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 email@example.com.
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.”
On May 18, title professionals from across the country will be in Washington, D.C., for ALTA's 2016 Federal Conference & Lobby Day to advocate on behalf of the industry. Watch this short video as ALTA’s Board of Governors explain the important role the industry plays providing peace of mind to homebuyers by protecting their property rights.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) held a webinar April 12 to address frequently asked questions about the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosures (TRID) rule. One of the questions addressed was how to show flood insurance premiums on the Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure.
The CFPB staff stated that the term “homeowner’s insurance” as used under the rule includes flood insurance. Specifically, the CFPB staff stated that “homeowner’s insurance” under the rule means, “the amounts identified in § 1026.4(b)(8), which include premiums for insurance against losses or damage to property written in connection with the credit transaction.
As such, flood insurance is treated under the rule, and more generally under Regulation Z, as other casualty insurance, such as homeowner’s insurance.” CFPB straff noted that flood insurance may be disclosed on the forms under the Estimated Taxes, Insurance and Assessments in the Projected Payments table in the Homeowner’s Insurance line. Tthe box for Homeowner’s Insurance would be checked, and Yes or No would be indicted to state whether it is escrowed, according to the webinar. In addition, in the Projected Payments table, the Escrow amount would include any amount escrowed for flood insurance.
Under the Prepaids section in Other Costs, if there is any amount that is prepaid for flood insurance, it would be disclosed on the Homeowner’s Insurance line Section F along with any other prepaid amount for the homeowner’s insurance premium. Under the Escrow section in Other Costs, if any flood insurance premiums are in escrow, they would be disclosed on the line for Homeowner’s Insurance in Section G.
According to Richard Horn of Richard Horn Legal PLLC, the CFPB noted that the flood insurance payments would be reflected in the Escrow tables on page four of the Closing Disclosure, “but they did not explicitly state how it would be referred to (i.e., as Homeowner’s Insurance or Flood Insurance).”
“In addition, this answer does not address how to disclose the payee and the term in the Prepaids section or the amount of months collected in the Escrows section for Flood Insurance if this information is different from the hazard insurance policy,” Horn added.
During a webinar on April 12, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau addressed several questions regarding the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosures (TRID) rule that stakeholders have submitted in recent weeks, including the disclosure of fees for owner’s title insurance.
The CFPB specifically addressed this question submitted by ALTA during the webinar:
The calculation of the owner’s title policy premium (in a purchase transaction when owner’s and lender’s policies are issued simultaneously) in accordance with the rule might result in a negative number. Does the creditor disclose this negative number for the owner’s title policy on the Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure?
Dania Ayoubi, counsel in the CFPB’s Office of Regulations, said that in this situation, the creditor would disclose the premium for the owner’s policy as a negative number.
“When a simultaneous issue rate or discount is used—mostly in purchase transactions—the cost of an owner’s title insurance policy is disclosed as the incremental cost of that owner’s title insurance beyond the standard non-discounted cost of the lender’s title insurance policy,” Ayoubi said. “When disclosed in this fashion, the disclosure conveys to the consumer that it is less expensive to purchase both owner’s title insurance and lenders title insurance together than it is to purchase just lenders policy by itself.”
She referenced Comment 37(g)(4)-2 of the rule, which states “The premium for an owner’s title insurance policy for which a special rate may be available based on the simultaneous issuance of a lender’s and an owner’s policy is calculated and disclosed pursuant to § 1026.37(g)(4) as follows:
Ayoubi said the CFPB previously addressed how these premiums should be calculated and disclosed in the May 2015 webinar. She added that there are no provisions in Regulation Z that would prohibit the cost of owner’s title insurance from being disclosed as a negative number.
ALTA issued a release last week reminding the CFPB that the way the rule requires the disclosure of premiums for an owner’s policy is not “transparent,” “practical” or “accurate” as the bureau believes and is inconsistent with the Bureau’s mission to better inform consumers.
Other topics covered included:
Others participating on the webinar from CFPB’s Office of Regulations included Seth Caffrey, counsel; Kristin Switzer, regulatory implementation analyst; Alexa Reimelt, counsel; and Chelsea Peter, counsel.
