of an instrument, the following information shall be entered into the record: the day, hour and minute when the register assigns an instrument number, or book and page number, as the case may be; the instrument number, or book and page number, so assigned; the names of the grantors and grantees in the instrument; and the city or town in which the land lies.

No instrument received by the register shall be considered recorded until the register assigns to the instrument an instrument number, or book and page number, as the case may be.

Any change or correction made to the record shall be accessible to the public in the particular registry district in which the affected land lies. Such change or correction shall be maintained by the register as part of the record for public inspection during registry business hours at each office in the registry district. Any change or correction to the record shall document the nature and date of the change or correction.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Registry Holiday Schedule

Tomorrow (November 11) is Veterans Day so the registry will be closed. I thought this might also be a good time to review our holiday schedule for the rest of the year. Thursday, November 25 is Thanksgiving so we're closed that day. We will be open our regular hours on the Wednesday before and the Friday after. Christmas and New Year both fall on Saturdays this year, so we won't have any additional closings on account of those two days. State law says that if the holiday falls on a Saturday, there is no additional closing day although employees receive a floating holiday; but if the holiday falls on a Sunday, state offices are closed on Monday which will be the case in 2011.

The city of Lowell will observe Veterans Day with a speaking program at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium on Thursday, November 11 at 10 am followed by a wreath laying outside the auditorium at 11 am. No matter where you live, be sure to take a moment tomorrow and do something to honor America's veterans.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Defective Acknowledgements

The November 8, 2010 issue of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly reports on a bankruptcy case (In re Bower, Case No. 10-10993-WCH) in which the judge allowed the bankruptcy trustee to avoid a previously recorded mortgage on the grounds that the acknowledgement clause of the mortgage had omitted the name of the person signing the document - that being the debtor in the bankruptcy case. The judge reasoned that this omission caused the mortgage to be void and that because the bankruptcy trustee had the same rights as a bona fide purchaser for value, it made no difference that the trustee had actual knowledge of the mortgage - it simply was not binding on him.

The idea that the omitted name voids the mortgage is not new. We wrote about that here back in June 2009. Allowing the bankruptcy trustee to ignore the mortgage entirely seems to take the concept a step farther.

Monday, November 08, 2010


Does the world really need another Internet Browser?
Eric Vishria and Tim Howes think so...These two men developed a new browser named RockMelt which was just released in beta form this morning.
You know me, I couldn't resist. I took a look at the new home page of RockMelt as soon as it was released. I think it looks an awful like Google's browser, Chrome.
Most everyone thinks RockMelt will have a tough time grabbing market share from established browsers like Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari.
But the founders of RockMelt, Eric Vishria and Tim Howes feel "the current all purpose browsers don't reflect most people's actual usage patterns" PC Mag.

"At RockMelt we are reinventing the browser for the way people use the Web today," said Howes. "We think this has changed dramatically from the way people used it just a few short years ago. But all the browsers available today, although they've gotten a lot faster are still just about navigating web pages. We built features into the browser to address people's three top browsing behaviors: interacting with friends, consume news and information, and searching." (PC Mag)

On the left hand side-bar is a list of your contacts with an indication if they're online at the time. If so you can easily chat with them, send them photos or send them videos. Truthfully, I love this feature.

On the right hand side-bar is a list of some of the more popular social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter. RockMelt allows you to easily share browsing information directly to these sites.

Below is the just released video introducing RockMelt to the world. Check it out.

Friday, November 05, 2010

A Surge in Refinancings

October saw a substantial increase in the number of mortgages recorded in the Middlesex North District. For the ten communities in the district (Billerica, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Dracut, Dunstable, Lowell, Tewksbury, Tyngsborough, Westford and Wilmington), there were 1508 mortgages recorded in October 2010, a 37% increase from the 1101 recorded in October 2009. Because only 447 deeds were recorded during October 2010, it is reasonable to conclude that at least two-thirds of the new mortgages were the result of homeowners refinancing their existing loans to take advantage of the historically low interest rates now available.

