Friday, June 29, 2012
Year / Last Day of June / First 6 Months
1995 - 641 - 27597
1996 - 772 - 33831
1997 - 598 - 32968
1998 - 661 - 45129
1999 - 720 - 49321
2000 - 882 - 34386
2001 - 826 - 43852
2002 - 857 - 52839
2003 - 922 - 77665
2004 - 756 - 50278
2005 - 716 - 42221
2006 - 713 - 36929
2007 - 628 - 35074
2008 - 480 - 30515
2009 - 484 - 32896
2010 - 301 - 28291
2011 - 394 - 28185
2012 - 723 - 33104 (as of 3:30 pm)
Thursday, June 28, 2012
Back in March, many read the pointed questions and comments by various justices during the oral arguments as signalling the imminent invalidation of the law, or at least the individual mandate portion of it. Proponents it seemed re-defined victory as the preservation of all but that individual mandate which many saw as a lost cause. For that reason, today's upholding of almost all of the law including the mandate by a five to four vote came as a shock to most. Also a shock was the makeup of the five justices in the majority: it included Chief Justice Roberts who had seemed, up until this week at least, as a reliable leg of the court's conservative block.
Opponents of the law immediately forecast its downfall via the ballot box in November if not in the halls of Congress even sooner. But for now the law stands. The full decision is here and what seems, by overwhelming consensus, to be the best commentary available on the machinations of the court on this and other issues, SCOTUSBLOG, is available here.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
While the SJC did rule that the entity conducting the foreclosure must also hold the note (or must be the agent for the note holder, a big caveat explained below), the court held that since the prior law as "not unambiguous" that the new ruling would only apply prospectively which should sidestep the title disaster many predicted.
As for the holding of the note, the SJC's express allowance of the authorized agent of the note holder to conduct the foreclosure continues to permit an entity other than the actual note holder to do the foreclosure. Now, however, that other entity must be specifically authorized to act on behalf of the note holder.
A major practical question that must still be resolved (in my view) is how to establish on the record who holds the note when or who was the authorized agent of the note holder. Will the note and its endorsements now be recorded? Is an affidavit from the foreclosing entity stating it holds the note suffice? My reading of Eaton doesn't disclose answers to those types of questions. We'll watch what's being recorded in the coming weeks and report back on how the requirements of Eaton take shape in the documents presented for recording.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
It looks great.
This morning registry employees reconnected the computers and organized the room well before members of the public entered the registry.
The pictures below show the new carpet and the employees installing the computers.
Monday, June 25, 2012
Yes, the floor is very safe, but cosmetically a mess.
Fortunately, the Trail Court has decided to cover the floor with carpeting. The work will be done tonight (Monday). The plan is for the custodial staff to begin moving public computers out of the Research Room at 4:30Pm and place them in the adjacent hall.
These computers and monitors will remain on their designated tables during the entire process. This will facilitate our staff's task of putting the room back together Tuesday morning.
Friday, June 22, 2012
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled Friday in an anxiously awaited foreclosure case that a lender must have proper paperwork to foreclose upon a house but that the ruling will not affect property seizures that have already occurred.
The state’s top court ruled in the case, known as Eaton versus Federal National Mortgage Association, that has been long awaited by members of the real estate and legal community, some of whom worried it would put a cloud on thousands of property titles.
The case revolves around whether a lender had the right to foreclose upon a home without the proper paperwork. At issue were two documents borrowers sign to get a home loan --- the first a mortgage that establishes the right to seize a property and the second a promissory note that creates an obligation to pay the debt. The servicer in this case had the mortgage but not the note when it foreclosed.
The court ruled that the regulations are “not free from ambiguity,” but that the foreclosing entity must be “holding the mortgage and also either holding the mortgage note or acting on behalf of the note holder.’’
However, the court said the decision would “only to apply to foreclosures under the power of sale where statutory notice is provided after the date of this decision.”
Thursday, June 21, 2012
In our still-depressed housing market, one option sometimes available to would-be sellers who find themselves underwater on their mortgages is a short sale. While nothing in the documents recorded here at the registry of deeds expressly identify it as a short sale, there are ways of inferring that a particular transaction as such. This article attempts to gauge the frequency of short sales by scrutinizing deeds for property in Lowell recorded during May 2012. Before reaching that data, however, it would be helpful to review some of the basics of mortgage law and practice.
What is commonly referred to as a mortgage is in fact two related but very distinct transactions. By signing the promissory note (which is not recorded at the registry), the borrower enters into a contract with the lender in which the borrower agrees to repay the borrowed amount in a particular time at a certain rate of interest. By signing the mortgage (which does get recorded at the registry), the borrower conveys to the lender an interest in the real estate with that interest being the right to seize and sell the property should the buyer fail to honor the terms of the note. That seizure and sale cuts off or “forecloses” the right of the borrower to get back his interest in the property. To review, the note is a contract and the mortgage is a conveyance of real estate.
