Report: Closing Professionals Juggling too Many Tasks

Proplogix survey
Source: PropLogix

The biggest daily challenge for title professionals is juggling too many different responsibilities, according to a report provided by PropLogix.

In the 2023 State of the Title Industry Report, 38% of title professionals surveyed said they must handle too many tasks faced with elevated expectations, but little to-no control of timelines and deadlines. This duality creates a lot of stress and frustration, according to the report.

“Despite the tough conditions in the market, it seems surprising to see title professionals in closing and escrow roles are still feeling overwhelmed by juggling too many tasks,” said Lindsey Gordon, PropLogix director of communications. “However, it’s important to remember that many companies have had to make staffing cuts proportional to their order drops—meaning those who remain are shouldering the workload. On the flip side, those in high-level positions who own or run title companies are most challenged by finding ways to generate new business. This report helps to demonstrate how outsourcing can help fix both issues by eliminating additional workload and freeing up time to maintain existing and earn new business.”

The survey included results from more than 400 title agents, with nearly half operating in the South.

The survey focused on how industry trends impact title professionals’ daily responsibilities and their title production and outsourcing practices. The most outsourced title production piece is municipal lien searches (83%), which uncovers unrecorded debt and permit issues, followed by title searches (73%). Thirty-eight percent of respondents say the top title production task they are considering outsourcing is lien release tracking, which beat out HOA certificates for the first time this year (32%).

The report featured insight from five different title industry experts, including ALTA CEO Diane Tomb.

“We know these are really tough times and sometimes it’s easy to just put your head down and hope you can get through it,” Tomb said. “But I think really stepping up and being part of the industry is valuable to all of us right now, particularly as we face some of these biggest challenges on the regulatory front.”


ALTA Announces Winners of the 2023 Our Values Awards

Three winners of the ALTA Our Values Awards were honored during ALTA ONE, which was held Oct. 10-13 in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The awards program showcases the title insurance industry’s Our Values initiative, which serves as a cultural compass and highlights core ideals ALTA members embrace. 

The two individual awards represented the We Lead and We Protect values. The third award for Collaboration was given to the leader of a branch, group or team that lives Our Values consistently and demonstrates an extraordinary level of positive impact on those who rely on their services.

Jamie A. Kosofsky, executive vice president of business development and compliance and founding partner of Brady & Kosofsky in Charlotte, N.C., won the We Lead Award for championing the proper and effective use of notary services for more than 15 years and leading the way in remote online notarization (RON) legislation. His firm was the first in North Carolina to perform a full in person electronic notary (IPEN) purchase transaction and complete a fully remote online closing utilizing the North Carolina Emergency Video Notarization Act. Kosofsky was one of the leading proponents and drafters of the North Carolina Remote Electronic Notary Act, which was passed in July 2022.

“I am still a little bit in shock to have won a leadership award,” Kosofsky said. “Leadership did not come easily; in fact, my inability to lead almost cost me my job. Law school did not teach me to be a leader. I think I went through 30 or so employees in a period of a year because I did not have the skills. After members of my team pulled me into a room and gave me a ‘good talking to,’ I started reading and learning about how to lead people. From that point, I realized it was always about the people.”  

David D. Lanaux, president of Title Professionals of Florida in Fort Myers, Fla., won the We Protect Award for his tenacity and persistence in fighting fraud. Since establishing a unique quality-control system and check points for staff, Lanaux’s policies and procedures have resulted in zero fraud-related losses to his agency in more than a decade.

“I am deeply grateful for this recognition and accept it on behalf of myself and my staff, without whom I would not be here,” Lanaux said. “I would like to extend my appreciation to ALTA for acknowledging the importance of preventing land fraud and the protection of consumers’ property and funds. Seven years ago, I changed the culture of my company from clearing title as being the No. 1 priority to emphasizing ID theft detection and consumer funds protection as our No. 1 priority. Clear title will follow. Together, we can make a difference in safeguarding our industry and ensuring the security of our consumers’ property and their funds.” 