Unfortunately, this mini-boom in refinancing is not distributed evenly across the district but is instead a suburban-based phenomenon. While the district-wide increase in mortgage recordings from October 2009 to October 2010 was 37%, the increase in the city of Lowell was only 9% while the nine towns in the district saw a 45% increase. Westford had the largest percentage increase, rising from 128 mortgages recorded in October 2009 to 205 in October 2010, a 60% jump. Tyngsborough had a 47% increase, from 55 to 81; Billerica rose 43%, from 151 to 216; Chelmsford increased 42%, from 142 to 201; and Tewksbury climbed 29%, from 129 to 167. Dracut was the only town that had a rate of increase – 13% - which can be attributed, in part, to the relatively high rate of foreclosures still being seen in Dracut.

The entities making these new loans are quite diverse although some of the big national lenders retain a large share of the market. Of the October 2010 suburban mortgages, Bank of America was most active with 76, followed by Wells Fargo with 61 and Leader Bank with 42. Local banks were also quite active during this October: Jeanne d’Arc Credit Union had 35 suburban mortgages; Enterprise Bank and Trust had 25; Lowell Five Cent Savings had 15 as did Washington Savings Bank and Lowell Cooperative Bank had 12.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Elevator Update

Each week, the under-construction elevator affixed to the side of the Superior Courthouse grows higher. The photo above was taken earlier this week. The original schedule called for the elevator to be operational this December, but it seems that it will be later than that. I understand that the builder is petitioning the state to switch from evening work to day time work due to the cold temperatures. The evening work requirement was imposed to allow trials to continue uninterrupted in the courtroom that is adjacent to the new elevator enclosure. Whatever happens, I assume it will have little impact on registry operations.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Robonauts in Space

Yesterday, I read that NASA is planning a mission to the moon, again...only this time it will be captained by a machine or more politely, a robot....they're calling these futuristic star-ship commanders, Robonauts.

Wow, space travel has changed so much since I was a kid...and I'm sure it will change even more as NASA continues to replace human Astronauts with machine Robonauts. It makes me wonder though, just "how" will it change...

I wonder will Hollywood make a movie starring Ed Harris and Sam Shepard called The Right Parts?

And I wonder if someday a Robonuat will land on Jupiter and say "this is one small step for a machine and one giant leap for Machinery."?

Yeah, I wonder...

I wonder, if the government will change the name of Cape Canaveral to Cape Torque?

I wonder, will NASA have a Yard Sale to get rid of all those big puff suits and round helmets?

I wonder, will Robonauts travel into space in "sockets" instead of "rockets"?

Yeah, I wonder...

I wonder, will the International Space Station be replaced by the International Jiffy Lube?

I wonder, will C-3PO someday become a US Senator and run for President of the United States.

I wonder, I really do.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

October recording statistics

The big news in October was a substantial decline in foreclosure activity compared to the same month last year. In Lowell during October 2010, there were 44 Orders of Notice and 22 Foreclosure Deeds compared to 55 Orders of Notice and 29 Foreclosure Deeds in October 2009, a 20% drop in Orders of Notice and a 24% drop in Foreclosure Deeds. In the nine towns in the Middlesex North District, the drop was even more pronounced with Orders of Notice falling 26%, from 62 in October 2009 to 46 in October 2010 and Foreclosure Deeds dripping 35%, from 20 in October 2009 to 13 in October 2010.

Unfortunately, because of higher numbers of foreclosures earlier this year, the 2010 figures to date still show a marked increase in foreclosures compared to the first ten months of 2009. For example, from January through October in the towns, Orders of Notice recorded rose 81% from 305 in 2009 to 553 in 2010 and Foreclosure Deeds rose even more, climbing 99% from 123 in 2009 to 245 in 2010. The rate of increase in Lowell was less dramatic: Orders of Notice increased 51%, rising from 335 in 2009 to 510 in 2010 and foreclosure deeds were up 49%, from 207 in 2009 to 308 in 2010.

Despite this year-to-date increase, we should remember that foreclosures don't run on a calendar basis; they happen when they happen. The fact that this October shows a marked decline from last October is a positive sign, especially since the document recordings measured here would not reflect the temporary freeze in foreclosure activity that had been instituted (and now un-instituted) by some major lenders.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Recording Counter Rotation

This morning we began rotating our recording and scanners terminals. We plan on alternating the use of our three stations on a weekly basis. Each terminal will be shut down for one week at a time. The purpose of the procedure is to ensure that all three terminals are capable of being employed at any given time without problem. So the next time you come in to record be prepared for a little different look.