09/19/2017

TRID Allows for Partial Exemption for Housing Assistance Loans

Housing finance agencies (HFA) offer individuals, families and businesses a wide range of support in realizing their dreams. Loans provided by housing finance agencies or by private creditors who partner with housing finance agencies that extend credit within the guidelines of HFA programs are low-cost, non-interest bearing and subordinate- lien loans. These loans allow middle to low income families obtain a mortgage for which they would have otherwise have trouble qualifying.

As of Oct. 3, 2015, the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule (TRID) required that lenders issue disclosures to consumers in most residential mortgage transactions. In order to be less onerous on lower risk loans, the TRID rule allows for a partial exemption from the disclosure requirements. On July 7, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) amended the qualification requirements for the partial exemption for housing financing loans and down payment assistance loans—an act which the bureau believes will make the program more flexible and encourage its use.

In order to qualify for the partial exemption, the loan must be amortizing, forgivable and include fees that cannot exceed 1 percent of the principal of the loan. Previously, the 1 percent threshold included recording fees and transfer taxes. The CFPB amended the rule to exclude recording fees and transfer taxes from the 1 percent threshold.

Proponents of the amendment persuasively argued that excluding recording fees and transfer fees from the 1 percent calculation will make the program more flexible, and thus, increase the amount of HFA loans disbursed. The bureau believes that statutory predetermine fees do not pose a risk sufficient enough to warrant its incorporation since it is not determined by the market. Since recording and transfer fees are predetermined fees set by state and local jurisdictions—and not the market, there is limited risk in excluding it from the 1 percent threshold calculation.

The bureau believes that excluding recording fees and transfer fees will increase the availability of low-cost, non-interest bearing, subordinate-lien loans to low- and moderate-income borrowers.

Click here for more information.

09/14/2017

ALTA Registry: Be Part of the Solution

 

In 1878, New Haven, Conn., became home to what is considered the world’s first telephone directory, consisting of a single piece of cardboard that included listings for 50 individuals, businesses and other offices in the city of 150,000 people.

While other businesses had used telephones before—even printing lists of subscribers—the New Haven version claim to primacy rests on the fact that it was the first such list to include private customers as well as business lines.

This phone “book” did not list telephone numbers, only names. Early telephone directories existed solely for the purpose of alerting customers to the existence of other telephone subscribers. To make a call, the telephone user would pick up the phone and tell the operator the name of the person to ring up.

In the title and settlement space, there has never existed an online, searchable database that could be used to identify title and settlement agents and real estate attorneys early in the real estate transaction. Until now. ALTA Registry Infographic 1 - 2017 (1) copy

ALTA has created an online phone book—the ALTA Registry—a first-of-its-kind industry utility that allows lenders to know they are working with the correct company. Beginning Oct. 1, agents and underwriters will work together to communicate and confirm company name and contact information—providing lenders with a trusted utility to identify transaction partners.

“Mortgage lenders, title insurance agents, real estate attorneys, title insurance underwriters and other participants in the real estate closing process must be able to identify each other and communicate in a timely and consistent manner throughout the mortgage transaction,” said Michelle Korsmo, ALTA’s CEO.

Similar to finding someone’s number in a phone book, the national ALTA Registry is a snapshot of information. You may find a house you like on Zillow, but you would still call your real estate agent to see if it’s still available and if the price has dropped, according to Korsmo. The ALTA Registry database lists a business and its accurate information at the time of confirmation by a title insurance underwriter. 

The ALTA Registry offers a unique seven-digit identifier, the ALTA ID, which is automatically assigned to each new database record as a permanent ID number and is never changed, reassigned or reused. This is the number assigned to all records within the ALTA Registry. For organizations with a network of branches, each office location will have its own ALTA ID and may be connected to the HQ or head office location, called a “primary business location” with no requirement for consecutive or numerically correlated ALTA ID numbers. ALTA ID numbers are available for free to title agents and real estate attorneys. 

“ALTA estimates there are nearly 30,000 title and settlement companies, and real estate attorneys in the United States,” said Eddie Oddo, co-chair of the ALTA Registry Committee and vice president of corporate business solutions for First American Title Insurance Co. “Establishing and confirming a business on the ALTA Registry helps ensure more efficient communication among all parties in the real estate transaction.  Lenders, underwriters, agents and vendors can easily and confidently identify the right settlement provider across each of their databases—something our industry needs but has struggled with in the past.”

Independent escrow companies will not have their companies listed in the ALTA Registry. These entities do not have formalized relationships with title insurance underwriters, making it complicated to confirm their company name and location(s).

Lenders want this type of service from the industry in order to confirm the identity of the service providers that they, or their customers, have engaged to provide settlement services. Having a registry also helps lenders ensure their risk-management procedures are met and will provide further depth to their third party supplier oversight activities.

Jack Rattikin, the other co-chair of the ALTA Registry Committee and president of Rattikin Title Company, said that mortgage lenders need confirmation earlier in the real estate transaction that they are doing business with the correct title and settlement company or real estate attorney.

“The ALTA Registry is a tool for your company to show your mortgage lender you are a part of the solution to provide more clarification and transparency in the real estate transaction,” he said. “In addition, the registry helps mortgage lenders add an extra layer of confirmation that they are working with the appropriate title and settlement company or real estate attorney and properly protecting their consumers’ non-public personal information.”

What You Need to Do

  • Visit alta.org/registry to see the latest news and announcements, including launch date details.
  • Title and Settlement Agents: On-boarding begins in October. Title agents will be able to review their existing ALTA records and add any missing records. Once records are reviewed and updated, a company contact person may request an ALTA Registry listing via the ALTA Registry Management System (RMS) section of the ALTA website. Underwriters will review and confirm title agent requests before listings are published in the ALTA Registry. It’s important to note that only agents that have been confirmed by at least one underwriter will be listed in the ALTA Registry.
  • Real Estate Attorneys: On-boarding will begin in January 2018. Attorneys will be able to request a listing by submitting attorney licensing information as confirmation. Attorneys who are title agents should be confirmed by their underwriter(s) and listed as title agents.
  • Underwriters: On-boarding began in July 2017, and is ongoing. Underwriters who want to confirm agent listings participate in an on-boarding process so they will be ready to confirm agent listings.

What the ALTA Registry Is NOT

The ALTA Registry is NOT a verification system.

  • Google Earth can’t verify real-time accuracy in its maps, neither can the ALTA Registry. The registry confirms that as of the date provided a title or settlement company or real estate attorney maintained a business at the listed address.
  • The ALTA Registry is not the equivalent of a Closing Protection Letter (CPL); the ALTA Registry does not provide an authorization to proceed with a transaction.
  • The ALTA Registry does NOT confirm optimized risk management practices.
  • ALTA does not certify Best Practices compliance and neither does the ALTA Registry. Participation in the ALTA Registry shows that the title or settlement company, or real estate attorney wants to be part of the solution to provide more accurate data and a more efficient real estate transaction.
  • The ALTA Registry does not confirm that a business has optimized its risk management practices in accordance with individual title insurance underwriter or mortgage lender requirements.

 

09/12/2017

2017-18 Nominations for ALTA Board and Executive Committees

2017-18 ALTA nominations

Finalized TRID Rule Applies to All Residential Deals Involving Cooperatives

In July, the CFPB finalized a uniform rule regarding the application of the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) requirements for cooperative units

Under the existing rule, coverage of cooperative units depended on whether cooperatives were classified as real property under state law. Cooperatives are sometimes treated as personal property under state law and sometimes as real property. Because state law sometimes treats cooperatives differently for different purposes, there was uncertainty and inconsistency in the manner in which lenders would classify these transactions. This could lead to potential liability. The final rule extends coverage to include all cooperative units without regard to the state level designation of cooperatives. In the final rule, the bureau reiterated that TRID does not apply to loans for business, commercial or agricultural purposes.

The official effective date of the amendment is Oct. 10, 2017, but the CFPB said there is an optional compliance period in effect until Oct. 1, 2018.

TRID COOP RULE

08/30/2017

Stop. Drop. And Think Differently.

By Wayne M. Stanley

Stop what you’re doing and listen closely: I can provide countless lists of fantastic steps you should take to make your marketing better. I can give you solution providers, even mention my own company, to brand yourself better. I can even tell you the secrets of your competitors to help you gain market share.

Even with all of that “help,” the single greatest tip I can give you is this: stop. drop. and think differently. The biggest mistake I see most title companies make in their marketing is not asking if it’s working. They don’t take the time to take a step back, assess their efforts and see what changes they could make to move their business forward.

Now, you may be wondering, “but how in the world would we even know if our marketing is working?” Well, now that you’ve stopped, drop by and simply ask the very people that you’re spending money on. If you’re hosting real estate agent continuing education classes, ask them at the end about your brand. Why do they give you business? Why do they (maybe) hesitate to give you business? (I didn’t promise this process would be easy).

Do their answers match up with your brand? Do your efforts create results compared to all the money you’ve spent trying to tell your story this year? If not, it’s time to think differently.

Title companies shouldn’t be afraid to break the rules when it comes to the dollars they spend on marketing. Think differently about your marketing and constantly ask “why?”

Why are you spending money on pens? Why do you sponsor this event? Why do you host expensive lunch and learns? Why do we have a budget line for donuts?

If the answer is “because we’ve always done it that way” or “because [insert name here] likes it” or my favorite, “because [insert name here] really enjoys doing it…” then it’s time to re-think your strategy. If the money you spend doesn’t help bring more money in, it’s simply not worth your effort.

