Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What Do Gawker and Gizmodo Have in Common

      As you know the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds reduced its hours of operation on Monday and Tuesday of this week due to Hurricane Sandy. Fortunately, we are back up and running with normal business hours. Obviously, the registry was just one of many, many operations along the East Coast whose services were interrupted doing the two day storm.

     According to an article in this morning's New York Times the meg-storm knocked out a few of the country's most popular websites. Sandy darkened "Gawker", "Jezebel", "Gizmodo", "The Huffington Post" and "Buzzfeed".

     Shortly after hurricane winds hit land Monday all of these frequently visited sites went down.

     Why would these frequently visited sites be crippled at approximately the same time?

     Simple...these websites all share the same hosting company called Datagram...and Datagram is located in Lower Manhattan.  And we all know Sandy caused major damage in New York knocking out power in wide spread areas
     As you would expect, Datagram has backup generators that are used during emergencies that cause loss of power. But Hurricane Sandy flooded Datagram's generator room killing this alternative source of power also.

    A few minutes ago (October 31, 10:15AM) I visited Gawker, Gizmodo and Jezebel and this is the message posted on the front pages of these websites:

Our New York City data center is still offline thanks to Hurricane Sandy.
We are working as quickly as possible to restore the full site.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Registry & Courthouse to open at noon

In accordance with the Trial Court's decision yesterday morning that all courts would close at noon yesterday and reopen at noon today, the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds will be open for business at noon.  Before leaving last night, we completely shut down all servers to prevent damage in the event of an extended power outage.  We came in today at 10 am to assess the situation.  The building has power and all the computers and servers have been brought online.  There were only three efiles waiting for us, so we've already processing them.  Given the number of phone calls inquiring of our status that we've already received this morning, I expect a surge of customers right at noon today. 

It looks like Lowell and Greater Lowell escaped the storm with relatively little damage although thousands of people are without power with no estimate of when it will be returned.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Registry closing at noon today

The Trial Court just announced that due to Hurricane Sandy, all courts in Massachusetts will close today at noon and will remain closed until noon tomorrow.  Because the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds is located within the Middlesex Superior Court, we must close when the courts close so we, too, will close at noon today and will reopen tomorrow at noon barring any unforeseen circumstances.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Only As Old As You Feel

This morning someone told me that Bill Wyman, base guitarist for the Rolling Stones turned 76 yesterday. Yikes...that makes me feel old, but it also got me thinking, so I started checking the ages of some other well known celebs. Be prepared, some of this might shock you.

Sean (Bond, James Bond) Connery is 82 years old.

Clint (Dirty Harry) Eastwood: 82 years old.

Alex (Jeopary) Trebeck: 72 years old. 

William (Star Trek) Shatner: 81 years old

Jimmy (President) Carter:  88 years old

Nancy (First Lady) Regan: 91 years old

Joan (Comedian) Rivers: is 79 years old

Barbara (Reporter) Walters: 83 years old

Chuck (Texas Ranger) Norris: is 72 years old

Willie (CW Singer) Nelson:  79 years old

Diane (Actress) Keating: 66 years old

Sally (Flying Nun) Field: is 65 years old

Harrison (Hans Solo) Ford: is 70 years old

Steven (ET) Spielberg:  66 years old

Carl (Red Sox) Yastrzemski: is 73 years old

Babe (Boston Patriot) Parilli: 82 years old

Bill (Boston Celtic) Russell: is 78 years old

Ringo (Beatle) Starr: is 72 years old

Dion (& the Belmonts) DiMucci: is 73 years old

And Me, Tony Accardi (Assistant Register of Deeds) is 61 years old.

But're only as old as you feel.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

US Dept of Justice sues Bank of America

The US Department of Justice filed suit earlier this week seeking $1 billion in damages from Bank of America as successor to Countrywide, which is alleged to have fraudulently sold defective mortgages to the government backed entities, Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac.  The core of the claim is that Countrywide dispensed with all reasonable underwriting standards in order to originate as many loans as possible and then sold those loans to Fannie and Freddy by deceptively asserting that the mortgages were of high quality. 

Most, I suspect, will look at this new claim with skepticism, not because of an absence of wrong doing but because of an abundance of wrong doing that has escaped prosecution or even close scrutiny in the years since the collapse occurred.

