ALTA’s Board of Governors on June 9 approved proposed changes to the association’s “Title Insurance and Settlement Company Best Practices” to better reflect market needs and trends. In addition, ALTA’s Best Practices Executive and Internal Auditing committees created the Best Practices Maturity Model to help companies evaluate their policies and procedures to ease adoption of Best Practices. Read on to learn how you can provide comments by the July 29 deadline.
All three of the following proposals are under public comment. All comments made during this period will be considered until the proposals go into effect Oct. 7. Your input is essential to ensure that all ALTA services are optimized for members.
These proposed changes include modifications to better reflect contemporary marketplace trends and common business practices. Click here to find a redline of changes to the Best Practices.
This proposed revision to the ALTA Best Practices Assessment Procedures clarifies areas of confusion and better reflects how agents operate. Click here to find a redline of changes to the Best Practices Assessment Procedure.
This new tool allows title companies to determine where they are in their development toward full Best Practices compliance by measuring progress against benchmark compliance levels. ALTA has provided a Maturity Model Guide for answers to the most frequently asked questions and more information. As a note, the Maturity Model does not invalidate any assessment a company may have already received.
Please submit all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ALTA recently released a new Best Practices assessment reporting tool, the Best Practices Maturity Model. This new resource helps companies identify areas of their policies and procedures that can be enhanced to better meet the Best Practices.
To use the Maturity Model, a company must first undergo a Best Practices assessment that tests the company’s policies and procedures to the ALTA Title Insurance and Settlement Company Best Practices and the Best Practices Assessment Procedures. The Maturity Model in no way changes the work that must be performed as part of the Best Practices assessment. Rather, the Maturity Model offers an alternative method of reporting the results of a Best Practices assessment.
After the company undergoes a Best Practices assessment, the company may plot its assessment results on the Maturity Model. Rather than focusing on a pass or fail designation, the Maturity Model features a spectrum of compliance levels that range from having no policies and procedures in place (“Ad Hoc”) to having policies and procedures that are fully compliant with the ALTA Best Practices (“Optimized”).
The Maturity Model allows companies to determine how their procedures measure against the ALTA Best Practices. If a company is fully compliant with the Best Practices, it should be in the “Optimized” category of the Maturity Model for each Best Practice. Using the Maturity Model as an assessment report helps companies identify ways to improve their policies and procedures to meet the Best Practices.
To learn more about the different compliance levels featured within the Maturity Model, check out the graphic below:
You may view Maturity Model and its accompanying Maturity Model Explainer, which details how to use this new tool, by visiting www.alta.org/bestpractices. As a reminder, the Best Practices Maturity Model is subject to an open comment period that closes on Friday, July 29, 2016. You may submit comments or feedback to email@example.com.
Responding to a letter from 74 members of Congress, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Richard Cordray indicated the bureau will not address the portion of the TRID rule that requires consumers to receive incorrect fees for title insurance premiums on their mortgage disclosures.
In a July 14 letter, Corday said the CFPB will focus on clarifying amendments based on the outreach, webinars and other regulatory implementation efforts when it opens the new rulemaking period for TRID.
"As reflected in the Know Before Your Owe mortgage disclosure rule, the Bureau believes that the application of any simultaneous issuance discount to the owner's title policy, as mandated by some states, is the most transparent method of disclosing the costs of the required lender's title policy and the optional owner's policy," Cordray wrote.
Cordray believes the CFPB’s disclosure method encourages the sale of owner’s policies and recognizes the products benefit by writing "Purchasing an owner's policy can protect homeowners' property rights for as long as they own their home."
ALTA contends the CFPB's calculation method to disclose title premiums leads to consumer confusion and is inconsistent with the bureau's mission to inform consumers about the true costs of their real estate transaction.
Because Cordray's letter signals that the bureau is unlikely to propose changing this portion of the rule, it’s important for the industry to provide data and anecdotal stories to highlight the confusion it’s causing for consumers.
Title professionals are encouraged to become members of the Title Action Network (TAN) so the industry can have a stronger voice to tell the CFPB to fix the disclosure of title premiums under TRID. TAN is currently holding a contest for the person who can recruit the most new members. The winner will receive a three-night Caribbean cruise.
Here’s an abbreviated example of the types of consumer confusion stories that should be shared with the CFPB:
Despite the two separate disclosures the our company provided to the consumer at closing that explained the differences in the way title insurance must be disclosed, we recently had a very unhappy and extremely irate consumer regarding this confusing issue.
Prior to closing, the consumer called our office asking about the difference in cost for title insurance between the Loan Estimate and ALTA Settlement Statement. He asked us to waive the owner’s policy because of the “added expense.” The processor tried to explain the importance of the owner’s title insurance policy and that for a very small fee additional fee—the simultaneous issue fee of $50—they could obtain coverage. The owner agreed to keep the owner’s policy.
At the closing table, we provided the consumer with company’s “Title Insurance Premium Disclosure” form. We explained the differences between how federal and Tennessee law requires the disclosure of title insurance premiums.
After closing, the consumer called our company again insisting that we had overcharged him for title insurance. Both the processor and closing attorney did their best to explain the disclosures. The second time he called, the consumer suggested that my employees and I should all be “in federal prison with the rest of the criminals,” comparing us to Bernie Madoff.
In response to a follow-up complaint about us to our relocation customer, we sent a written letter to the consumer again explaining the difference in the disclosure and included copies of the same forms he signed at closing explaining the situation.
Unfortunately, the written letter didn’t do the trick, because we subsequently found a nasty complaint about our company on social media stating “the charges were deceitful and unethical at best. They [the title company] told me they would reduce my charge but what they didn’t’ tell me was that what I had to pay for my lender’s title insurance went up by the exact amount that they reduced mine so the overall cost was the same.”
After the social media post, we then received notice of a complaint filed by our underwriter with the Tennessee Department of Insurance.
In each situation, we did our best to help explain the situation, but it’s clear that consumers are confused and highly skeptical as to the way title insurance must be disclosed under TRID.
If you have anecdotes to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have any questions about Cordray’s letter, contact Justin Ailes, ALTA's vice president of government and regulatory affairs, at email@example.com. If you have any questions about the upcoming TRID rulemaking, contact Steve Gottheim, ALTA's senior counsel, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Employment in the title insurance industry increased in May, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The BLS reported that employment at direct title insurers increased by about 500 people (0.56%) to 88,900 from April to May. Meanwhile, employment at title abstract and settlement offices decreased by about 400 people (-0.67%) to 59,200. Despite the slight decrease, employment by title abstract and settlement offices is still up by about 1,300 people compared to a year ago. Law offices reported an increase of about 1,000 employees, with a portion of these attributable to title work.
Overall, the BLS reported that the U.S. insurance sector added 7,300 jobs in June, a seasonally adjusted 0.28 percent increase over May 2016. BLS indicated that insurers added 4,200 jobs in May, after initially reporting a 3,300-job increase. Compared to a year ago, insurance industry employment in June was 2,604,700, an increase of 62,500 jobs from June 2015.
How’s the staffing level at your operation? Have you had to bring in more people to handle volume?
ALTA recently released a new Best Practices assessment tool, the Best Practices Maturity Model. This alternative assessment resource allows companies to show the progress they are making toward implementing and complying with the ALTA Best Practices.
Maturity models have been used in other industries, including lending and technology, but this is a new concept for the title insurance and settlement industry. To learn more about how to use this tool, check out the ALTA Maturity Model Explainer and the infographic below!
As a reminder, the Best Practices Maturity Model is subject to a comment period through July 29. To submit comments or feedback about this resource, please email email@example.com.
By 2017, it’s estimated that 74% of all internet traffic will be video. With the rise of Netflix, Hulu and YouTube, video marketing is one of the best ways to attract consumers online. We partnered with Google’s Steve Lerch to provide a guide to incorporating video into your marketing strategy.
Like we mentioned in our article How to Get Started with Digital Marketing, you should make sure that your strategy is actionable, affordable, targeted and measurable. The best thing about video marketing is that it is particularly actionable, very affordable, easy to target to specific audiences, and extremely measurable.
A picture is worth 1,000 words and a video is worth 1,000 pictures. So, put effort into your video advertisements. Be sure that they encompass the intersection between what your consumers are searching for and your firm’s identity. Finally, just like any digital marketing strategy, test, optimize and repeat!
