Make an Impact: Share Your Story

ALTA needs your help!

This time each year, ALTA strives to leave a lasting impression on Congress. We want members of Congress not only to know what title insurance is and how it benefits consumers, but also who we are as title insurance professionals and what we do for each of our local communities.

The best way to get Congress members to remember you and your connection to ALTA is to share your story! Your personal stories make an impact because they show that what you do is important to the people who turn up to vote on election day.  

Stories about how we as title insurance professionals lead, deliver and protect our customers are vital to ALTA’s advocacy throughout the year. We want to hear stories about how you lead the charge by fostering an innovative culture. We want to know how you delivered a transaction that was accurate, swift and secure. Tell us how you protected property rights for everyone involved! Because you “walk the title talk” every day, you are the person best prepared to teach others the benefits of our business. We want to share with Congress how you saved the day!

To tell your story in five easy steps, take ALTA’s short survey and demonstrate your value – and the value of title insurance – to Congress.

Thank you for being an advocate!


Boost Your Marketing Efforts With These New Ads

ALTA and its Homebuyer Outreach Program Committee have developed several new advertisements for members to use as handouts to first-time homebuyers, ads for real estate clients or flyers in coffee shops. Members can customize material and download PDFs for free or order prints that can be delivered directly to your office. Check out the new ads, which include material targeting consumers, real estate agents and regulators. Click here to download the ads or purchase branded material.




2030 Marks Important Milestone for U.S. Population, Housing Market

The year 2030 marks an important demographic turning point in U.S. history, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 National Population Projections. Why? By 2030, all baby boomers will be older than age 65. This will expand the size of the older population so that one in every five residents will be retirement age.

Pop-projections-3“The aging of baby boomers means that within just a couple decades, older people are projected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history,” said Jonathan Vespa, a demographer with the U.S. Census Bureau. “By 2035, there will be 78.0 million people 65 years and older compared to 76.4 million under the age of 18.”

This will significantly affect the type of housing that needed in the United States. The 2030s are projected to be a transformative decade for the U.S. population. The population is expected to grow at a slower pace, age considerably and become more racially and ethnically diverse. Net international migration is projected to overtake natural increase in 2030 as the primary driver of population growth in the United States, another demographic first for the United States.

Although births are projected to be nearly four times larger than the level of net international migration in coming decades, the Census Bureau reports that the rising number of deaths will increasingly offset how much births are able to contribute to population growth. Between 2020 and 2050, the number of deaths is projected to rise substantially as the population ages and a significant share of the population, the baby boomers, age into older adulthood. As a result, the population will naturally grow very slowly, leaving net international migration to overtake natural increase as the leading cause of population growth, even as projected levels of migration remain relatively constant.

Other highlights from the census population projections:

Population Growth

  • By 2060, the United States is projected to grow by 78 million people, from about 326 million today to 404 million. The population is projected to cross the 400-million threshold in 2058.
  • In coming years, the rate at which the U.S. population grows is expected to slow down. The population is projected to grow by an average of 2.3 million people per year until 2030. But that number is expected to decline to an average of 1.8 million per year between 2030 and 2040, and continue falling to 1.5 million per year from 2040 to 2060.


  • As the population ages, the ratio of older adults to working-age adults, also known as the old-age dependency ratio, is projected to rise. By 2020, there will be about three-and-a-half working-age adults for every retirement-age person. By 2060, that ratio will fall to just two-and-a-half working-age adults for every retirement-age person.
  • The median age of the U.S. population is expected to grow from age 38 today to age 43 by 2060.

Race and Ethnicity

  • The non-Hispanic White-alone population is projected to shrink over the coming decades, from 199 million in 2020 to 179 million in 2060—even as the U.S. population continues to grow. Their decline is driven by falling birth rates and a rising number of deaths over time among non-Hispanic Whites as that population ages. In comparison, the White-alone population, regardless of Hispanic origin, is projected to grow from about 253 million to 275 million over the same period.
  • The Two or More Races population is projected to be the fastest growing over the next several decades, followed by single-race Asians and Hispanics of any race. The causes of their growth are different, however. For Hispanics and people who are Two or More Races, their high growth rates are largely the result of high rates of natural increase, given the relatively young age structures of these populations. For Asians, the driving force behind their growth is high net international migration.


  • By 2020, less than half of children in the United States are projected to be non-Hispanic white alone (49.8 percent of the projected 73.9 million children under age 18). In comparison, about 72 percent of children are projected to be White alone, regardless of Hispanic origin.
  • The share of children who are Two or More Races is projected to more than double in coming decades, from 5.3 percent today to 11.3 percent in 2060.
  • The racial and ethnic composition of younger birth cohorts is expected to change more quickly than for older cohorts. In 2060, over one-third of children are projected to be non-Hispanic white alone compared with over one-half of older adults (36.5 percent compared with 55.1 percent, respectively).


Our Values In Action

Pic4A company’s values are the cornerstone of its culture. They are the basis of how a business functions. They set you apart from the competition, make you unique and are essential to achieving an organization’s goals.

Last year, ALTA unveiled its Our Values initiative. The values are:

  • We Lead: We are the authority in real estate transactions. We innovate for the benefit of our customers.
  • We Deliver: Our customers trust us to do the right thing, the right way—before, during and after the transaction. We sweat the small stuff to assure that land transfer is accurate, swift and secure.
  • We Protect: We protect the property rights of those we serve. We reduce risk so our customers have peace of mind.

To develop the values, ALTA spent more than a year listening to members to understand the pride they take in their work helping consumers close real estate transactions and protecting property rights. These conversations served as the foundation of Our Values and reflect the enduring, memorable and aspirational values of ALTA members.

Shortly after sharing the Our Values initiative, an ALTA member shared how her company promoted the values. Beth Ford, a sales representative for Abstract & Title had etched on glass to display in their office.

ALTA members can download a PDF of We Lead We Deliver We Protect from ALTAprints.com.

Have you used ALTA’s Our Values to develop company values? Share your story by emailing communications@alta.org.


Watch the Brand New ALTA SPRINGBOARD Video!

Let's face it, we could tell you until we're blue in the face how perfect ALTA SPRINGBOARD is for you and your organization. But when you want to try something new, who do you go to for an honest opinion? Your friends! Take a look at this short video of your title industry friends describing their experiences at the in-person event that gets you ready to share and learn new ideas: 

Convincing, aren't they? Be sure to register and save your spot at ALTA SPRINGBOARD in Atlanta, March 20-21.

If you need a hotel room, stay with your friends at the W Midtown: The room block cut-off date is February 16.

Interested in becoming a vendor at this event? Contact Claire Mitchell.

Register Today!


The Need for Change Management

“Create a compelling vision, one that takes people to a new place, and then translate that vision into a reality.”

—Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader

By Natalie I. Lancaster

We live in an era of constant change. Nothing stays the same. Change comes in many forms. It could be a change in legislative or regulatory compliance (CFPB), or a change in your business process or policies (ALTA’s Best Practices), and it will most likely include a change in technology. The success of any business transition depends on leaders being able to influence others, such as your staff. They do this by sharing a clear vision, building enthusiasm for the adoption of the change, making them keenly aware of how their role will be impacted, arming them with the knowledge, ability and skills needed to perform effectively, and managing any resistance that arises. It’s a big job that includes strategic planning, careful analysis, clear communications, effective training, and coaching to reinforce the new processes.

When planning a change in business process, policies or technologies, most managers do not take into consideration how the transition will impact their staff. They focus on strategic and tactical planning, but not on the people side of change and how their behaviors may be affected. Change is an individual thing after all, so it takes some creative planning and powerful enthusiasm to engage your staff. Change management offers purposeful activities to help ensure the success of your business transition. Our industry needs to embrace change management and incorporate its principles into our business plans for successful adoption.

What is Change Management?

Change management is the science that studies how individuals transition through events and what’s needed to change their behavior. It’s the art of working on the “people side of change.” Change management is a new buzz in our industry, but it has been around for a while. Many of you shared “Who Moved my Cheese” (Spencer Johnson) with your staff or may recall the work of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (5 Stages of Grief - the Change Curve), William Bridges (Managing Transitions), John Kotter (Leading Change) and so many more. I have studied Prosci’s model of change management and find it to be very useful.

Management chart

For change management to be successful, it must adhere to principles that work. Prosci offers a methodology called ADKAR which identifies what people need for sustainable change. ADKAR is an acronym for awareness, desire, knowledge, ability and reinforcement. Jeff Hiatt—the founder of Prosci and a former engineer and program manager for Bell Labs—once noticed that two similar projects could both have excellent technical solutions and project management, yet one would successfully meet its objectives while the other would fail. Hiatt found that people were the key to this success.

“Research on thousands of initiatives shows a direct correlation between how well the people side of change is managed (change management) and how successful the effort is,” Hiatt said. “Projects with improved change management had increased likelihood of meeting objectives, finishing on time and finishing on budget.”

When planning a significant change in our business, we must work closely with our staff to confirm that they have:

  • Awareness of the need for change
  • Desire to participate in and support the change
  • Knowledge on how to change
  • Ability to implement required skills and behaviors
  • Reinforcement to sustain the change

Prosci uses a three-part process to help organizations transition through change. Successful change management begins with planning. Change managers work with the project team before, during and after the transition. They help identify what staff needs will be to transition effectively.

The first phase is preparing for the change. Preparations include being able to accurately define what is changing and why. Leaders must be able to paint a vision and have a clear explanation for the change to share with their staff. The management team must also be prepared for their role and involvement, understanding the real impact of the change for their offices and staff. Key sponsors are chosen to spread the word. Consistent messaging must be provided at the appropriate time to support the project plan.

The second phase of change management involves managing the change. Working closely with the project team, change management plans must be developed and carried out. It’s important to monitor the implementation and deployment process and to make course corrections as needed. Business processes should be integrated into training plans and testing done to confirm the details are accurate, organized and clear.

Finally, the last phase of change management is reinforcing the change and ensuring that everything is working as planned. It is helpful to collect feedback from our staff and truly understand their questions and concerns. Do they need more training? Was everything communicated clearly? How are things going? Feedback helps us be aware if there are any issues that need to be addressed. It also serves to help manage any resistance.

Whenever people are involved, there will always be some resistance to change. Anticipating what the issues may be and planning for resistance in advance, we can work together and coach through the transition. Most resistance comes from either a lack of communication, misunderstanding or insufficient training. If employees are well informed, with detailed communications and on-point training, resistance will be minimal. Working as a team, with the help of good change management activities in place, the project goes much smoother and our business grows stronger. When the project is complete, celebrate success!

Why We Need Change Management now?

We work in an industry where change is now the new norm. Our ethics and compliance are tested daily. The challenge to move in the constant direction of process improvement, with higher standards for business practices, emphasizes the great need for successful change management in our industry.

Making sure that change management is part of our project plan helps transitions go smoothly. Thinking ahead about what communications will be needed during and after the transition is key. Careful planning, with active and encouraging leadership, helps get employees excited to move forward with the new change. If they are armed with knowledge of what is planned, what is expected of them and how it will affect their role in the organization, they will move forward with enthusiasm and appreciation of the time we take to help them transition. Gaining ability, through efficient, interactive training gives your staff the ability to be successful.

Employees need to understand the changes taking place at their level, based on their role, to be successful and productive. All too often, leaders make decisions and jump into action to deploy changes without taking the time to truly plan what is needed for their staff. Think of change management as a success enabler. Business transitions go much smoother and our business grows stronger when we integrate change management practices.


People are what make businesses successful. For an organization to manage change effectively, we must work with the people affected by the change. Without their buy-in, we will not be successful. Change management helps employees move though business transitions successfully. It is my personal goal to see change management become embraced as part of the real estate industry.

Natalie I. Lancaster is founder of Lancaster Leadership, which provides change management solutions, coaching and training to the title and settlement services industry. She can be reached at coaching@lancasterleadership.net.


What Tax Reform Means for Real Estate Industry, ALTA Members

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which was signed into law Dec. 22, slashes rates for corporations, provides new breaks for private businesses and reorganizes the individual tax code. Specific to real estate, the new legislation will affect homeowners, homebuyers, real estate investors and ALTA members.

The legislation also includes a significant victory for ALTA and its members. Efforts by ALTA, members of the Title Action Network and the Congressional Liaisons helped convince Congress to retain the current treatment of capital gains on sale of a primary residence. Current law says a seller must live in their principal residence for two of the last five years before a seller can exclude up to $250,000 ($500,000 for joint filers) of capital gains on their sale.

The Senate-passed bill would have changed the amount of time a homeowner must live in their home to qualify for the capital gains exclusion to five out of the past eight years. The House bill would have made this same change as well as phased out the exclusion for taxpayers with incomes above $250,000 single/$500,000 married.

"ALTA commends the work of the House and Senate conferees as they finalize the landmark tax reform plan and applauds the preservation of key housing tax provisions including the capital gains treatment on sale of a primary residence," said Michelle Korsmo, ALTA's chief executive officer. "ALTA has argued that tax policy changes should promote investment in real estate and housing. The decision to preserve the two-year ownership requirement for capital gains treatment on the sale of a principal residence is a victory for working families and military veterans who must move for their job. There are many marbles in the tax reform bag, but Congress understood that increasing the holding period would have artificially reduced the ability of homeowners to generate wealth, decreased the desire to purchase a home and profoundly affected the economy and local communities.”

Tax cut impact


Key Provisions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Affecting Real Estate and ALTA Members

Tax Rate Reductions

  • Maintains seven individual income tax brackets, but lowers most rates: 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, and 37%.
  • The final bill retains the current-law maximum rates on net capital gains (generally, 15% maximum rate but 20% for those in the highest tax bracket; 25% rate on “recapture” of depreciation from real property).
  • Lowers the corporate tax rate to 21% (from 35%).

Mortgage Interest Deduction

  • The final bill reduces the limit on deductible mortgage debt to $750,000 for new loans taken out after Dec. 14, 2017. Current loans of up to $1 million are grandfathered and are not subject to the new $750,000 cap. Neither limit is indexed for inflation.
  • Homeowners may refinance mortgage debts existing on Dec. 14, 2017, up to $1 million and still deduct the interest, so long as the new loan does not exceed the amount of the mortgage being refinanced.
  • The final bill repeals the deduction for interest paid on home equity debt through Dec. 31, 2025. Interest is still deductible on home equity loans (or second mortgages) if the proceeds are used to substantially improve the residence.
  • Interest remains deductible on second homes, but subject to the $1 million/$750,000 limits.

Deduction for State and Local Taxes

  • The legislation allows individuals to deduct an aggregate of $10,000 of state and local government taxes (SALT) for property, sales or income tax. Previous bills limited the SALT deduction to only property taxes. This $10,000 limit applies for both single and married filers and is not indexed for inflation.
  • The final bill also specifically precludes the deduction of 2018 state and local income taxes prepaid in 2017.

Standard Deduction

  • Nearly doubles the standard deduction from $6,350 ($12,700) under current law to $12,000 ($24,000) for individuals (married couples).

Alternative Minimum Tax

  • Retains the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), but increases the amount of income exempt for individuals. Repeals the corporate AMT.

Like-Kind Exchanges

  • The final bill retains the current Section 1031 Like Kind Exchange rules for real property. It repeals the use of Section 1031 for personal property, such as art work, auto fleets, heavy equipment, etc.

Carried Interest

  • The final bill includes the House and Senate language requiring a three-year holding period to qualify for current-law (capital gains) treatment.

Pass-Through Relief

  • The legislation creates a new tax deduction of 20 percent for pass-through businesses. For taxpayers with incomes above certain thresholds, the 20 percent deduction is limited to the greater of: (a) 50% of the W-2 wages paid by the business, or (b) 25% of the W-2 wages paid by the business, plus 2.5% of the unadjusted basis, immediately after acquisition, of depreciable property (which includes structures, but not land). REIT dividends and distributions from publicly traded partnerships are not be subject to the wage restriction. Estates and trusts are eligible for the pass-through benefit.  Income from certain specified services businesses is ineligible (e.g., health, law, financial services, etc.).   
    • Example. A business purchases an office building for $10 million ($7 million attributable to the structure, $3 million attributable to the land). The building generates annual rental income of $500,000. The maximum allowable pass-through deduction would be $100,000 (20% of $500K). Even if the business paid no wages, the business would qualify for the full deduction because 2.5% of $7 million is $175,000. For a taxpayer subject to the maximum 37% tax rate, the rental income would be taxed at an effective rate of 29.6%.

Affordable Care Act

  • Eliminates individual mandate penalty associated with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) beginning in 2019.


Know Your Traditional and E-closing Options

Closing optionsThere’s been a lot of buzz about online notaries and digital closings over the past year. While many states will start to consider online notary legislation, the fact remains there are four main ways closings can occur. Here’s a summary of the options:

Traditional Wet Signing: These closings are handled in-person and all of the documents are in paper format. The closing is handled with an in-office or mobile notary public signing with the buyers and sellers. They can also be conducted by what is called a mail-away, where the documents are mailed to the buyers and sellers, who must locate a public notary in their area and sign in their presence.

Hybrid E-closing: These closings are similar to the traditional closing in that they are handled in-person. Some of the documents are wet signed, while some are signed digitally with an e-signature. These are typically handed in-office or the mobile notary drives to meet the buyers and sellers.

In-person Digital E-closing: Terms for this type of closing have not been standardized yet in the industry. In this closing, the notary public is sitting face-to-face with the buyers and sellers, but 100 percent of the documents are signed with e-signatures. This can happen in the title agent’s office or the notary public can meet the buyers and sellers at a different location.

Online Notary E-closing: This type of closing is the newest version. It has many different names, but often referred to as online notary. You might also hear the terms webcam or remote used to describe this type of closing. What’s new here is that the notary public is not face-to-face with the signers. Instead the notary public appears before the buyers and sellers via some webcam or audio visual-technology. Because of that, all of the documents are digital and e-signed. Currently, only two states have legislation on the books that governs online notaries. Virginia and Montana allow for this type of closing in certain circumstances. Texas and Nevada passed online notary bills that go into effect in 2018. Several other states will consider online notary legislation in 2018 as well. 


ClosingCorp Reports Average Mortgage Closing Cost Data

The average national closing costs totaled $4,876, according to a recent survey released by ClosingCorp.

This data represents the average closing costs, including lender’s title, owner’s title, settlement, appraisal, transfer taxes (where applicable), recording fees and other costs including inspection (pest, roof and home) services and land surveys. This data is compiled using real rates and fees as reported by more than 20,000 real estate service providers in the ClosingCorp Network.

It shows the states with the highest average closing costs were:

  • District of Columbia ($12,573)
  • New York ($9,341)
  • Delaware ($8,663)
  • Maryland ($7,211)
  • Vermont ($6,839)

The states with the lowest closing costs were:

  • North Carolina ($3,206)
  • Iowa ($3,138)
  • South Dakota ($2,996)
  • Indiana ($2,934)
  • Missouri ($2,905).

“Closing costs can vary significantly, depending on the state or county a homebuyer lives in. For example, five counties in New York—Kings, Queens, Bronx, Richmond and Suffolk—had the highest closing costs, going well above the national and state average, due to having some of the highest transfer taxes in the country,” said Bob Jennings, chief executive officer of ClosingCorp. “Of course, many homebuyers are still surprised closing costs are even required—making it vital for our company to keep educating borrowers and helping lenders improve the accuracy of their loan estimates in order to eliminate any surprises.”

According to ClosingCorp, median fees are derived by running preconfigured loan scenarios against the verified rates and fees data it maintains for service providers and tax authorities with coverage in every county nationwide. The preconfigured loan scenarios are based on different loan types, loan purposes and loan amounts in $25,000 increments up to $100,000 then $100,000 increments up to $20,000,000. The results of running the preconfigured loan scenarios and application of the endorsement rules generates the median fees for every county. The results at the county level are rolled up to the CBSA level using number of housing units per county to create a weighted average. Assuming an 80 percent  loan-to-value ratio, ClosingCorp uses the median sales price for a given period for each CBSA and applies the fee calculation formulas to derive the median fees by CBSA.

Average Closing Costs by State


Average Purchase Price

Average Total Closing Costs






























































































































































CBSAs with the Highest Average Closing Costs


Average Purchase Price

Average Total Closing Costs

New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA



San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA



Dover, DE



Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV



Reading, PA




CBSAs with the Lowest Average Closing Costs 


Average Purchase Price

Average Total Closing Costs

Muncie, IN



Marion, IN



Kokomo, IN



Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN



Jefferson City, MO



Counties with the Highest Average Closing Costs 


Average Purchase Price

Average Total Closing Costs

District of Columbia, DC



Kings, NY



Queens, NY



Bronx, NY



Richmond, MY



Pitkin, CO



Sussex, DE



Westchester, NY



Suffolk, NY



Montgomery, MD




ALTA Welcomes 2017-18 Board of Governors and Exec Committees

Board graphic