When a homeowner sells his property, he typically realizes enough money on the sale to pay the existing mortgage in full. In fact, it is the attorney for the new buyer who communicates with and pays the seller’s lender – all the seller gets at the closing is any money that is left over. Once the seller’s lender receives that pay off check, the lender produces a document called a Discharge of Mortgage that it sends to the new buyer’s attorney for recording at the registry of deeds. If the seller’s debt was not to be paid off, the buyer would not purchase the property in the first place.
The exception to this practice is a short sale. That term refers to a case in which the seller’s lender agrees to take less than the full amount owed on the promissory note to discharge the mortgage. It is only when the lender is completely convinced that the house is indeed worth less than the amount owed on the mortgage that it will agree to a short sale. And in a short sale, the lender is only agreeing to discharge the mortgage and not necessarily the underlying debt represented by the promissory note. In many short sales, the buyer remains indebted to the lender for the balance owed on the note even though the lender has released its security interest by discharging the mortgage.
With that as a very long introduction, we may now look at the various deeds recorded for property in Lowell during May 2012. Because deeds that showed no or little consideration are typically transfers within families, this study only considered deeds where the consideration was greater than $60,000. To determine whether any of these might be short sales, I looked at how the seller had become the owner of the property and the total amount of any mortgages on the property that were in existence in May 2012.
In Lowell during May 2012, there were 59 deeds recorded that listed consideration in excess of $60,000. The sellers on 13 of those 59 deeds had obtained title through foreclosing a prior mortgage. These sellers were institutional lenders (typically the buyer at a foreclosure auction is the lender conducting the foreclosure) and so none of these would be short sales.
The next group was 14 deeds that involved sales by estates or related parties. Here, it was either the executor of a decedent who was the official seller or the seller had obtained title from a related party such as a parent or spouse. In none of these cases did the seller have an outstanding mortgage that could have been the subject of a short sale.
The third group was 11 deeds that involved sales by “longtime” owners with “longtime” being defined as any seller who had obtained title to the property prior to 2000. While some of these properties did have outstanding mortgages, they were in amounts that were substantially less than the new sales price of the property meaning that the proceeds of the new sale were more than enough to pay off the old mortgage.
With these 13 foreclosures, 14 estate sales and 11 longtime owners eliminated from the pool, we were left with just 21 deeds that were potential short sales. Of these 21 deeds, 14 sold for less than the seller had paid for the property. In 11 of those 14, the May 2012 sales price was also less than the mortgage indebtedness on the property. We can therefore infer that these 11 were short sales. That means that 18% - nearly one in five – of the sales of property in Lowell in May 2012 were probably short sales.
One final note: of the 7 properties sold at a profit in May 2012, five had been purchased only in 2011 and none of them were purchased with mortgages; they were all cash deals. This suggests there may be some real estate speculation underway, a development that may deserve future scrutiny.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
I must admit, I'm hoping, but skeptical about Microsoft's foray into the computer tablet market.
Why, do I feel this way?
Remember the Zune? Actually, does anyone remember the Zune? Get my point.
But I'm hopeful and I really want Microsoft to succeed.
Why, do I feel this way?
Because Apple iPad needs some real competition to control the price and to keep product development moving forward.
So, I'm hoping and I truly believe Microsoft can regain some of the magic that made it King.
Why, do I feel that way?
I've seen Microsoft's new tablet and it looks good...and it has some really cool improvements over your typical tablet.
See what you think.
Monday, June 18, 2012
From June 1 thru June 15 in 2011, there were 201 deeds recorded; for the same two weeks in 2012 there were 266, an increase of 32%.
From June 1 thru 15 in 2011, there were 390 mortgages recorded; for the same two weeks in 2012 there were 550, an increase of 41%.
From June 1 thru 15 in 2011, there were 21 foreclosure deeds; for the same two weeks in 2012 there were 22, no change.
From June 1 thru 15 in 2011, there were 31 orders of notice; for the same two weeks in 2012 there were 34, an increase of 9%.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Hopefully this report is accurate. Certainly with interest rates so low any surge in housing activity will have ample and affordable financing. The two biggest obstacles I see locally, particularly in the city of Lowell, are the number of homes that remain underwater on their mortgages and continued foreclosure activity which, although down from a year ago, is still substantial. We'll keep close watch on the numbers here in Middlesex North for early indicators of an uptick in activity and in prices.
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
MIT Financial Group v Palmer (US District Court) involved a suit on a promissory note with a counterclaim under MGL c.93A that the note violated the state’s Predatory Home Loan Practices Act. The note in question was of relatively short duration with a balloon payment at the end. Because the amount of the balloon payment, when averaged with the ordinary monthly payments, caused the average monthly payment to exceed a certain percentage of the borrower’s income (and ability to pay), the loan was deemed to be a “high cost home mortgage loan” under the Predatory Home Loan statute. For such a note to be valid and enforceable, the borrower in advance of the loan was required to receive documented credit counseling from an approved agency. This the borrower did not do. As a result, the loan was void and the lender (an entity not normally in the business of making home loans) was liable under the state’s Consumer Protection law.
US Bank v Twomey (Superior Court) This case involved the viability of a mortgage that was erroneously discharged by the lender. The plaintiff filed suit to reinstate the mortgage which it claimed had been discharged as the result of a scrivener’s error. The defendant/borrower, an attorney with 15 years experience in residential closings, claimed that the mortgage had been discharged and could not be reinstated. The court ruled for the lender noting that the defendant never claimed that the mortgage had been paid and that the defendant had in several ways acknowledged the existence of the mortgage. The court made note of the fact that the defendant and her family had continued living in the house for more than two years while this litigation was pending without making a single payment on the $650,000 mortgage and while spending substantial sums on a second home, luxury cars, and private school tuitions.
Several other cases appear to have been brought by borrowers who lost their homes to foreclosure and who asserted a variety of claims of defects in documentation and procedure. None of the issues in these cases appeared to be particularly noteworthy. Instead, their presence on the docket of the appellate court seemed to have more to do with the persistence of the homeowners/borrowers rather than the relative merits of the defenses. Such cases appear to be the inevitable by-product of the thousands of foreclosures that have been conducted over the past few years. Undoubtedly there will be more of this kind to follow.
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Billerica - median price $259,950 - change -6.93%
Carlisle - median price $479,000 - no change
Chelmsford - median price $309,950 - change +3.32%
Dracut - median price $224,700 - change +2.6%
Dunstable - median price $340,000 - no change
Lowell - median price $175,000 - change +8.02%
Tewksbury - median price $264,900 - change -9.90%
Tyngsborough - median price $255,300 - change -13.46%
Westford - median price $400,000 - change -2.44%
Wilmington - median price $330,000 - change +8.64%
Monday, June 11, 2012
A factor not mentioned in the story that may be contributing to this decline in home ownership could be shifting societal attitudes towards housing. Some observers suggest the age of suburbia is over; that the benefits of a big house and a big lawn in a suburb are fading due to the need to drive everywhere and the sense of disconnectedness that results. Urban living with its close proximity to social, cultural and entertainment opportunities is becoming more attractive.
But for those young people who want to own a home, be it a suburban single family or an urban condo, it would seem to be the perfect time to plunge into the market. Interest rates are incredibly low and with so many current homeowners trapped by underwater mortgages, the universe of buyers is small, giving someone in the market for a home considerable leverage. The hold up, I think, is the perception (which is also the unfortunate reality) that home prices are still falling. Why buy now if you're convinced the home will lose 10% of its value during the next year? Why not wait until the market hits bottom to get in? Convincing folks that the housing market has hit bottom and is about to rebound would help make that a reality.
Friday, June 08, 2012
While county government went away, the counties continued to exist as geographic boundaries and some offices that had always been part of county government, the registry of deeds and the sheriff in particular, were transferred to the Secretary of State's Office and the Department of Corrections. The counties that were dissolved were Berkshire, Essex, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, Middlesex, Suffolk and Worcester.
Some counties were in much better fiscal shape and so they survived intact and continue to exist today. There are Barnstable, Bristol, Dukes, Nantucket, Norfolk and Plymouth. (I'm not sure why, but the survivors were all from the southeast part of Massachusetts). Because much of the funding that keeps these counties in operation come from their registries of deeds, the ongoing real estate slump has put some of these counties in precarious financial straits so there has been some speculation about their life expectancy.
Another "threat" to the continuation of county government has arisen in the town of Brookline which is part of Norfolk County. Besides registry of deeds fees, a big part of county revenue comes from an assessment on the towns and cities in the county, an assessment that's based on the value of real estate in the community. The town of Brookline, because it's real estate is so expensive, pays a substantial assessment to the county but some in the town are now asking not only what they get in return but also why shouldn't they secede from the county. An editorial in today's Globe comes down in favor of the secessionists.
Whatever the merits to this proposal, one practical obstacle to its implementation may be found in the records of the registry of deeds. Three hundred plus years of the land records of each community are deeply embedded in the record books of the registry of deeds, whether they are on paper or electronic. And there's no easy way to extract them. So a before any one community departs from a county, one important and practical question that must be resolved is what is to happen to that community's land records, past, present and future. If the effort of Brookline proceeds, we'll be monitoring that question quite closely.
Thursday, June 07, 2012
Never, I said.
Then yesterday I was half-paying attention to some boring TV show that deserved to be half-paid attention to, when I saw two guys being interviewed about, you guessed it... Airtime.
What the heck...am I out of the loop or something?
The screen scrolled the names of the two interviewees...Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning. Parker is/was the president of Facebook and Shawn Fanning the developer of Napster.
OK these two guys are big timers in the social media world. This Airtime thing has got to be worth checking out, I thought.
So this morning I googled "Airtime" and here is what I found out.
Airtime is associated with or a division of Facebook, I think. You even use your Facebook login to access it. From what I can gather, it is kind of Facebook by video.
AllThingsD says this about Airtime: The service matches Facebook users with both their friends and strangers with common interests for video chats. Facial-detection software helps the app identify when no actual faces are on screen, and will have eBay-like user rankings to filter out miscreants.
Here is a video showing Airtime founders Parker and Fanning talking about their new release:
Wednesday, June 06, 2012
The exact cost in lives of D-Day is tough to calculate because of the scale and sophistication of the operation. Here is one account of US casualties that day:
The breakdown of US casualties was 1465 dead, 3184 wounded, 1928 missing and 26 captured. Of the total US figure, 2499 casualties were from the US airborne troops (238 of them being deaths). The casualties at Utah Beach were relatively light: 197, including 60 missing. However, the US 1st and 29th Divisions together suffered around 2000 casualties at Omaha Beach.So please take a moment today to pause and remember all those who were lost as well as all who participated in D-Day on June 6, 1944.
Tuesday, June 05, 2012
Back in the early 1960's Corning developed a "chemically strengthened glass" known as Gorilla Glass. After development Corning found one major problem with its new tough glass, there was no practical use for it. The company put the produced in the closet for almost forty years before lightening struck (BTW, I mean this figuratively).
The first prototype of the Apple iPhone had a screen made of a tough plastic. It looked good and it worked well, but it scratched easily. Somehow, someway Steve Jobs found out about Corning's "uselss" Gorilla Glass. He contacted Corning CEO Wendell Weeks and explained his problem. Weeks and Jobs agreed that Gorilla Glass would be the perfect material to use for the iPhone screen.
That was six years ago and the rest is history, as they say.
Now Corning is at it again...this time the company has developed a product called "Willow Glass". Willow Glass "is as thin and as flexible as a sheet of paper that can be printed on rolls just like a newspaper" (FoxNews).
Interesting, but why do we need flexible glass? Is Willow Glass headed for Corning's attic for forty years like Gorilla Glass?
Corning doesn't think so...check out this video.
Monday, June 04, 2012
Most of the mortgages being foreclosed were executed in the years just before the 2007 collapse of the global financial system. The following is the distribution of the year of origin of these 24 new foreclosures with the year followed by the number of mortgages from that year involved in foreclosure proceedings in May 2012:
- 1996 - 1
- 1997 - 1
- 2002 - 1
- 2003 - 1
- 2004 - 1
- 2005 - 5
- 2006 - 5
- 2007 - 8
- 2010 - 1
- ABN Amro - 1
- American Heritage Lending - 1
- Americquest - 2
- Bank of America - 1
- Chase Home Financial - 1
- Countrywide Home Loans - 2
- Fleet Mortgage - 1
- Financial Freedom Funding - 1
- Greenpoint Mortgage - 1
- IndyMac Bank - 1
- Loansnap.com - 1
- Merrimack Mortgage - 2
- National City - 1
- Ohio Savings Bank - 1
- propertymortgage.com - 1
- Republic Bank - 1
- USAA Veterans Bank - 1
- Washington Mutual - 1
- Wells Fargo - 1
Friday, June 01, 2012
- Deeds were up 20%, with 510 in May 2012 vs 424 in May 2011;
- Mortgages were up 65%, with 1223 in May 2012 vs 743 in May 2011;
- Foreclosure deeds were down 34%, with 29 in May 2012 vs 44 in May 2011;
- Orders of Notice were down 20%, with 57 in May 2012 vs 71 in May 2011.
- Deeds were down 8%, with 109 in May 2012 vs 119 in May 2011;
- Mortgages were up 43%, with 224 in May 2012 vs 157 in May 2011;
- Foreclosure deeds were down 43%, with 13 in May 2012 vs 23 in May 2011;
- Orders of Notice were down 14%, with 24 in May 2012 vs 28 in May 2011.
- Deeds were up 31%, with 401 in May 2012 vs 305 in May 2011;
- Mortgages were up 70%, with 999 in May 2012 vs 586 in May 2011;
- Foreclosure deeds were down 24%, with 16 in May 2012 vs 21 in May 2011;
- Orders of Notice were down 23%, with 33 in May 2012 vs 43 in May 2011.