Olivia Elder is ALTA's Digital and Print Media Intern. She is studying International Affairs at George Washington University. Elder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Olivia Elder
From “costs-per-lead” to “ad servers,” the world of digital marketing can seem pretty overwhelming. That’s why ALTA partnered with Google’s Steve Lerch to tell you how to tune out the noise and figure out what you need. Even better, we can tell you can how you can get started on any budget!
Since 2011, digital media consumption has drastically increased, outpacing television consumption. In 2014, 86% of homebuyers used the internet in their research process. That percentage will only increase. The internet has changed the way that people shop for everything. Digital marketing is the best way to engage consumers in the electronic age.
What is your ad asking consumers to do? What specific actions can they take after viewing the ad?
Examples: Click here to visit our website. Follow us on Facebook.
Create an advertising budget that you or your firm can afford. What marketing strategy fits within your budget?
Many search advertisements are “pay-per-click,” meaning that you pay only when a viewer clicks. With Google AdWords, you establish the highest amount you will pay per click.
What is your target audience? How can you direct your ads to your specific audience?
If your target audience includes buyers of title insurance in Houston, you may want to play your ad on videos with the keywords “title insurance” and “Houston.”
How will you measure your progress toward your goal? Will it be page views, link clicks, number of purchases?
A display advertisement leads to 250 new page views.
40% of ad viewers continue to Google the brand or project advertised.
Budget : How much money do you have to spend on advertising? While some firms may only want to spend a few dollars a day on advertising, some firms may be able to spend tens of thousands of dollars a day.
Which strategy is best for you or your firm? Depending on your needs, certain strategies may be better for you than other strategies. There are three main types of digital advertisements that Google offers:
Do some research and determine where your consumers spend the most time and what price points are the most feasible for you.
That the right ads reach the right people: The internet is expansive, with hundreds of millions of users. However, not every user is looking for title insurance. Be sure that you find the consumers that are.
Keep in mind what people are searching for. Many homebuyers may be unfamiliar with title insurance. Instead, they may do searches for words like “insurance” or “real estate.” Devise a list of keywords that describe or relate to your business. When these keywords are searched, your search ads will appear in the search results. In videos tagged with those keywords, your video ads may play and your display ads may be shown on websites tagged with those keywords.
Metrics: How many clicks did your advertisement receive? Did you notice an increase in page views or purchases? Are you meeting your goals? If not, why? It’s important to keep track of your digital campaign’s metrics. If something is doing well, repeat it. If something isn’t doing very well, figure out why and how you can fix it.
With that, start your online marketing campaigns! Don’t forget to check out ALTA’s digital marketing resources here. These are free with an ALTA membership. Looking to take your digital marketing further? Attend one of ALTA’s 2017 Innovation Boot Camps. We’ve got Boot Camps scheduled in Denver, Nashville and Baltimore.
Olivia Elder is ALTA's Digital and Print Media Intern. She is studying International Affairs at George Washington University. Elder can be reached at email@example.com.
Have a great way you’re using material in ALTA’s Homebuyer Outreach Program? Share how you’re educating consumers about the benefits of title insurance for a chance to win a free registration to an upcoming ALTA event. ALTA staff, PR Committee and HOP Working Group will vote on the entries.
First place will win a complimentary registration to ALTA’s 2016 Annual Convention, Oct. 4-7 in Scottsdale, Ariz. Second place will receive a free registration to one of ALTA’s 2017 Innovation Boot Camps. Deadline to submit your entry is June 30. Email your submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you're examples (such as a video or PDF) are too large to send via email, you may submit them to ALTA's Dropbox.
Need help coming up with an idea? Check out the digital edition of ALTA’s TitleNews as the cover article "Homebuyer Education: Yes It Does Work,” highlights the successful ways ALTA members are using resources in the Homebuyer Outreach Program to explain the benefits of owner’s title insurance.
“For 20 years, ALTA has brought members to Washington to amplify our voice in the industry and to advance our interests,” said Michelle Korsmo, ALTA’s chief executive officer. “This is a purposeful event that helps attract members from across the country to Washington driven to meet with Congress and who strive to advance our industry.
"Our changes to Federal Conference elevate our position as an industry and confirm that we are coming together to a summit—a high place, for those with influence, strength and a voice that resonates. I’m proud to reveal our new vision for this very important event,” Korsmo continued.
The Advocacy Summit is an important time when title professionals exercise their political rights and use a collective voice to strengthen the industry and focus on its purpose—protecting property rights. While the state and local levels are important, the national level is critical due to increased regulatory uncertainty.
“Advocacy is in ALTA’s mission as an association and we are prepared to lead the way, but our members are the heart and soul of our advocacy efforts,” Korsmo said. “Whether you’re a state leader, first-time attendee or you’ve attended 20 events in the past, the Summit will be the cornerstone of the title industry’s advocacy efforts where we leave a legacy of contributions for future generations.”
More homebuyers are reviewing their mortgage documents ahead of their scheduled closing under new federal regulations, according to results of a Home Closing Survey conducted by the American Land Title Association.
As of Oct. 3, 2016, under the Know Before You Owe regulation, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) requires homebuyers to receive a five-page Closing Disclosure at least three days before the closing of their mortgage.
“While there remain challenges to complying with the regulation, title and settlement agents went to great lengths to prepare and train staff prior about the new process,” said Michelle Korsmo, ALTA’s chief executive officer. “The hard work of these professionals paid off as our survey found that 92 percent of surveyed homebuyers are taking time to review their mortgage documents before the closing. This compares to only 74 percent of consumers who reported having reviewed their documents prior to the new regulation.”
The survey was held in two phases. During the first stage, data was collected prior to implementation of the new mortgage disclosures to assess the closing experience of more than 800 homebuyers using the HUD-1 Settlement Statement. The second phase gathered information from nearly 700 homebuyers about their closing experience under the new rules requiring use of the Closing Disclosure.
Potential Closing Delays
Additionally, the new regulations have had minimal impact on whether closings occurred on time. Prior to implementation of Know Before You Owe, homebuyers reported that 77 percent of closings took place as scheduled. With the Closing Disclosure, 74 percent of closings are taking place as scheduled.
“Settlement agents reported that the top reasons for rescheduling a closing to another day were issues with lender underwriting, a delay from the lender and an issue with the three-day rule,” Korsmo said.
Collaboration Needed for Positive Consumer Experience
The survey also showed the continued need for all parties involved in the transaction to work together to ensure the consumer experiences a positive closing. According to the survey, consumers received valuable information about their transaction from loan officers (39 percent), title/settlement agents (30 percent) and real estate agents (29 percent).
“ALTA was determined to ensure the vital role of title and settlement agents would not be diminished because the new rules put more liability on lenders,” Korsmo said. “Fortunately, consumers continue to view title and settlement agents as valuable resources that provide peace of mind and help them get the keys to their home. We appreciate the members of the Mortgage Bankers Association and National Association of Realtors working with ALTA members to ensure the consumer experience remains positive. Continued collaboration among title agents, Realtors and lenders is paramount to educate consumers about their real estate transaction.”
The survey indicated that continued education about the benefits of owner’s title insurance is needed. According to the survey, 12 percent of homebuyers in a purchase transaction using the Closing Disclosure were unsure if they bought an owner’s policy. This compares to 8 percent of homebuyers who were unsure if they purchased an owner’s policy under the old regulations.
“Consumers should leave the closing table confident that they know they purchased an owner’s title insurance policy and protected their property rights,” Korsmo said. “Unfortunately, as the CFPB’s current approach does not provide consumers with clear information about their title insurance costs. The required calculation under TRID for title insurance fees is not transparent or accurate and is inconsistent with the Bureau’s mission to better inform consumers.”
The CFPB announced it would clarify and provide additional guidance on the rule this summer. ALTA will continue to work with the CFPB to correct the inaccurate calculation of title insurance policy premiums on the mortgage disclosures.
“In the meantime, we encourage ALTA members to use the education materials provided in our Homebuyer Outreach Program to help educate consumers about the benefits of owner’s title insurance,” Korsmo said. “Homebuyers should understand the important role title agents play in reducing their risks, providing peace of mind and protecting their property rights.”