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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.

 

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