A full account of the claim is available on the New York Times website.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tropical cyclone Sandy approaches

Next Tuesday is the anniversary of the Halloween 2011 storm that devastated New England with downed trees and lengthy power outages.  Loss of electricity closed the registry of deeds for two days (and many of our staff were without power at home for five days).  That experience caused me to pay much closer attention to a recent blog post by Matt Noyes, the New England Cable News weather person about the possibility of New England being struck by Sandy, a "tropical cyclone" now located near Jamaica.

While Noyes reminds us that forecasts are just informed predictions, he does explain how a number of factors make it increasingly likely that this powerful storm will strike us Sunday night and continue on through Tuesday.  While there might not be the heavy wet snow that brought down so many trees last October, this storm will bring high seas, heavy winds and much rain.  Noyes advises folks who need to be prepared for such events (i.e., those with boats still in the water on the Cape) to begin making preparations now just in case.  Here's the weather person's conclusion:

In summary, it's quite likely New England will feel impact from this storm - the questions focus on just how severe those impacts will be, but given that the potential for significant and severe damage, especially to coastal communities, does exist, it would be irresponsible for me not to give full disclosure for those who need a few days of preparation time.  Yours Truly is hoping we can back down and call of the dogs on this one, but at this point, I simply can't say that's the case.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

iPad Mini

 At High Noon today, Apple Inc will stand toe to toe with Google, the maker of the Nexus tablet, look it straight in the eye and announce the iPad Mini. This announcement is sure to begin a show-down unlike no other since Will Kane and Frank Miller faced each other on a dusty street in  Hadleyville, New Mexico.
Interestingly enough, no official name has been released yet for the iPad Mini". Experts are calling it iPad Mini, but who knows Apple could call its new device..."little iPad" or "son of iPad" or maybe"teenie weenie iPad", smurf iPad, petite iPad....OK enough, I could go on with this forever.

Anyway, back to the iPad Mini (that's what I'll call it for now)...

It seems Apple believes its new, smaller tablet will be perfect for students. Because of this many speculate Apple will also announce a new iBook store with more "textbook-like" features. The late Apple CEO Steve Jobs established a policy several years ago that supports this assumption. Jobs, looking toward the future, began selling Apple products at a discounted price to, very smart.

But the price of the iPad Mini is really the key...If it hits the market under $200 it will be fabulously successful, but that seems unlikely. Apple is not the richest company in the world because it sells its products cheap. Most observers speculate the Mini will sell from $300-$350, which puts it in a tough market range, but Apple usually wins tough fights.     

Monday, October 22, 2012

Lowell sales prices

I scrolled through the deeds recorded for property in Lowell for the first three weeks of October 2012 and compared the sales price on those that appeared to be arms' length transactions with the previous sale of that same property.  I excluded cases where the previous sale was before 2000 and also excluded all in which either the current or former sale was for $1 or something like that.  I also excluded those in which the previous sale was a foreclosure.  Here is what I found:

Lawrence St (condo) - $134,900.  Previous sale in Dec 2000 - $106,000
Bachelder St - $94,900.  Previous sale in July 2005 - $200,000
East Meadow Rd (condo) - $93,000. Previous sale in Nov 2004 - $142,000
Rockdale Ave - $85,000. Previous sale in Sept 2011 - $41,500
Havilah St - $256,000. Previous sale in Sept 2011 - $415,000
Weed St (condo) - $187,500. Previous sale in Aug 2002 - $224,450
Belle Ave - $225,000. Previous sale in Feb 2001 - $98,750
Westview Rd - $194,000. Previous sale in Sept 2007 - $208,000
Middlesex St (condo) - $140,000. Previous sale in Aug 2005 - $165,000
Jackson St (condo) - $141,000. Previous sale in Oct 2007 - $183,900
Central St (condo) - $113,500. Previous sale in May 2001 - $49,400
Sixth Ave - $270,000. Previous sale in July 2012 - $158,699

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Release of interest in trust as taxable event

Here's a sanitized version of a document that was presented to us for recording a few days ago:

In consideration of $30,000 received, I hereby relinquish my rights in the property located at 360 Gorham Street, Lowell deeded as "The Gorham Realty Trust" to John Doe.

It was signed and notarized and there was a trust by that name previously recorded here.  We ended up calling the document a "release" which incurred a $75 recording fee, but we also charged a deeds excise tax on it since it was the sale of an interest in property.  Based on the $30,000 consideration stated, the tax was $136.80. 

While tax stamps are almost always generated as a consequence of a deed being recorded, this is an example of how tax stamps can arise with other documents.  One that happens occasionally is with an easement that's granted for consideration.  We have also had cases of customers purchasing tax stamps without recording any document.  In such a case, the person purchasing the stamp was handling the sale of an interest, typically in a trust, but did not wish the document that memorialized the sale to be recorded, but recording the document is not what imposes tax liability; that comes with the sale of the asset regardless of recording. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


At 7:20 p.m. last evening, the region experienced a 4.5 level earthquake that was centered in southern Maine.  Other than one or two cracked foundations in New Hampshire, I haven't heard of any tangible damage from the event.  However, many people in Greater Lowell felt it.  Some described it as an aircraft flying low overhead; others as a heavy truck rolling down the street; still others as a tree falling or workers doing roof repairs.  Despite the lack of any damage, it also got many people thinking about preparations for that kind of event which is something we don't think about as often as we should.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mid-Month Statistics for October

Now that October is half over, let's look at the recording stats for the first two weeks and compare them to those from a year ago.

In the first two weeks of October 2011, there were 186 deeds recorded.  For the same period in 2012, there were 193, an increase of 4%.

In the first two weeks of October 2011, there were 510 mortgages recorded.  For the same period in 2012, there were 678, an increase of 33%.

In the first two weeks of October 2011, there were 13 foreclosure deeds recorded.  For the same period in 2012, there were 5, a decrease of 62%.

 In the first two weeks of October 2011, there were 29 orders of notice recorded.  For the same period in 2012, there were 17, an decrease of 41%.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Reverse Mortgages in the news

Today's New York Times reports that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is investigating the reverse mortgage industry for a number of abusive practices.  Problems in that industry have increased since major national lenders such as Wells Fargo and Bank of America have gotten out of the field due to declining or stagnant home values.  Into the void created by the big bank departure have stepped smaller entities, some of which are promoting loans in a deceptive manner that leaves some seniors facing entirely unexpected foreclosure.  We see very few reverse mortgages here in the Middlesex North District.  I don't think that particular financial product has caught on here.  Still, it must be very tempting for cash-poor, house-rich seniors to try to extract some of the equity from homes to provide living necessary living expenses and a comfortable retirement. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Withdrawing property from Registered Land

Here is some information from the Real Estate Bar Association of Massachusetts (REBA) regarding Senate Bill 694 which simplifies the process of withdrawing property from the Registered Land system:

Why is the legislation important?

The well-known burdens of the land registration system are such that in even the simplest transactions developers and other clients are frustrated by their inability to predict the time and cost to subdivide or assemble lots in registered land for development. The Torrens system was originally intended to offer a simple and inexpensive method for keeping track of land ownership, but is now largely obsolete and has been repealed in most of the original twenty-one states that adopted it, due to administrative issues, technological advances, and the availability of title insurance. Only a few states continue to use Torrens-type land registration, and most of those provide for voluntary withdrawal from the system.

The changes in Senate Bill 694 that are recommended by REBA will ease withdrawal permitting our members to better serve their clients. Among the changes proposed, the new legislation would:

• eliminate the need to have the Land Court approve a condominium master deed and declaration of trust when a client wishes to "deregister" the land,

• permit withdrawal of land from registration at the option of the owner whenever there is any mix of registered and recorded land,

• permit withdrawal at the option of the owner if the land is not occupied by a one-to-four-family residence,

• for all other registered land the owner may request the Land Court to allow withdrawal by demonstrating "other good cause" including "the burdens and expenses of further dividing the registered land into lots for separate conveyance"

• insure that properties withdrawn from the registration system are treated as "confirmed" title when the land is transferred to the unregistered side.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Born to Ride

It's a fantasy of mine... 

I'm mesmerized by the idea of sitting on top of a souped up Haley-Davidson Motorcycle screaming my way down the highway...shotgun pipes spewing fire as my two-wheeled steel sled nudges the ton.

Get your motor runnin,
Head out on the highway.
Lookin for adventure
And whatever comes our way.

