08/16/2018

Yes, There’s Still RESPA Enforcement

By Phillip Schulman

Remnants of the Richard Cordray led Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) are fading. A new sheriff in town, Mick Mulvaney, is remaking and reordering agency priorities. This CFPB is engaging in a new set of regulatory and enforcement priorities. Businesses are no longer being viewed as the enemy, but instead are being invited to participate in the process of protecting consumers engaged in financial transactions. Increased participation on advisory boards and requests for information (RFIs) on a host of CFPB activities is just part of the makeover. Even the name has been changed to the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (BCFP). 

One of Acting Director Mulvaney’s first pronouncements was notice that the former Administration’s practice of “Regulation by Enforfcement” was now over. What’s that mean for enforcement of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA)? Will the BCFP actively investigate and prosecute RESPA offenses? 

Many in the title industry have felt that the PHH decision handed down by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia earlier this year, means title companies and title agents are free to engage in more aggressive marketing and advertising arrangements as well as establish new affiliated title agencies with real estate brokers, mortgage companies and builders. And while the PHH decision gives greater clarity to such activities, the decision did not rescind RESPA. The BCFP has developed clear guidelines on unacceptable activities and this session will take a deeper dive into marketing and services agreements (MSAs), lead generation arrangements and office rentals. 

The state attorneys general and insurance departments have been rattling their sabers when it comes to consumer protection. Seventeen state attorneys general wrote the president to say they support the Bureau and would continue to enforce consumer protection laws regardless of the status of BCFP leadership.

Phillip Schulman, a partner with the law firm Mayer Brown, will speak more in depth about this topic during the session “Yes, There’s Still RESPA Enforcement” at ALTA ONE. He also will examine what efforts have been taken at the state level to step up RESPA and consumer protection enforcement, including creation by some states of new consumer protection units. Click here to register.

Why Buying Title Insurance Isn’t like Buying Shoes Online

By Dean Collura

Let’s say you own an e-commerce shoe store. Tracking how many people purchase the shoes from your online marketing is pretty simple. A certain number of people view your ad (online marketing), some of them click on the ad, some of those people add the shoes to their shopping cart, and most of those people purchase the shoes.

People don’t shop for title insurance the same way. The truth is, people don’t “shop” for title insurance that way at all. Realtors, lenders and customers don’t typically look at different title company websites and purchase title insurance for themselves or on behalf of others. For example, a real estate agent may see your ad, but they may not have a deal for you until the following week or month. If they decide to use you, they will contact you.

If the Realtor or customer doesn’t already have a personal relationship with the title company or title agent, and experiences to support their opinion, they may be sizing up the title company based on how its website looks, how active it is on social media or by what others are saying in online reviews.

With a robust and effective online presence, you can earn trust at a faster rate than your competitors from people who don’t know you well yet. This should be the primary goal of any online marketing initiative.

To be effective, knowing your audience is critical. Communication styles vary as do the ways your prospective and current Customers connect to the information you provide.

Think Multi Channel

Having just one digital channel of communication in your online marketing restricts your abilities to effectively communicate and successfully connect with your prospects and customers of all generations.

Dean Collura, CEO and co-founder of TitleTap, and Wayne Stanley, founder and chief inspirational officer of Bowe Digital, will speak more in depth on this topic during the session “Are You Speaking To Me? A Blueprint for 5 Must Have Digital Marketing Channels” at ALTA ONE. Click here to register.

The Key to Innovation Is Locked Up In Your Culture

By Brad Miller

Think for a minute about the number of times someone enhanced and improved a process by doing the same ol’ same ol.’ Having trouble? Not surprising.

It’s too easy to cling to what’s familiar; to a mundane environment with no innovative approach and an attachment to “doing things this way because that’s the way we’ve always done it.” But the real estate industry is changing and growing like never before with things like blockchain, e-closing, mortgages on your phone. There are even homes being purchased with cryptocurrency.

It takes an open, forward-thinking vision toward innovation to be a leader in the industry. But how the culture of a team is shaped determines how well equipped that team will be in making that vision a reality. Transformative ideas are not grown in silos, they are the collaborative product that come from empowering people to explore unfamiliar territory. No matter how big or how small your team or company is, fostering an innovative culture hinges on promoting an environment, not just of curiosity, but of trust.

Whether it’s a small piece in the process that increases efficiency, or a new service that takes your company to the next level, innovation and your obsession with it will unleash your company’s successes, and is vital for keeping up with where the industry is headed.

Do you feel that your team has an atmosphere that is open to new ways of thinking or have they ventured into complacency? If you find yourself in the latter, challenge yourself to evaluate where your vision is taking you and how your culture aligns with that course. By clearing a path that supports an obsession with finding a better way, you’re helping shape the direction of the industry and how it will affect the future of the title and settlement experience. 

Remember, innovation at its core is thinking differently about the world around you; the key to accessing that vision starts with a culture of curiosity and trust.

Brad Miller, vice president of title operations for Amrock Inc., and Thomas Lico of Capital Title Insurance Agency will speak more in depth about this topic during the session titled “Building a Culture of Innovation” at ALTA ONE. Click here to register.

Planning for the Medium Term

As managers, it’s tempting to focus on the short-term profitability or long-term strategic bets on the future of the business. What gets lost is the need to successfully manage for the medium term—to navigate between decisions that will help you get the next deal and those that will get your next 100. 

What can we take from the past to help us to see this vision to prepare for what's possible in the near future. Isn't it better to be proactive than reactive?

During the session titled “Planning for the Medium Term” at ALTA ONE, you will learn about tools and tips to budget across multiple years, and to efficiently deploy your assets (both human and technology) to succeed in the short, medium and long term.

Lori Dorman is director of risk management for Agents National Title Insurance Company and Eric Schneider is the title group manager for Lakeside Title Company. The two will speak more in depth about this topic at ALTA ONE. Click here to register.

07/26/2018

Boost Your Marketing Efforts With These Brandable Ads

Altaprints

ALTA members can modify and brand marketing material with their company information and logo at www.ALTAprints.com. You can customize material and download PDFs for free or order prints that can be delivered directly to your office. 

  • ADVERTISEMENTS: These multi-purpose, customizable advertisements can be used as flyers in coffee shops, handouts at first-time homebuyer seminars and ads for your real estate clients.
  • MARKETING FLYERS: Use these one-pagers as handouts at a conference or add them to your new Homebuyer Outreach Program consumer introduction packet.
  • RACK CARDS: These are full of information about the benefits of title insurance in a two-sided half-sheet handout. They are the perfect item for any real estate function. The newest rack card educates consumers about how to protect their money from wire fraud.
  • POSTERS: These advertisements are customizable to print and ship to your next housing seminar, staff training, legislator/regulator meeting or open house.

How have you used HOP material to educate others about the benefits of title insurance and promote your business? Share your story by sending comments, photos or video to communications@alta.org.

06/12/2018

Federal Sting Disrupts, Recovers $14 Million in Fraudulent Wire Transfers

BEC_timeline

Federal authorities—including the Department of Justice and the FBI—coordinated a major law enforcement effort to disrupt international Business Email compromise (BEC) schemes designed to intercept and hijack wire transfers from businesses and individuals.

The six-month sweep called Operation WireWire resulted in 74 arrests (42 in the United States), as well as the seizure of nearly $2.4 million and the disruption and recovery of approximately $14 million in fraudulent wire transfers.

Criminal impersonating as sellers, Realtors, title companies or law firms during a real estate transaction are one of the most common BEC schemes identified by the FBI.

During the operation, U.S. law enforcement agents executed more than 51 domestic actions, including search warrants, asset seizure warrants, and money mule warning letters. And local and state law enforcement partners on FBI task forces across the country, with the assistance of multiple district attorney's offices, charged 15 alleged money mules for their roles in defrauding victims.

The role of money mules, witting or unwitting, in BEC schemes is very important—they are used to receive the stolen money and then transfer the funds as directed by the fraudsters. The mules usually keep a fraction of the money for their trouble.

“This operation demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to disrupt and dismantle criminal enterprises that target American citizens and their businesses,” said FBI Director Christopher A. Wray. “We will continue to work together with our law enforcement partners around the world to end these fraud schemes and protect the hard-earned assets of our citizens. The public we serve deserves nothing less.”

Since the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) began keeping track of BEC and its variant, Email Account Compromise (EAC), as a complaint category, there has been a loss of over $3.7 billion reported to the IC3. According to the FBI, BEC/EAC fraud activity was the top online crime in 2017 with reported losses of more than $675 million.

Resources

ALTA has produced a short video and an infographic to help raise awareness about wire fraud. Click here to access the resources. In addition, the ALTA Registry can serve as an effective countermeasure to wire fraud.

 

05/24/2018

BuyerDocs Unveils Service That Sends Wire Instructions Via Text

BuyerDocs recently launched a service that allows companies to send text/call notifications to alert homebuyers of their wiring instructions.

This is an additional notification to the email the homebuyer also receives. Here's an example of the text message homebuyers receive:

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The dialog for the phone call notification is created using Google’s text-to-speech API, which incorporates the latest machine learning networks to create realistic voices. This additional notification serves as an added security feature for closing offices and homebuyers, according to BuyerDocs.

05/15/2018

ALTA Promotes Capitol Hill Day on Pandora

ALTA is advertising on Pandora to inform members of Congress and their staff about our upcoming Advocacy Summit and Capitol Hill day on May 23. 

Below is an image of the ad and you can also listen to the recording.

Pandora_recording

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How Congress Can Help Fix Consumer Confusion When Buying a Home

 

05/10/2018

How Congress Can Help Fix Consumer Confusion When Buying a Home

Pass TRID Improvement Act

Under the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosures (TRID) rule, title insurance companies are not permitted to disclose available discounts for title insurance on TRID’s required disclosure forms. This creates inconsistencies in mortgage documents, causes confusion for homebuyers and undermines trust in the homebuying process. The bipartisan TRID Improvement Act of 2018 (H.R. 5078, S.2490) would resolve this issue by allowing the accurate disclosure of title insurance premiums. Having already passed the House unanimously in February 2018, the Senate should pass the TRID Improvement Act either as a standalone measure or as part of a larger regulatory relief package.

  • Example of how title fees are inaccurately disclosed in Missouri under current rule:

Missouri TRID_Page_1

Pass GUIDE Compliance Act

The release of the 1,888-page TRID rule has generated significant confusion. The Bureau has provided only limited guidance in response to questions and has routinely advised that the guidance is not binding.3 To address this issue, Reps. Sean Duffy (R-WI) and Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) introduced H.R. 5534, The “Give Useful Information to Define Effective Compliance Act” or the “GUIDE Compliance Act”. Please help us resolve this issue by supporting House passage and Senate introduction of the bipartisan GUIDE Compliance Act.

Specifically, the GUIDE Act:

  • Mandates that the director issue “guidance” that is necessary or appropriate to carry out the purpose of the laws it is responsible for including facilitating compliance
  • Defines “guidance” to include a range of written issuances from interpretative and legislative rules, to bulletins and frequently asked questions
  • Requires the bureau to publish in the Federal Register within one year of enactment the definitions, criteria, timelines and process for issuing each type of guidance the bureau shall provide, with a final rule required within 18 months of enactment
  • Prohibits liability for reliance in good faith on guidance from the bureau or any predecessor agency that was in effect at the time of such act or omission
  • Requires the bureau to establish a process and timeframes for requests for guidance, including time limits to provide answers in response to requests for guidance
  • Requires the bureau to create a process for amending or revoking guidance, including a process for public notice and comment
  • Requires the bureau to develop guidelines for determining the size of any civil money penalties and publish these guidelines in the Federal Register within 18 months of enactment

05/08/2018

What Do Consumers Really Want from the Mortgage Process?

Consumers are getting more comfortable with a digital mortgage process but still want someone to hold their hand and explain things to them when buying a home, according to Ellie Mae’s second annual Borrower Insights Survey.

Ellie Mae surveyed 3,006 U.S. adults who are current homeowners and renters above the age of 18. With a focus on driving a true digital mortgage experience, Ellie Mae was interested in learning about borrower expectations and experiences with online components of the mortgage process. Overall findings showed that borrowers across all generations are expecting digital options to be part of their loan process, but would still like the capability and flexibility of speaking to a lender, when needed. Ellie_mae_chart1

Survey highlights include:

  • The majority (61%) of respondents expected to be able to apply for and complete a mortgage application fully online.
  • 17% of current borrower and renter respondents shared that they have applied for a mortgage in the past year; comparatively, of respondents ages 18–24, 50% said they applied for a mortgage in the past year. This demonstrates the continued momentum of the Millennial generation’s purchase power and interest in homeownership.
  • 49% of mortgage holders surveyed responded that their last experience with a lender was for a purchase, and 47% responded that their last experience with a lender was for refinancing. Respondents age 44 and under were more likely to say their last experience with a lender was for a purchase, whereas more than 55% of those age 45 and over say their last experience with a lender was for a refinance.
  • For renters, when asked what is preventing them from buying a home, 64% of respondents between ages 65 and 70 said they are happy renting, while 56% of respondents ages 25–34 say they haven’t saved enough.
  • While it’s true some may not have enough money saved to purchase a home, the survey indicated that there’s opportunity for greater education for consumers around available loan type options and how much is needed for a down payment toward a home. More than 50% of respondents age 45 and over say they believe they need to put down 20% or more to purchase a home, while 50% of 18- to 24-year-old respondents said they needed to put down between 4–19%.
  • Regardless of income, most renters agree that the suburbs are the ideal place to settle down. Those renters making $100,000 or more showed a slight preference for suburban areas if they were to buy a home (50% compared to 45% who would prefer a city/urban area). For those making less than $100,000, the gap widened with all groups saying they would be more interested in living in a suburban area.

Ellie_mae_chart2

What This Means to You

According to the survey, preferences for method of communication may vary by generation, but consumers have a strong preference for a combination of in-person interaction with their loan officer, as well as the freedom and time to complete their loan process online at their convenience.

“These trends point to a significant opportunity for more assertive lender communications that build stronger borrower relationships and accelerate the loan process,” the survey concluded. “An increasing number of high-growth lenders have recognized the potential to help reinvent the entire mortgage experience for today’s digitally integrated consumers.”

While there is untapped opportunity for lenders at the front end of the process, the same potential holds true for title and settlement agents closing transactions.

Technology can be used as a catalyst to spend less time on the process and paperwork, allowing title and settlement companies to focus on delivering an efficient and secure closing.

While many define a digital mortgage as one component of the entire process, there is a much larger opportunity to improve the entire experience for homebuyers, as well as all parties involved in the transaction.