Finally, Kathy Kwak, chief operating officer of Proper Title in Chicago, won the Collaboration Award for being a true example of collaborative leadership for her staff. Kwak’s inclusive decision-making, employee engagement, mentorship and commitment to community initiatives exemplify her as a valuable leader.

“I am truly honored, humbled and was quite shocked when I found out I was the recipient of the ALTA Our Values We Collaborate Award,” said Kathy Kwak, chief operating officer for Proper Title. “When I started seven years ago at Proper Title, I had no idea what I was ‘in for.’ Then COVID hit, and the company’s world was turned upside down. We just celebrated our 10-year anniversary, and it made me reflect on how much we have grown together as a company. Most importantly, we have maintained a culture of collaboration, volunteerism, inclusion, camaraderie and mutual respect. I couldn’t be prouder to be leading a company full of people who believe in the same mission. We all bleed (Proper) blue through and through.”

“Congratulations to all of the ALTA Our Values Award winners,” said ALTA CEO Diane Tomb. “Not only are these ALTA members upholding Our Values, they are championing the title insurance industry, growing their businesses and local communities and supporting the association. From a RON champion to a fraud warrior to a passionate, purposeful leader—I am proud to have each of these people in the ALTA family.”


ALTA Survey: Digital Closings Increase, but Barriers Slow Adoption

ALTA Digital Closings Infographic 100323Fully digital or hybrid closings increased to 10% of all transactions last year compared to 7% of all deals closed in 2021, according to a study conducted by ALTA.

The survey included results from 399 title professionals and businesses that operate across 46 states and Washington, D.C. Most of the survey respondents had an average of 75 closings or less each month (57%), with the remainder divided almost evenly between 76 to 250 closings (21%) and over 250 closings (22%).

“Title professionals continue to lead the way by implementing technology to meet customer needs and expectations,” said Diane Tomb, ALTA’s chief executive officer. “Digital closings offer a secure alternative to complete real estate and mortgage transactions and provide an option for people who can’t physically be in the presence of a notary, such as those serving overseas in the military or the elderly. Our members are always meeting the customers’ preferred closing method, whether it is online, in person or hybrid in some fashion.”

While in-person paper closings comprise the majority of transactions, digital and remote closings have become more popular compared to a year ago. Businesses offer a wide range of digital and remote closing options, including different tools like remote online notarization (RON), In Person Electronic Notarization (IPEN) and remote ink notarization (RIN).

In 2022, the survey showed that title and settlement companies offering some type of digital or remote closing increased to 61% in. This increase is largely attributed to transactions using RON. Fully digital closings were still uncommon, accounting for 2.5% of all transactions in 2022 compared to 2.2% in 2021. In contrast, hybrid closings had some growth, increasing from 5% of all transactions in 2021 to nearly 8% in 2022.

Continued Adoption

More than two thirds of the companies surveyed expect the volume of digital closings to increase, however, several barriers hinder growth. Of the businesses that currently do not offer RON, 44% plan to implement it in the future. About 45% of those businesses expect to adopt the technology as soon as it is authorized, another 22% plan to adopt it with in next one to two years.

The top three obstacles to companies expanding or adopting RON are:

  • Lack of lender acceptance (84%)
  • Insufficient testing with lenders (79%)
  • Lack of consumer technology capabilities (78%)

The survey showed that over 76% of businesses currently using RON would expand their use of the technology if they received more requests from lenders. Lender acceptance is a significant hurdle for digital closings. A recent study by SnapDocs found that only 11% of lenders offer full digital closings.

Currently, 44 have passed laws allowing use of RON. At the federal level, the bipartisan Securing and Enabling Commerce Using Remote and Electronic Notarization Act (S. 1212), introduced by Sens. Cramer (R-N.D.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The house passed its version of the ALTA-supported SECURE Act by a voice vote in February.

Key Benefits

Businesses that offer RON identified decreased closing time as the greatest benefit of the technology. Companies with larger volume experienced more benefits from RON, indicating efficiencies of scale. Businesses with over 250 closings per month experienced time and cost savings of RON more often than those with smaller transaction volumes. For example, 52% of businesses with larger closing volumes agreed that RON decreased closing time due to the review of documents ahead of time compared to 44% of those with smaller transaction volumes.

“Digital closings provide many benefits to companies, including expense reduction by not having to print documents and time savings by being able to review and sign documents in advance,” Tomb said. “Continued awareness and understanding of how to use the technology will drive further adoption of this technology.”


ALTA ONE: The Future Leader

HarfoushTechnology is rewriting the rules of society. Between innovations like artificial intelligence and automation and the daily flood of new apps, gadgets and digital tools, it’s easy to get lost in how quickly and profoundly our world is changing.

During an Omni Session at ALTA ONE, Rahaf Harfoush discussed what it means to exist in a world where human characteristics are being replicated by machines and examined how technology is weaving itself into the social fabric of our lives.

Harfoush, a digital anthropologist and executive director of the Red Thread Institute of Digital Culture, focused on the intersection between emerging technology and digital culture during her presentation titled, “The Future Leader.”

Harfoush opened talking about a company called Replika, a chatbot companion powered by artificial intelligence (AI) that doesn’t just talk to people—it learns their texting styles to mimic them. A paid premium tier of the program allowed people to have romantic relationships with their bot friend.

“Is it ethical to build a business designed to gamify intimacy?” Harfoush asked. “Research shows that every one of us could fall in love with technology.”

Harfoush said people have become addicted to their phones. She cited a study that found people touch their phone 2,617 times a day. When we check our phones, the brain releases a small amount of dopamine. “What if you gave an individual 2,600 doses of a drug a day?” Harfoush asked.

She continued by saying that the constant use of smartphones hinders innovation. To innovate, requires de-stimulation.

“The brain needs to be calm. It means you need to be bored,” Harfoush said. “We’ve created this cycle where we are never bored.”

At work, there’s the contradiction where we’re always encouraged to learn new tools and prioritize urgency. However, there’s a cost associated with interruptions. Businesses in America lose nearly $650 billion per year due to employees being distracted at work.

“Focus has become an important skill to develop and strengthen,” Harfoush said. “As a leader, you must practice time away from your phone and concentrate on tasks. You can have the best tools, but if you can’t focus, it won’t help your business.”

She encouraged attendees to examine all the technology used in their operations to see if it’s helping or causing disruptions.

“We are moving to a new iteration of the web called generative tech,” Harfoush said. “These tools are so fast they can create content for us. We risk losing the mastery of thinking if we’re not careful about how we implement tech tools. Anytime you implement a new technology, leaders need to know what skill set is needed to keep being developed to get the most out of the tool. If you have weak knowledge systems, it will collapse your process.”

ALTA Good Deeds Foundation Awards $105K in Grants

The ALTA Good Deeds Foundation awarded a $5,000 grant to Partners in Housing, a family crisis housing nonprofit in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The ALTA Good Deeds Foundation awarded $105,000 in grants to 20 charities during ALTA ONE in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“By providing grants to small community nonprofits, the ALTA Good Deeds Foundation is able to make an enormous impact,” said Foundation Board Chair Mary O’Donnell, president and CEO of Westcor Land Title Insurance Co. and past president of ALTA. “In some cases, these grants cover a charity’s entire annual budget. I am excited to see how this round of grants helps local neighborhoods across the country grow and flourish.”

The $5,000 individual grants were awarded to:

  • Administration of Resources and Choices, Tucson, Ariz.
  • Allegany County Habitat for Humanity, LaVale, Md.
  • Bobbo’s Fund for Young Hearts, Nottingham Park, Ill.
  • Family Promise of Greater Rochester, Rochester, N.Y.
  • Family Promise of Hendricks County, Plainfield, Ind.
  • Fighting Children’s Cancer Foundation, Fairfield, N.J.
  • Habitat for Humanity-Idaho Falls, Idaho Falls, Idaho
  • Healthy Acadia, Ellsworth, Maine
  • Home for Families, Woodland Hills, Calif.
  • Kent Attainable Housing, Chestertown, Md.
  • Kids’ Meals, Houston, Texas
  • Mariposa Disaster Relief, Catheys Valley, Calif.
  • Operation Vet First Foundation, Saint Cloud, Fla.
  • Our Destiny Our Future Foundation, Phoenix
  • Thrive with Autism Foundation, Magnolia, Texas
  • Treasure Valley Family YMCA, Boise, Idaho
  • United Housing, Memphis, Tenn.
  • Urban Ministry, Birmingham, Ala.
  • Willow Charitable Fund, Montgomeryville, Pa.

The foundation also awarded a $5,000 grant to Partners in Housing, a family crisis housing nonprofit in Colorado Springs, Colo., the host city of this year’s ALTA ONE. Watch this video to see an example of the types of charitable organizations that receive grants from the ALTA Good Deeds Foundation. 

“Since the inception of the ALTA Good Deeds Foundation in October 2020, ALTA members and the Foundation Board have raised more than $1.2 million,” said ALTA CEO Diane Tomb. “To date, the Foundation has awarded $844,000—approximately 70% of the funds raised—to community nonprofits. I am incredibly proud to be part of an industry that supports this meaningful work.”

The ALTA Good Deeds Foundation was launched in 2020 to bolster the charitable efforts of ALTA members. Land title insurance professionals can apply for grants on behalf of recognized 501(c)(3) organizations that they support financially or through volunteer efforts; preference is given to housing-related charities. The inaugural round of grants was announced in March 2021.


ALTA President: Times of Crisis Present Opportunities

Jack Rattikin speechTaking the stage to the Brooks and Dunn song “Only in America,” 2023 ALTA President paid homage to the industry’s resiliency and leadership, while encouraging attendees to lean on ALTA as the industry continues to confront additional challenges.

“I’ve been able to travel the country this year from Rhode Island to California, and Florida to Idaho. And even Fargo, North Dakota,” Rattikin said. “I’ve seen time and time again that our people are honest, hard-working, creative and resilient.”

Many believe resiliency means constantly moving forward. But it’s not only withstanding difficult conditions but recovering from them quickly.

“Whether it’s regulatory issues, global pandemics or economic conditions, I’m proud of how each of you works every day to recover,” Rattikin said.

Rattikin has been able to visit nearly every state during his time on the ALTA Board and serving as president. But that milestone didn’t come without sacrifice.

“The only way to successfully do this job is with the support of your family and business associates,” said Rattikin, who thanked his wife, Laura, and his children. “In my quest to serve this industry, I missed family time, dinner parties and social events. I missed a few of my kids’ baseball games, soccer matches and dance recitals,” Rattikin said. “You have supported my journey all these years and I am grateful.”

He also thanked Donna McPherson, his administrative assistant.

“Without her, I’m not sure I would’ve known where I was headed, what meeting I was calling into, or what I should be prepared for each time I returned to our office,” he said.

It’s often said you’re either born into the title business or fall into it by accident. Rattikin’s family has a legacy of leadership in ALTA. His grandfather, Jack Rattikin Sr., served as the 1939-40 ALTA president, while his father led ALTA during 1984-85. In addition, Rattikin’s uncle, Bill Thurman, served as the 1990-91 ALTA president.

“Being the third generation to have stepped into this role means a lot to me,” said Rattikin, who will turn the ALTA presidency to Don Kennedy, who also will the third generation of his family to lead ALTA. “Legacy and leadership are important to me and to our industry. Many of our businesses are legacy-owned operations. Lots of you have family ties to your company. It’s going to take continued leadership from our business owners and managers to make sure our industry succeeds well into the future.”

Toward the end of his speech, Rattikin shared a quote from Albert Einstein, “In the midst of every crisis lies great opportunity.”

“Let’s think about that for a second. Every single crisis we’ve endured has presented new opportunities for our industry, and our businesses, to grow in the future,” Rattikin said.

He then turned to the title insurance waiver pilot program Fannie Mae had considered earlier this year. However, after ALTA members and staff took the lead and educated regulators and legislators about the benefits of title insurance and the risks associated with unregulated title products, Fannie Mae decided not to pursue the pilot.

“When Fannie Mae first announced this effort at the beginning of my presidency, I was frightened,” Rattikin said. “This was the biggest issue we have ever faced in my 40-year career in the title industry. It was an unprecedented challenge for an industry our size.”

“In the end, no one wanted this program. But it allowed us a chance to really articulate our value in the real estate transaction to several regulators. I feel good about where we are today, and I want to celebrate our success. Our power and influence are alive and well in Washington, D.C.,” he added.

While this was one victory, many challenges remain, and they aren’t going away anytime soon.

“Just because business is down doesn’t mean we’re taking a rest. ALTA is still focused on what our members need and how we can help them,” Rattikin said. “Now’s the time to lean into your association. We have a lot of work to do to protect this business we love. Lean on ALTA. Lean on other ALTA members. Together, we’ll find a way through it all.”

Know Where Your Customers Are Going and Beat Them There

SheahanKnown around the world for his innovative business thinking and thought leadership, Peter Sheahan believes an organization will only go commercially where its leaders first go personally. After decades of standing in the fire with leaders of high-performing organizations, Sheahan believes that an organization will only go commercially where its leaders first go personally. He has helped clients such as Apple, Chick-fil-A, DeBeers and AT&T transform themselves and accelerate growth.

Speaking to more than 1,000 attendees at ALTA ONE in Colorado Springs, Colo., Sheahan said the journey to growth requires leaders to have the courage to tell themselves the truth, take intelligent risks and assume ownership for driving the alignment necessary to build an organization.

“I think it is an incredibly exciting time for the (title insurance) industry,” said Sheahan, who is founder of the global consultancy firm Karrikins Group. “Investments in proptech have set in motion forces of modernization for the industry, which have been accelerated significantly by the COVID-19 pandemic. A business built on relationships and shared values is morphing into one built on relationships based on value, ease of experience and integration—underpinned by technology and, of course, shared values.

Sheahan shared what happened to the grocery industry after Amazon purchased Whole Foods in 2017. One executive at a grocery retailer told him “We never saw it coming.” Was this a reasonable response? Sheahan concluded it was not because there were several indicators for a decade prior to the acquisition, including Amazon launching Amazon Fresh in 2007, Amazon Go in 2016 and its Wickedly Prime brand in 2016. In 1999, Amazon purchased 35% of homegrocer.com.

“Analysts were saying if Amazon could get distribution closer to their customers, they would be unstoppable,” Sheahan said.

Sheahan said leaders should embrace change, not resist it. He added that change is slow, until it’s not. Companies that get behind the eight ball, often find it hard to catch up.

“Resisting change that has already happened is like drinking poison and hoping someone else dies,” Sheahan said.

He added that it’s not the companies that transform, it’s the leaders. The ability for title professionals to drive growth is a psychological journey first and a strategic one second. To stay ahead of the curve, Sheahan shared a quote from Wayne Gretzky that shares a similar message. The hockey great said, “The key to winning is skating first to where the puck will be next.” Business success is similar. Companies want to go where the greatest profits will be—but by the time many get there, the “puck” has moved on.

“Companies need to know where their customers are going and how to beat them there,” Sheahan said. “You need to ask what the future of the customer experience will look like. What are the opportunities to take repetitive tasks out of the process. Lead your customers to the future, rather than following them. The best way to protect the industry is to be the driving force of innovation.”

Sheahan said the impact of leadership is the most important driver to success and that performance of a team is a direct reflection of a leader’s behavior.

“If you want to protect your industry, the most important thing to get in alignment is your behavior. Be the change you want to see in the world. Don’t wait on your customers,” he said.


ALTA Unveils New Brand Identity and Website

ALTA unveiled its new brand identity—redesigned for the first time in nearly 60 years to reflect how the industry has adapted in the digital age—and revamped website during ALTA ONE, the largest annual event for the land title insurance industry.

“ALTA is thrilled to announce this exciting rebranding initiative,” said ALTA CEO Diane Tomb. “ALTA’s rebranding efforts reinforce how we as an industry have evolved to address the ever-changing landscape in which our members do business. It also reinforces who we are as an organization: an advocate and protector of property rights that is committed to meeting the ever-evolving needs of our members. Our rebranding includes an update of our website, which is perfectly structured to help ensure all title insurance professionals as well as our stakeholders and partners are well-informed.”

ALTA ONE ALTA LOGOEstablished 116 years ago, ALTA’s brand has long been a sign of confidence for consumers who purchase real estate. Rich in history and tradition, ALTA originally introduced an eagle into its logo in 1949 and had been using the same version of its logo mascot since at least 1964. Now with an updated color palette, readable san serif fonts and a fresh horizontal logo, the new branding helps position ALTA as a modern, forward-thinking association that has evolved into the digital age. Incorporating the new brand identity, the association’s website, ALTA.org, has been redesigned to be more visually appealing and reorganized to be more user-friendly, less intimidating and easier to navigate on all devices.

“Although it is important to retain the history of the association, we wanted to focus on what ALTA members bring to the table today rather than what the title insurance industry looked like 20, 30 or 40 years ago,” said 2022-23 ALTA President Jack Rattikin III, president and CEO of Rattikin Title Company in Fort Worth, Texas. “The title insurance industry certainly has adapted to 21st-century technology, and it was time for ALTA’s branding to reflect the industry’s evolution.”

The highlight of the new branding is a contemporary brand mark featuring a streamlined version of the eagle within a shield. Now turned to the right and looking forward into the future, the red eagle sits in a secure nest of blue feathers and keeps a watchful eye over the “ALTA” acronym; the black outline of the brand mark highlights a shield. The new branding is optimized for websites, social media platforms and other online uses.

“When we decided to modernize the ALTA brand, we wanted to highlight the themes of protection and security that ALTA members provide every day,” said Megan Hernandez, ALTA Director of Public Relations and Marketing. “The title insurance industry leapt toward innovation, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the association now looks and feels just as inspired and resourceful as the products and services we offer.”


Thaddeus Starts Journey to ALTA ONE

A month ago, Thaddeus— ALTA’s soaring mascot—accepted his mission to keep an eagle eye on the title insurance industry as he flies from Washington, D.C., to ALTA ONE in Colorado Springs. Watch as ALTA CEO Diane Tomb and ALTA President Jack Rattikin III give him a sendoff we won’t soon forget.

Wings Over Miami

When we last checked, Thaddeus was taking off from ALTA HQ in Washington, D.C. On his way to ALTA ONE in Colorado Springs, Colo, our eagle hero uses his spy goggles to track a fraudster in Miami. Watch out scammers: Thaddeus is coming for you!

Pit Stop in Fort Worth, Texas

Howdy, y’all! Thaddeus, is ready and rarin’ to get to ALTA ONE and network with the 1,000 title professionals who will be in attendance. But first, he’s fixin’ to stop in Ft. Worth, Texas, to help a title insurance professional block an attempted forgery on a homeowner’s deed. Bless those little thieves’ hearts: They don’t know who they’re messin’ with.

Want to join Thaddeus at ALTA ONE? There's still time to register!


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 59 new members, including 41 title agencies and six real estate attorneys. ALTA has 6,052 member companies so far in 2023.

Click here for a list of the latest members.

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