As I sit here and write I can almost feel the thrill, the sense of freedom of the wind blowing through my hair as my chopper's front wheel gobbles up the big-slab in jaw-breaking chunks as I trash it .

I like smoke and lightning
Heavy metal thunder
Racin with the wind
And the feelin' that I'm under

Oh yeah, even now the need for speed aches my body as I visualize myself crouched in a tuck creating a perfect aerodynamic form that unchains the wind allow it to glide over my leather colors. 

Yeah Darlin go make it happen
Take the world in a love embrace
Fire all your guns at once
And explode into space
Tony, Tony come back to reality...there are a couple of problems with your dream. First, you don't have enough hair on your head for the wind to blow through, second, they don't make leather motorcycle jackets in your large size and most importantly, you don't know how to ride a bike, never mind a motorcycle.

Hold on now...thanks to a company in San Franciso there is hope for a Malon Brando wannabe like me (even if I can't ride). Lit Motors has developed the motorcycle of the future. They call it the C-1.

And even I can ride it. Check it out:

Like a true nature's child
We were born, born to be wild

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

In defense of paper

An Op-ed in today's New York Times caught my eye.  In "Long Live Paper", Justin Hollander, a professor of urban and environmental policy at Tufts, argues that educational institutions should not be so quick to jettison paper text books in favor of e-readers for students as has been advocated by Education Secretary Arne Duncan.  Calling paper a "tried and true technology", Hollander asks questions about the long term effects of trying to obtain knowledge from a screen rather than a sheet of paper saying that "only time and study will reveal its disadvantages and show the value of what we've left behind."

One reason this article interested me was because we stopped making paper record books here at the registry of deeds way back in 2001 and we removed the books that already existed from circulation in 2007 turning the office that year into a paperless operation.  While the usage of our documents can't be strictly compared to learning from a textbook, our experience has been entirely positive.  Making the information available in electronic form allows it to be accessed from almost anywhere by multiple users simultaneously.  Functionally, I don't think anything would be gained by going back to paper, however, I recognize that paper is a stable archival format that has a long life so there is still some value in it, but not necessarily as the primary technology of knowledge transmission. 

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

I Predict...

I'd like to go out on a limb here and make a few predictions about various topics I find interesting. What qualifies me to make predictions? Well I figured if Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long and Jimmy Johnson could do it every Sunday...I could too.

Prediction Number One: Windows 8 is coming out soon, very soon. Microsoft's new OS will feature an operating system that can be controlled by either a mouse or touch screen, a great feature. Windows 8 is radically different from Windows 7. And Microsoft doesn't do "different" well. 
I predicted… Microsoft will ship Window 9 soon, very soon too.

Prediction Number Two: Some guy by the name of Felix Baumgartner plans on jumping 23 miles in a free-fall from a hot air balloon this week, wow. Baumgartner is a former skydiver (like that’s going to make a difference). He believes his speed of descent will break the sound barrier (that's got to hurt his ears). 
I predict… this will be the one and only time Felix attempts this jump.

Prediction Number Three: In Burmese, scientist found a 100 million year old fossil depicting a wasp trapped in a spider web. The spider planned on having the wasp for dinner (or maybe a late lunch, its hard to tell from just looking at the fossil), but apparently it never got to its tasty treat. This just might be the event that began the age old feud between these two arthropods. 
I predict… sometime in the next 100 million years wasps and spiders will settle their differences and live together in peace.

Prediction Number Four: No doubt, Apple intends to release an iPad Mini in the very near future. I own the Google Nexus Tablet (or should I say "my wife" and I own it) which is similar in size to the new Mini. We also own (or should I say "my wife" owns) an iPad 2 which is larger. Truthfully, I find the smaller sized Nexus more comfortable in my hand. 
I predict… the new Apple iPad Mini will be more popular that the standard size iPad and... I further predict I will be buying one (or should I say buying one for "my wife").