Sure, it takes time, brain power and a lot of energy to think differently and truly change but it’s totally worth it.

I challenge our clients to spend just one afternoon thinking about their current marketing efforts and identifying one way they could use the funds or staff time differently for a better result. The solutions these teams come up blow me away and lead to greater return on their investments time and time again.

So, what are you waiting for? Stop, drop and think differently today.

 

Wayne M. Stanley is the owner and chief inspiration officer for Bowe Digital, a marketing firm helping small businesses with their brand, social media and crisis communications. Stanley, along with Bill Svoboda of Close Simple, will speak more in depth about this topic during a session titled "Break the Rules: Market Better than Your Competition” at the ALTA ONE. Click here to register.

08/25/2017

Paper is the Past

By Tim Anderson

Today, digital technology is driving more of the loan transaction away from paper to online. The industry is realizing that it’s time to get the paper out of our systems and manual processes. Paper documents take more time to process, require more people to validate, and key information from and follow-up efforts to track down missing pages, signatures, or total file loss.

For example, delivering a correct closing disclosure (CD) to the borrower three days before closing highlights just how difficult it is to get everything right and on time in a paper world.

Ensuring proof of compliance on confirming something like receipt of delivery is next to impossible in a paper world. Taking the mortgage process fully electronic will be the only way to ultimately ensure a totally verifiable, auditable compliant process.

Beyond the improvements gained by eliminating the paper process, digital collaboration during the loan transaction promises a better consumer experience from the start. For lenders, the increase in operational efficiencies and consistency are measurable. Overall, a digital process ensures greater data and document integrity, compliance and control.

Digitizing the mortgage process has the potential to greatly improve both productivity and the customer experience. Lenders who incorporate a digital workflow gain efficiency, better satisfy borrower expectations for collaboration and communication, and ultimately capture more market share.

    • Go from a 50-minute to 15-minute closing
    • Eliminate last minute surprises at the closing table
    • Significantly reduce time and cost
    • Close without exceptions
    • Ensure a “consistently clean and clear” closing every time
    • Better authentication and security (reduce fraud)
    • Tamper evident seal on data and documents to protect data and document integrity
    • Differentiates yourself in the marketplace
    • Ensure greater service
    • Ensure better loan quality and compliance

The technology is available and the process, albeit not widespread, is gaining momentum. Selling something that everyone else already does and has makes it a commodity. Digital Mortgages are for those that want to introduce a new way of doing business that gives you a competitive market advantage. It presents a new opportunity to truly differentiate yourself in an otherwise crowded  mortgage market. With immense regulatory pressure looming, historical methods will no longer be sufficient. And, as more organizations discover the demands of the marketplace, and today’s borrower, more parts of the lending transaction will happen electronically.

 

Tim Anderson is Director of eServices and oversees eCommerce and eMortgage service capabilities for DocMagic, Inc. Anderson, along with Vicki DiPasquale and Jack Rattikin, will speak more in depth about this topic during a session titled "Going Digital from Start to Finish” at the ALTA ONE Convention. Click here to register.

08/22/2017

Embracing Technology to Market Your Business Differently

By Nancy Pratt

The nature of our industry makes differentiating yourself from your competitors difficult. In reality, we all offer the same product: title insurance and customer service. But just like how Apple can release a new iPhone with new features and capabilities to better serve their customers, your business can also embrace technology to market your services to consumers in a whole new way.

One way to position your business as a leader in your region is to show your community that you are ahead of the game, and think about technology differently than your competitors. You’ve already taken the first step by reading this blog. Staying up to date with industry associations and active within different organizations gives you the advantage of receiving the most current industry information.

With the technology available today, such as eClosings, you can really revolutionize your business. For example, eClosings give you the essential opportunity to get in front of the consumer before the actual closing. First off, this allows you to explain to them why they need title insurance. Second, this gives you the chance to start building your brand with the consumer from the beginning. Imagine getting to talk to your prospective customer weeks before your competitors. Like ALTA has always said, “You don’t need to meet them at the closing table; you need to meet them at the kitchen table.”

When it comes to eClosings, it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. There’s a path for everyone. If you want to be the absolute technology leader, that’s great. ALTA has lots of educational tools available as should a technology vendor in the digital space. But for those who are curious about taking a first step towards embracing technology, start by having meaningful conversations with your partners. Technology is certainly key to differentiating your business in this industry. If you have the opportunity to stand out and grow your business, why wouldn’t you?

 

Nancy Pratt has over 12 years of experience in the eMortgage/eClosing space, and is currently the Vice President of Partner Relations and Government Affairs for Pavaso. Pratt will speak more in depth about this topic during an engaging session titled "Take Your Closing From Pain Point to Celebration” at ALTA ONE in October. Click here to register for ALTA ONE.

Make Your Realtor and Lender Look Good

By Linda Grahovec

We talk about customer support all the time.  

“We have the BEST Service”, “We have the BEST Support Staff”

But what does that really mean, what does this service look like, and what exactly are you doing to support your customers?  

Our customers come from several different market segments and different areas of the country.  For underwriters, the title agent is their main customer.  For a title agent, realtors, lenders and attorneys are their customers.  As realtors, lenders and attorneys, the consumer (client) is their customer. Each of these three levels requires a distinctly different approach to sell, inform, educate, and support the corresponding customer base. You need to know each of these levels, and the customers targeted within them, in order to understand what they want and what they need.  In other words, we need to know the customer better than they know themselves.  

How can we help the Realtor and Lender better understand the needs of their customers? What tools or resources can we create to help our customers look great to their clients?  Let’s step into the minds, means and methods of realtors and lenders in order to help them better serve their customers!

 

Linda Grahovec is Vice President and Regional Director of Marketing for Fidelity National Title Group.  Grahovec has worked in the real estate transactions services since 1986, and remains a leader in the industry. She will speak more in depth about this topic during a session titled “Make Your Realtor and Lender Look Good” at ALTA ONE in October. Click here to register for ALTA ONE now.

 

08/01/2017

ALTA Welcomes New Members

ALTA is pleased to announce new and associate members, as well as real estate attorneys, who have recently joined ALTA. Check out the entire list of new members. Not a member? Click here to join today. You can also check out this video to learn how ALTA membership can take your business to new summits.

Membership Number July 2017 blog

07/28/2017

Break the Rules: Market Better than your Competition

By Bill Svoboda

Today, there's a lot of pressure put on title companies to begin marketing online.  I'm sure the most common thing you hear about is the necessity of being on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and countless other social media platforms. However, for most title companies, I firmly believe this is not the right advice for two reasons:

  1. While it's great to market your company, most websites are not optimized in a way to actually capture the traffic that your marketing should drive.  If your website doesn't check off a basic list of features (I'll provide later), you will probably spend money marketing without seeing any results.
  2. You probably don't know what to market.  Think about this... does the average Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram user really care about title as they are scrolling through their newsfeed?  Nope.  You're the furthest thing from their mind and the last thing they want to see/read about is "what is title," unless they happen to be in that big moment of closing on a house. But, you might spend thousands and thousands of dollars marketing before you ever have your ad appear in front of that person at just the right time; and still, if their agent does not mention your company as one of their 3 recommendations, all that marketing was for nothing.

So, here's my simple solution that will add 100x more value than spending thousands and thousands of dollars on your marketing...First, before marketing to outsiders, consider those in your Sales Funnel (currently closing or deciding to close with you). When someone decides to use your title company, googles you, and lands on your website, what do they see? Is it something that builds trust in your company and merits the fee you are going to charge?  If not, what can you do about it?

Here's a basic list of things you can do today (or tomorrow) to get your site to a place where Google actually cares about you, and your message can be clearly communicated:

  1. Mobile Responsive Site (i.e., Wordpress, Squarespace, Wix, etc.)
  2. A Blog on your site
  3. A Google Plus Account
  4. A Google Places account for each location
  5. A Google Analytics account tied to your website

Without these 4 things, don't spend $1 marketing because you'd be driving people to a site that does not communicate your message the way websites that you, me and consumers experience 99% of their time surfing the web.

Once your website meets these 3 criteria, your next steps should be:

  1. Set up a Facebook Fan Page
  2. Set up a Twitter Account
  3. Set up any other social platforms that you want to begin to have conversations on.

From there, you can actually begin to "market." I'd actually like to turn the idea of "marketing" into a better and more approachable concept of "having conversations."  Here are some first steps towards having conversations:

  1. Connect with the Real Estate agents that are your best referral source.
  2. Like, comment and just show them some love online when they post... not on every post, but on the best posts.  Just let them know you're still there.
  3. Post a helpful tip or two on your social media platform, possibly quoting one of your favorite real estate agents, then drive people back to your site to read more about the interview or topic.  
  4. Use social media to have conversations and tease people to your site. Don't use it to just broadcast about title all day, every day. The majority of people don't care, and it costs soooooo much money to constantly reach out until that one time they do care.  

Bottom-line: Make amazing content and Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc will love you... and your customers will love you too.  That's the BIG win!

 

Bill Svoboda is the co-founder of CloseSimple, a software that helps with communication during the title and escrow process. Svoboda, along with Wayne Stanley  of Bowe Digital will speak more in depth about how to market in the title industry during a session titled "Break the Rules: Market Better than your Competition” at ALTA ONE in October. Click here to register for ALTA ONE.