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.

Commercial Real Estate Trends

By Nancy Landmark and James Thanasules

Picture this: Four dogs running full speed, careening across the dog park. Suddenly, one turns left faster than the others could anticipate. The other dog owner’s and I watch on in awe as that unexpected left turn creates a giant dog pile consisting of two hounds, a collie and a great pyrenees. I distinctly remember how each dog reacted to the collision differently, and each had a very different outcome (don’t worry, all four are fine today).

In many ways, watching this collision unfold was not unlike watching the forces that affect commercial real estate transactions.  These forces include political and regulatory uncertainty, generational changes that affect the location and makeup of commercial development, increasing foreign investment due to relative market stability, and volatility of energy markets.  Where these trends intersect lies great opportunity – and risk – in the commercial real estate market, commercial title insurance, and in closing sectors.

Stepping into the maelstrom of commercial real estate can be like stepping in to sort out that dog pile.  It can appear chaotic and occasionally indecipherable, but in the end, things come together and the deal moves forward.  Ultimately, commercial real estate transactions turn on managed risk – for buyers, sellers, lenders and title folks.  Most, though not all, participants in these transactions are well versed in the general process and expectations.  Most have a good understanding of real estate – or at least their focused aspect of real estate. 

The commercial title insurance and closing team need to have a solid understanding of their role in a transaction and the ability to help sort out the collisions when they occur.  That way everyone walks away from closing, feeling good and running strong.

 

Nancy Landmark is a VP and Senior Title Counsel at Commercial Partners Title, LLC. James Thanasules is SVP and Chief New York State Counsel at AmTrust Title Insurance Company. Both industry experts will speak more in depth about this topic during a session titled “Commercial Real Estate Trends" at ALTA ONE in October. Click here to register for ALTA ONE.

07/26/2017

Drowning Consumers: How HOP Can Help you to Educate the Consumer!

By Patrick Harris and Elizabeth Wysong Berg

“So, Phil, what do you do for a living?”

It’s the dreaded question that comes up during every summer barbeque, cocktail party, and family gathering. A friend, family member, or new acquaintance asks what you do at your workplace. And, as always, you’re drowning. How in the world do you explain the complicated world of title and escrow that you live every day?

For other real estate professionals, the question comes from their clients: “What is title? What is escrow?” Yet again, words escape you and your customers are drowning too! What do you do?

Look no further than “Drowning Consumers: How HOP Can Help You Educate the Consumer,” one of the many engaging sessions at ALTA’s national convention, ALTA ONE.  Led by Elizabeth Berg and Patrick Harris, this workshop will help you kick off the floaties, and better explain title and escrow to beleaguered consumers as well as other real estate professionals.

Here’s a sneak peek into this cutting-edge presentation:

  • Master Talking Points for real estate professionals to explain title and escrow in short, simple terms
  • Discover the Four Words that perfectly explain title and escrow to John and Jane Smith
  • Learn about Marketing and Sales Techniques that cut through the noise and present your company loud and proud
  • Revisit ALTA’s Homeowner Outreach Program
  • Be the first to see the latest, greatest and Newest HOP Materials and campaigns (trust us, you’ll love it)
  • See, hear, and touch Real Life Examples of Title and Escrow companies who implement the HOP program and have increased their market share
  • A dynamic, conversational presentation that invites questions, discussion, and great ideas

Don’t swim against the current as you struggle to explain the ins and outs of the real estate process. Attend “Drowning Consumers” and swim confidently with the current of knowledge. Then, the next time someone asks about title and escrow, you’ll know exactly to say.

 

Patrick Harris is currently working for Western Title Company, where he specializes in communications with realtors and consumers in their home-buying process. Elizabeth Wysong Berg is the Northeast Region Underwriting Counsel at Agents National Title Insurance Company. Both industry experts will speak more in depth about this topic during a session titled, "Consumers: How HOP Can Help you to Educate the Consumer!” at ALTA ONE in October. Click here to register now.