CFPB staff reminded listeners that the webinar is not a substitute for the rule. Only the rule, including its amendments and official commentary, can provide complete and definitive information regarding the Rule’s requirements, according to the CFPB.
As a general rule, the CFPB presenters indicated that when determining how to comply with the rule, one should first search the rule to see if it specifies how to comply. Absent any specific guidance, one can disclose as he or she thinks is appropriate, as long as that method of disclosing is not prohibited by the rule. The main takeaway was that there are oftentimes several ways of disclosing a fee, any one of which may be acceptable under the rule. This approach reiterates ALTA's message that members need to communicate with their lender partners to determine how fees will be disclosed.
Offering thoughts on why title professionals should attend ALTA's 2016 Business Strategies Conference are David Townsend NTP, CEO of Agents National Title Insurance Co.; Cynthia Blair NTP, shareholder of Blair Cato Pickren Casterline LLC; Dan Mennenoh, president of H.B. Wilkinson Title Co.; and Diane Evans NTP, vice president of Land Title Guarantee.
There are plenty of cool things to do in Indy!
A title agent’s diligence in Washington successfully prevented a fraudulent email request for the company to send a wire transfer.
Maureen Pfaff, general manager and chief financial officer for Olympic Peninsula Title Co., recently received a random email requesting the company wire nearly $11,000 to a TD Bank in Florida.
Pfaff said she knew immediately the email was fraudulent because the message came from her father, who wouldn’t make a request like this via email.
“Additionally, the formality of the email and signing it the way they did was a dead giveaway,” Pfaff said.
Realizing it was a scam, Pfaff strung the criminal along, eventually sending something encrypted so she could get an IP address to include in the complaint filed with the FBI. Pfaff created a fake wire transfer notification in an encrypted email, which generated a report when opened.
Pfaff said this was the third fraud attempt the company has experienced in the past six months.
“They’ve all been different strategies,” she added.
Title professionals who receive these types of emails should report the incident to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, which is used to track trends in criminal activity.
Below are some of the emails between Pfaff and the fraudster (click to enlarge the image):
Criminals use various tricks to obtain information and money. Here are several other schemes title professionals should be aware of that are being used by criminals:
Identity theft victims can now go online and get a free, personalized identity theft recovery plan as a result of significant enhancements to the Federal Trade Commission’s IdentityTheft.gov website.
The new website is integrated with the FTC’s consumer complaint system, allowing consumers who are victims of identity theft to file a complaint with the FTC and then get a personalized guide to recovery that helps streamline many of the steps involved.
In addition to IdentityTheft.gov and the new personal recovery plan features, the FTC also provides educational materials for businesses with information on how to prevent identity theft and remain vigilant for other scams.
In 2015, the FTC received over 490,000 consumer complaints about identity theft, representing a 47 percent increase over the prior year, and the Department of Justice estimates that 17.6 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2014.
What can businesses do to help?
The third pillar of ALTA’s Title Insurance and Settlement Company Best Practices addresses policies and procedures for an appropriate information security program.
To learn more, register for ALTA’s Feb. 11 compliance webinar “Protecting Sensitive Customer Information: The Basics of Gramm-Leach-Bliley,” The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act provides the basic legal framework governing title and settlement companies’ duty to protect their customers’ non-public personal information (NPI).
Several executives from Stewart Information Services including Matt Morris, chief executive officer, rang the opening bell on Jan. 29 for the New York Stock Exchange.
“We are honored to have had the opportunity to ring the iconic opening bell,” Morris said. “It was a great occasion for us to kick off 2016. This will be a year of continued momentum and growth, as well as a year of transformation with our recent governance changes. We will center our business on our customers and real estate partners to drive trusted real estate services delivered by our amazing associates who make it possible.”
Joining Morris on the podium were Thomas Apel, Stewart’s chairman of the board; Allen Berryman, chief financial officer; John Killea, chief legal officer; Ted C. Jones, chief economist; Nat Otis, director of investor relations; and Jennie Craig, vice president marketing programs and media relations.
Morris opened trading with the ringing of the bell at the 4:25 mark of the following video: