Share Your #GoodDeeds

GooddeedsCommunity is not based on our ability to physically see and touch each other, but rather the connection and care we show for each other—especially in times of need. ALTA would like to hear how you are continuing to serve your customers and communities during this uncertain and unprecedented time. We know how involved you are in your local market even when there’s not a pandemic, so we know you are actively involved in helping those that might need it most. We would like to highlight all the great volunteerism that is happening across our industry and the creative ways you’ve modified processes to get deals closed. 

Here are three ways you can share your story with us:

  1. Email your story at communications@alta.org.
  2. Post your story in the comments section on our blog.
  3. Share your story on Facebook or Instagram, use #GoodDeeds and tag ALTA.

10/26/2021

RamQuest Supports Louisiana Food Bank

RamQuest announced a donation of $2,440 to the Second Harvest Food Bank in New Orleans.

The provider of technology-based solutions for the title and settlement industry raised the money during the 2021 ALTA ONE conference. The donation is part of the company’s ongoing GiveBIG (Give Back to Ignite Good) initiative to support local communities and non-profit organizations.

As the largest charitable anti-hunger network in southern Louisiana, Second Harvest Food Bank provides food access to more than 200,000 people in the area. RamQuest’s donation will aid victims of Hurricane Ida, which hit Louisiana on Aug. 29.

“Thanks to (RamQuest’s) generosity, Second Harvest will be there to assist our community as we recover during the long months ahead,” said Natalie Jayroe, president of Second Harvest Food Bank.  

The money will provide locals with food, water, emergency supplies and cleaning supplies.

ALTA ONE conference participants joined in the cause as they engaged with RamQuest at its exhibit booth during the week-long convention in New Orleans.

10/21/2021

Report: Closing Fees as Percentage of Purchase Price Decreases

Closing costs 2021 half yearCountering skyrocketing home values, the title and settlement industry continues to find ways to manage homebuying fees as closing costs as a percentage of purchase price declined during the first half of 2021.

According to the latest data from ClosingCorp, closing costs as a percentage of purchase prices declined to 1.03% this year, down from 1.06% in 2020.

“Although the average home price increased by nearly $45,000, the closing costs, excluding taxes, on that property only increased by $400,” said Bob Jennings, CEO of ClosingCorp. “In addition to keeping up with high demand, the mortgage industry is doing a good job in holding down the costs it can control.”

During the first half of 2021, ClosingCorp reported the national average closing costs for a single-family property were $6,837 including taxes, and $3,836 excluding taxes. These were 12.3% and 10.5% year-over-year increases, respectively; whereas refinance closings costs increased marginally to $2,398, a 4.87% change from the reported 2020 average of $2,287.

ClosingCorp cost calculations include lender’s title policy, owner’s title policy, appraisal, settlement, recording fees, land surveys and transfer tax. ClosingCorp uses home price data from CoreLogic to estimate closing costs for an average home at the state, core-based statistical area (CBSA) and county levels. ClosingCorp uses ranges, rather than single values, to more accurately capture fees associated with the real transactions.

ClosingCorp analyzed data on more than 1.9 million single-family purchase transactions that ran through its platform in the first half of this year. The report includes market-specific rates and fees, not just network averages charged by the most active settlement services providers in each geographic area, according to Dori Daganhardt, chief data officer of ClosingCorp.

The 2021 report shows the states with the highest average closing costs, including taxes, were: District of Columbia ($30,352), Delaware ($17,831), New York ($17,582), Washington ($13,909), and Maryland ($12,056). The states with the lowest closing costs, including taxes, were: Missouri ($2,102), Indiana ($2,193), North Dakota ($2,321), Kentucky ($2,355) and Wyoming ($2,509).

The states with the highest average closing costs, excluding taxes, were: District of Columbia ($6,523), New York ($6,300), Hawaii ($5,976), California ($5,772), and Washington ($4,803). The states with the lowest closing costs, excluding taxes, were: Arkansas ($2,071), Missouri ($2,102), Indiana ($2,193), Nebraska ($2,193) and Kentucky ($2,193).

10/12/2021

It’s Time to be All In at ALTA ONE

ALTA ONE provides the opportunity for title professionals to dive into trends and policies shaping the industry. It’s also the optimal event to reconnect with colleagues from across the country and prepare for upcoming opportunities and challenges. It’s time to be ALL In for your customers, your business, your team and your future.

Here’s a quick rundown of key presentations during the featured Omni Sessions this week at ALTA ONE, which is being held Oct. 12-15 in New Orleans.

Power of Perception

How can we adapt and thrive when the ground beneath us is shifting? Neuroscientist Dr. Beau Lotto has spent decades studying the way we see—and in this Oct. 13 opening Omni Session (sponsored by First American)—he will illuminate these principles of perception, helping you overcome biases, embrace uncertainty, transform your approach to creativity and unlock innovation. Lotto will use hard science to open your mind and help you see the world—and yourself—differently.

The founder and CEO of The Lab of Misfits, a neuro-design studio that seeks to “break down the walls of the traditional laboratory” and study humans in their natural habitats, Lotto also is a professor of neuroscience at the University of London and a visiting scholar at New York University. He is the author of “Why We See What We Do” and “Deviate: The Science of Seeing Differently,” which explores the surprising science of creativity and unveils the unexpected relationship between perception, reality and innovation.

Technology Innovation and Hope

From a worldwide health pandemic to hurricanes and wildfires to unrelenting cyberattacks: Where you may see uncertainty, former White House CIO Theresa Payton sees a future of technology innovation and hope. Payton knows how to transform people and technology to meet shifting and often conflicting priorities. In this “little something extra” Omni Session on Oct. 13, she will discuss her unique perspective on accelerating and reimagining your technology while also keeping your employees, customers and data secure.

 

What you see on her hit CBS show, “Hunted,” is what she does in real life: follow the digital tracks of the criminal adversary. Payton will provide a sneak preview into the inner workings of cybercriminal syndicates that are behind some of the largest cybersecurity incidents, including ransomware. Through real life stories, she’ll share how criminals leverage the cloud, blockchain, cryptocurrency, artificial intelligence, open-source intelligence, 5G, the internet of things and even deep fakes to conduct their tradecraft.

You will walk away from her Omni Session with a list of things you can implement immediately, a blueprint for guarding your work life and personal life against attack. Payton also will give her cybercrime predictions for 2022 and beyond and tell you how to prepare.

Diversity in Leadership

“You don’t have a diversity problem—you have a leadership problem.” During the Oct. 14 Omni Session (sponsored by the FNF Family of Companies), Ginny Clarke, a former director of executive recruiting at Google, will share her expertise in driving diverse leadership. Clarke will deliver a “no-holds-barred” discussion on the causes that lead to a lack of diversity in organizations and provide thoughtful, integrated solutions you can use to affect change. She will share the provocative view that leaders can be the ailment or the remedy for Corporate America’s “Diversity Problem.”

A published author, podcast host and entrepreneur, Clarke is the CEO of Ginny Clarke LLC, her own talent and leadership consulting business. Previously, she was a partner at Spencer Stuart, a global executive search firm based in Chicago. She has been in corporate boardrooms assessing and advising leaders for nearly 25 years and has a deep understanding of how to fairly assess talent as well as build that capability in your organization.

Playing the Game

To kick off the closing Omni Session sponsored by AccuTitle, Immediate Past President Mary O’Donnell and ALTA CEO Diane Tomb will present the next round of ALTA Good Deeds Foundation grants.

Following that, ALTA President Bill Burding NTP will interview former football star Archie Manning.

The conversation will address football, but Manning will share his four principles: leadership, dependability, flexibility and “playing the game.” Manning will offer advice on how to apply the principles to community, business and day-to-day life—ultimately helping achieve success.

As the New Orleans Saints’ No. 1 draft pick in 1971, Manning has been recognized as one of the top 50 players in the franchise’s history, inducted into multiple Halls of Fame and won awards for everything from coaching to humanitarianism and, yes, even Father of the Year. His permanent record features a laundry list of activities that better his community, including the Louisiana Special Olympics, the New Orleans Area Boy Scout Council, the United Way Speakers Bureau and the Salvation Army. He also is the chair of the board of the National Football Foundation.

Following the interview with Manning, ALTA’s 2021-2022 Board of Governors will be installed followed by incoming ALTA President Dan Wold.

Giving Back ‘A Passion’

GPMade Foundatoin Donation Picture
Pictured include: Gary and Missy Pinkel, founders of GPMade Foundation; Pam and Chuck Bowman, owners of Monarch Title; and staff of Monarch Title.

Giving back to their community is part of the company culture at Missouri-based Monarch Title Co.

Company president and CEO Chuck Bowman MTP, NTP serves on several non-profit boards. One organization Bowman and his wife, Pam, support is GPMade Foundation. The group provides financial support for research for children facing lymphoma and leukemia cancer, support for children with physical challenges and aid to children and youth experiencing economic and social challenges through mentoring and scholarships for education.

This year, the title company is donating $5 of every closing from its four offices in Missouri to GPMade Foundation. This will equal approximately $15,000 for the year, according to Bowman.

Four years ago, The Bowmans started a program called Bingo for Babies. Over the last four years, Monarch Title has raised close to $50,000 for the organization.

“It is mine and Pam’s passion and culture to give back to our community,” Bowman said. “For this we are very proud. Thanks for letting me share our story and the importance of helping those in need in our community.” 

Share Your #GoodDeeds

We know how involved you are in your local market even when there’s not a pandemic, so we know you are actively involved in helping those that might need it most. We would like to highlight all the great volunteerism that is happening across our industry and the creative ways you’ve modified processes to get deals closed. Share your stories and photos by emailing communications@alta.org.

Want to support the ALTA Good Deeds Foundation? The foundation supports the charitable efforts of title professionals as they work to build and strengthen their local communities.

Donate today!

10/05/2021

Help Your Company and Customers #BeCyberSmart

Fall is in the air and stores are packed to the gourd with everything pumpkin flavored. We can debate the allure of cinnamon and spice, but one thing that can’t be denied is the importance of having good cybersecurity hygiene.

With October being Cybersecurity Awareness Month, now is a great time remind staff and customers the importance of being safe and secure online, especially when purchasing a home or refinancing.

During the month, ALTA will promote tools and resources that can be used internally or to educate customers. Here’s a look at what ALTA will promote on social media channels this month. ALTA encourages you to share as well.

Week 1 (Oct. 4)

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month and we want to take this opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity and help ensure consumers have the resources they need to be safer and more secure online, especially when purchasing a home or refinancing. Share this video and help your customers protect their money from wire transfer fraud schemes. #BeCyberSmart

Week 2 (Oct. 11)

When buying a home, consumers must be on alert for email or phone scams that will try to steal their money. Criminals can pose as the real estate agent, settlement agent or other trusted professional and provide false instructions for wiring mortgage closing funds. ALTA provides several resources your company can use to combat wire fraud. Check out everything ALTA offers, which includes an outgoing wire preparation checklist, a rapid response plan for wire fraud incidents, tips videos and much more. https://www.alta.org/business-tools/information-security.cfm #BeCyberSmart 

Alta-wire-fraud-infographicWeek 3 (Oct. 18)

Phishing is when someone uses fake emails or texts to get you to share valuable personal information. These schemes often lead to wire transfer fraud. Share this infographic with your customers to remind them the steps they should take to avoid becoming a victim of wire fraud. #BeCyberSmart #PhightthePhish

https://www.alta.org/media/pdf/alta-wire-fraud-infographic.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 


Week 4 (Oct. 25)

To combat the risk of wire transfer fraud, ALTA professionals work with homebuyers from day one and educate them about the closing process. They inform clients on what to look out for when communicating by email and what steps to take if they suspect they are being scammers. What does your company do to help protect your customers’ money? #BeCyberSmart

09/23/2021

Good Deeds: The Right Thing to Do

Voices for children

At age 5, Jessica Gutierrez, vice president for Florida’s Title Insurance Company (FTIC), lost her mother to breast cancer. Questioning whether she inherited the BRCA mutation from her mother, she underwent genetic testing. Having a BRCA mutation means you are at a much higher risk of developing breast cancer and possibly ovarian cancer. At 19, she underwent a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy. 

Gutierrez is an avid advocate for young women with a family history of breast cancer, shedding light on the BRCA mutation. To honor her mother and to continue bringing awareness to the cause, the title company decided to raise money for Florida’s Breast Cancer Foundation. FTIC donated $125 for each closing it handled.  

“Around that time, ALTA put out a call to action, raising awareness for its own campaign, challenging its members through the ALTA Good Deeds Foundation,” said Randy Gilbert, chief happiness officer for FTIC. “So, we implemented our own good-deeds strategy.”

Each month, the title company selects a new charity to support. FTIC advertises that a portion of the closing fees generated that month would go to the selected 501(c)(3). 

After the checks clear, FTIC emails a copy of each individual check to both the purchaser of the title policy and their real estate agent, thanking them for choosing FTIC. Gilbert said the customers are told that if it wasn't for them, the donation could not have happened.

“The client and their Realtor can easily see their address on the memo section of the check as verification that they truly made a difference by choosing to use FTIC as their title insurance company,” Gilbert said.

FTIC has raised more than $20,000 for charities since launching the program last year. Recently, the title company raised money for the newly formed LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance, which was created to combat discrimination in housing. With the help of FTIC's underwriter, Alliant National Title Insurance, which agreed to do a matching grant, FTIC raised $5,000 for the group. Additional groups FTIC has helped include Voices for Children, National MS Society, Urban Housing League and American Autism Association.

“Companies should leave a footprint and giving feels good,” Gilbert said. “Charitable opportunities open lot of doors to meet and know your community.”

Share Your Good Deeds

Community is not based on our ability to physically see and touch each other, but rather the connection and care we show for each other—especially in times of need. ALTA would like to hear how you are continuing to serve your customers and communities. We know how involved you are in your local market even when there’s not a pandemic, so we know you are actively involved in helping those that might need it most. We would like to highlight all the great volunteerism that is happening across our industry and the creative ways you’ve modified processes to get deals closed. 

Here are three ways you can share your story with us:

  1. Email your story at communications@alta.org.
  2. Post your story in the comments section on our blog.
  3. Share your story on Facebook or Instagram, use #GoodDeeds and tag ALTA.

Turn Times Top Lender Concerns, WFG Survey Shows

LS poll graphic-02Turnaround times are among the chief operational challenges for lenders, according to a survey by Williston Financial Group (WFG). The results signal a marked increase in concern over the impact lengthy turnaround times are having on real estate transactions.

Conducted in June and July of this year, the survey asked mortgage lending executives from community banks, credit unions, bank and non-bank lenders, as well as members of the WFG Executive Roundtable to identify the biggest operational challenges facing the industry. A list was provided, along with a free-form fill-in option, from which they were to select the top three operational challenges they feel are most severe.

Respondents indicated turnaround time (56%) was the most significant operational challenge. In WFG's first survey, taken in fall 2020, only a quarter of those surveyed chose turnaround times as a major challenge.

The other most concerning operational challenges were operational capacity, volume and staffing (34%), technology implementation and integration (34%), communication (31%), training (19%), time management (19%), and process improvement/QC/errors and delays (16%).

Specific to title and settlement, the chief concern identified by those surveyed was again turn times (41%), followed by communication (34%), and data accuracy and quality (25%). Customer service and process Improvement/QC/errors and delays were tied at 22%.

"This feedback from the industry is leveraged to help us develop products and services that align with, and help solve these challenges for WFG’s mortgage-lending partners," said Dan Bailey, senior vice president of WFG's enterprise solutions and lender services divisions.

09/21/2021

New RULONA Amendment Gives More Flexibility

PronTypeInfographic2It’s not news to anyone in the title industry that there has been an explosion of interest in remote online notarization (RON) since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The past year also saw growing interest in paper alternatives to the RON experience.

Performing a RON requires using electronic documents signed with electronic signatures. That means all parties to the transaction, from the lender to the county recorder, must be willing and able to accept a “native digital” document—a document that has never existed in paper form. It’s clear that the long-term trend of our industry is toward paperless closings, even if there may always be a need for paper in some cases. RON is certainly the future. But, for many, the pandemic put a premium on doing remote closings now. Given the short-term hurdles to achieving digital alignment across the entire real estate industry, remote closings have by necessity included using traditional paper processes.

Since last year, we have seen two principal paper alternatives to RON. The first is commonly called PRON (paper remote online notarization) and the second is known as remote ink-signed notarization (RIN). Both involve the use of pen and paper instead of electronic documents. The main difference between the two is that PRON uses the same fraud-reducing consumer protections as RON, such as third-party multifactor authentication to identify the signer, while RIN lacks such consumer safeguards. Remarkably, in some states RIN does not even require the retention of an audio-video recording of the notarization. Finally, the way the paper documents are physically handled—including how they are transmitted to the notary and when the notary completes the notarial certificate—may vary between PRON and RIN. Performing a proper PRON will result in a single, notarized paper document that conforms to settled notarial law and practice, while RIN often does not.

Thus, PRON is safer and sounder than RIN both for consumers and for businesses (like the title industry) that rely on notarized documents. And by requiring third-party multifactor identity proofing, PRON also aligns with ALTA’s principles for remote notarization.

A New ‘Hip Pocket’ Amendment

The Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (RULONA) was adopted by the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) in 2018 to enable both a fully digital RON as well as PRON. It is now enacted in 17 states and is under consideration in several others. To perform a PRON under RULONA, a notary must meet three requirements relating to how the paper document is handled. First, under §14A(c)(2) a notary must reasonably confirm that the document being notarized is the same document that the remotely located individual signed. Second, §15(a)(1) requires the notary to contemporaneously execute the notarial certificate with the performance of the notarization. Finally, §15(f) requires the notary to securely attach the notarial certificate to the notarized paper document.

Until this year, there were two basic ways to perform a PRON under RULONA to meet these requirements. However, both methods could be a slightly awkward fit for how some real estate settlements are conducted. In response to this concern, the ULC convened a working group in late 2020 to draft a “hip pocket” amendment to RULONA to give state legislatures a thoroughly vetted option to add new flexibility to PRON.

Three Ways to Do a PRON

If a state enacts RULONA along with the “hip pocket” amendment, its notaries will have three different ways to perform a PRON. In each case, the paper document is sent to or printed out by the remotely located individual in advance of the signing session. But from that point forward, how the paper document is handled differs between each method.

  • Type 1. The first type of PRON works for any kind of notarial act. The notary will get on a webcam, perform multifactor authentication, watch the individual sign the document and perform the notarial act. The key to Type 1 is that the notary complies with §15(a)(1) by completing the notarial certificate on a separate sheet of paper at the time of the signing session. The individual sends the signed document to the notary after the signing session. Once the notary has reasonably confirmed that the received document is what was signed (§14A(c)(2)), the notary will securely attach the notarial certificate to the document (§15(f)). This type of PRON may be slightly awkward for real estate closings where the notarial block is pre-printed in the document and not on a separate page.
  • Type 2. The second type of PRON works for acknowledgments, which is the kind of notarial act required in most states for deeds, mortgages, powers of attorney, and similar documents. With an acknowledgment, the notary notarizes a document that was previously signed—but how long in the past does not technically matter. The remotely located individual will sign the document in advance and send it to the notary prior to the signing session and performance of the notarial act. All the required steps in the notarization—including multifactor authentication, reasonably confirming what document was signed (§14A(c)(2)), and completing and attaching the notarial certificate (§15(a)(1), (f))—take place at the same time during the signing session. Two basic problems make a Type 2 PRON an uneasy fit for many real estate settlements. First, some closing documents (like affidavits) will contain jurats requiring a verification instead of an acknowledgment. State notarial law may not permit a verification to be performed on a document that was previously signed. Second, if the notary needs to conduct the settlement by walking the remotely located individual through the documents as they are being signed, then two separate webcam sessions are necessary: one for the initial signing session and a second for the notarization after the notary receives the signed documents. This makes coordinating and scheduling a single closing date difficult.
  • Type 3. The new “hip-pocket” amendment enables Type 3, which is a variation of Type 1. In addition to signing the document, the remotely located individual will also sign a separate unsworn declaration, under penalties of perjury, stating that the document has been remotely notarized. When the notary later receives the signed document and declaration—which must be sent within a specified timeframe (the ULC recommends three days)—the notary can rely on the declaration to comply with §14A(c)(2). That is, the declaration is legally sufficient to confirm that the document received by the notary is the same one that was notarized.

The key to Type 3 is that using a signed declaration permits the notary to override §15(a)(1): The notary may complete the notarial certificate after the signed document is received and may “back-date” the certificate to the date the declaration was signed and the notarial act was performed. In this way, a Type 3 PRON is similar to how documents are handled in some states under RIN.

Other Notable Features

The new amendment to RULONA gives new flexibility to the signing process. It’s designed merely as a safe harbor. It does not create a single mandatory way to perform a PRON. The notary can still perform a PRON under Type 1 or Type 2 and use any other reasonable method to comply with §14A(c)(2) and ensure proper custodianship of the paper document as it’s sent from the signer to the notary. (Examples we’ve seen include having the signer scan and email or fax the signed documents on the day of signing to permit comparison with the wet-ink original, or the use of custom tamper-evident overnight envelopes.)

The amendment also contains one provision unrelated to PRON. Under new subsection (h), the amendment confirms that a notary may administer an oath or affirmation remotely, even if it does not involve a signed document. Prior to the amendment, there was a question about whether a notary could remotely administer an oath at a deposition or similar proceeding because RULONA’s personal appearance requirement (§6) applies only to notarial acts involving signed documents.

What’s Next?

Work on the “hip pocket” amendment is complete. It is now officially a part of RULONA. It is currently available for use in any state that has adopted RULONA or is thinking of doing so. The ULC is currently drafting official commentary to accompany the amendment. Formal publication will likely occur later this fall.

Michael O’Neal, vice president of corporate underwriting for First American Title Insurance Co., serves on ALTA’s Digital Closing Work Group. He can be reached at moneal@firstam.com.

ALTA Welcomes New Members

Membership map

ALTA is pleased to announce new and associate members, as well as real estate attorneys, who have recently joined ALTA. Over the past month, ALTA gained 36 new members, including seven attorney members and four associate members.

So far in 2021, ALTA has 6,021 member companies.

Click here for a list of the latest members.

Not a member? Click here to join today. You can check out member benefits here.

09/14/2021

2021 ALTA Commercial Network Webinar Series

Check out all four of the recordings from the 2021 ALTA Commercial Network webinar series. The presentations focused on the 2020 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the McGirt v. Oklahoma, the new ALTA Policy Forms, the revised ALTA NSPS Land Title Survey Standards and potential changes to 1031 business.

 

The Dirt on McGirt

Find out how the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in the McGirt v. Oklahoma could impact the title insurance industry and property rights involving tribal land. The webinar also details the ALTA 47 Operative Law Endorsement Series and Policy Addendums.

Speakers

  • Megan Powell | Commercial Underwriter | First American Title Insurance Company
  • Dan Buchanan | Senior Title Counsel | First American Title Insurance Company

 

How ALTA Policy Form Changes Will Impact Commercial Deals

This webinar discusses changes to ALTA's Loan and Owner’s policies, as well as numerous endorsements that were published July 30. It's important to understand the revisions so you can educate your staff and commercial customers.

Speakers

  • Wendy Gibbons | Deputy Chief Underwriting Counsel | Old Republic National Title Insurance Co.
  • Jan Feryus | Senior Underwriter | Old Republic National Title Insurance Co.

 

What You Need to Know About the New ALTA NSPS Land Title Survey Standards

Learn how revisions to the Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys could impact your work on commercial transactions.

Speakers

  • Gary Kent | Owner | Meridian Land Consulting LLC
  • Todd D’Amico | Director of Operations | First American Commercial Due Diligence Services Co.

 

How the Economic Proposal Could Curtail Your 1031 Business

The webinar analyzes how the Biden administration’s proposal would hinder 1031 business, as well as the impact like-kind exchanges have on the economy and communities and what can be done to protect this important source of capital for affordable housing.

Speakers

  • John Wunderlich | Executive Vice President | Fidelity National Title Group
  • Dawn Pereyo | New York Regional Manager | Westcor Land Title Insurance Co.
  • Ryan McCormick | Vice President and Counsel | Real Estate Roundtable

ALTA ONE

Interested in learning more about commercial transactions? Join us Oct. 12-15 in New Orleans for ALTA ONE. We are offering an education track dedicated to commercial deals.

Click here for more information.