Prediction Number Five: I really don't know much about Operating Systems, Skydiving, Insects of Apple iPads, so I predict... this will be my last time predicting 

Friday, October 05, 2012

Electronic recording and other stats

Documents submitted to us electronically continue to account for more than one-third of our daily volume of recordings.  Here are the stats for each month of 2012 thus far, showing the total number of documents recorded, the number of them that were recorded electronically, and the percentage of the total that amount represents:

January     5060  -  1154 -  26%
February   4090  -   977  -  24%
March       5030  -  1217 -  24%
April         4744  -  1016 -  21%
May          4267  -    960 -  22%
June          5955  -  2055 -  35%
July           6281 -   1967 -  31%
August      6408 -   2290 -  36%
Sept          5877 -   1946 -  33%

This gives us year-to-date totals through September of 13,582 documents recorded electronically, 34,130 documents recorded through conventional means for a total of 47,712.  This averages to 5301 per month which, if projected over the entire year of 63,615.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Wait 'til next year

The 2012 baseball season of the Boston Red Sox mercifully came to an end last night with a 14-2 loss to the AL East champion Yankees.  Finishing in last place with a record of 69-93, this was the worst Red Sox team record-wise since their 1965 predecessors went 62-100.  Shortly after noon today, news broke that the Sox had fired manager Bobby Valentine after his first year on the job.  While the team's dismal play was not entirely his fault, his replacement was certainly expected.  The dismantling of this team began more than a month ago when some of the team's most highly paid players, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford, were all traded to the Dodgers.  With all that freed-up money for payroll, this off season should be interesting. 

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Foreclosures trending downward

The end of September statistics brought some good news - a significant decline in the number of new foreclosures.  We measure those by the number of Orders of Notice, the first document recorded in the foreclosure process, that we record each month.  Here are the monthly numbers since January 2011 for the entire registry of deeds district:

January 2011 - 27
February 2011 - 53
March 2011 - 63
April 2011 - 115
May 2011 - 71
June 2011 - 64
July 2011 - 52
August 2011 - 56
September 2011 - 33
October 2011 - 65
November 2011 - 78
December 2011 - 43

January 2012 - 46
February 2012 - 78
March 2012 - 77
April 2012 - 44
May 2012 - 57
June 2012 - 52
July 2012 - 85
August 2012 - 111
September 2012 - 31

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Jerry Brown Approves Autonomous Car

I'm sixty one years old (am I feel it). That's old enough to remember California Governor Jerry Brown's first term(s). So, why mention my age? because Brown was first elected to the governorship in 1975.  Yup, 37 years ago. And many things have happened during those 37 years, one of which was the "reelection" of Jerry Brown to the governorship in 2010.

Stay with me here, I've got a point to make...

It was during his terms in the 1970's that Brown earned the dubious label, "Governor Moonbean".

Hang in...

Chicago columnist Mike Royko dubbed Brown "Moonbean" because of his fascination with outer space and his proposal that California launch its own satellite. OK, so it sounds a little weird.

Please, don't give up now, I'm almost to my point... 

Regardless of how one feels about Jerry Brown you must admit, he is a mover. He was in the 70's and he is today.

Finally, my point...

Last week California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law legislation that allows "self driving cars" on California roads. Yup, I'm talking about cars that totally drive know, turn on their own, accelerate on their own, brake on their own etc. Search engine giant Google developed the Autonomous car and has been testing it extensively for a number of years. 

According to the Los Angeles Times the bill, which was filed by California State Senator, Alex Padilla does the following:

* Sets up safety and performance standards for the safe operation of autonomous vehicles on California's public roads

* Allows for the operation of autonomous vehicles on California's public roads by a licensed driver

* Requires that an autonomous vehicle meet all applicable safety standards and performance requirements in state and federal law

* Allows the Highway Patrol, in consultation with the Department of Motor Vehicles, to recommend to the Legislature additional requirements for the safe operation of such vehicles on California's roads. (LA Times)

So does it take a governor nicknamed "Moonbeam" to take a daring move...NO.

The same legislation has also been passed in  Neveda and is under serious consideration in Arizona, Hawaii, Florida and Oklahoma.  


Monday, October 01, 2012

September recording statistics

Here are the stats for September:

The number of deeds recorded in September 2012 (462) was down 1% from September 2011 (468)

The number of mortgages recorded in Sept 2012 (1332) was up 21% from Sept 2011 (1098)

The number of foreclosure deeds in Sept 2012 (25) was down 34% from Sept 2011 (38)

The number of orders of notice in Sept 2012 (31) was down 6% from Sept 2012 (33)