The Trusted Adviser
August-September 2015 | Volume 8 · Number 7

Preparing for Changes in the Title Industry
Three Things ATG Agents Must Do

by Peter Birnbaum, ATG President and CEO

Peter J. Birnbaum photo

I have had the pleasure of working for you for 34 years. During that time, ATG has confronted numerous challenges at both the marketplace and regulatory levels: Brutal competition, price wars, the collapse of the financial markets, and so on. In each of these cases, ATG and its members have met these challenges head on – not just surviving, but flourishing. Today we face new challenges on a variety of fronts. Working together we will meet these challenges and succeed.

Know that ATG is Here to Help

The pace of change in the title industry is increasing in momentum. On October 3, 2015, the HUD-1 and TIL statement will be replaced by a new TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID). At the same time, lenders are increasingly requiring agents to meet much higher standards with respect to escrow accounting, protecting consumer data, and other internal controls. E-closings could forever change the closing process, and lenders are working toward delivering closing documents through a single technology portal.

Any one of those changes is enough to give pause, tackling them all at once is daunting. While each requires that you make procedural changes, ATG has tools in place to help you manage the process and adapt your practices to the changing environment. ATG is invested in your success. But we also ask you to invest in adapting to these new demands.

Know that ALTA Supports Your Role

ATG works tirelessly to advocate for the lawyer’s role in real estate transactions. While ATG has been impactful as advocates on the national level, it is clear that our industry needs to be united to succeed in the new environment. We are fortunate to have ALTA as our partner as we forge ahead. ALTA’s voice is heard on Capitol Hill as well as with other industry groups. In a recent statement, ALTA’s CEO, Michelle Korsmo said this, "As the closing experience continues to evolve, we must remember that purchasing a home is the largest investment most Americans will make in their lifetime. Homebuyers navigating their real estate transaction will continue to rely on settlement agents and real estate attorneys as important resources that provide information and guidance throughout the process." See ALTA Statement on CFPB eClosing Forum.

It would be hard to overstate the importance of this bolstering statement from ALTA. Long-term ATG members will remember that ATG has not always had a seat at the table when it came to industry issues. Not only were we a very small player, ATG and real estate lawyers were seen as a threat to traditional title insurance underwriters. We were not even allowed ALTA membership until the mid-1980s. ATG and commercial title companies fought several legal and business battles where the avowed goal was to eliminate lawyers from the real estate transaction. With effort on both sides, our relationship with ALTA grew stronger over time. Working together we are a formidable team. In 2009 I became a member of the ALTA board as a vehicle to advocate for your interests.

While we at ATG has always adapted to the times, we have stayed true to the foundation of our mission: The purchase or sale of a home is the largest financial transaction of a consumer’s life. Consumers need lawyers to represent their interests. We remain committed to support your role in representing homebuyers and sellers.

Be Prepared

With changes coming so quickly we are ready to help you comply with the regulatory and market demands that will soon be upon us. There are three things ATG agents must do:

1. Learn about TRID Implementation

As we quickly approach the October 3 deadline for TRID implementation, take advantage of the tools we have for you so you can familiarize yourself with the changes. A small investment of time now will go a long way toward avoiding hiccups in the closing process. We recommend the following:

2. Register for Closing Insight™

ATG agents have received a few emails and a hard copy mailing from us on this topic. Many if not most of the big banks are preparing for the TRID changes by adopting a uniform platform for collaboration on the fees associated with the Closing Disclosure and delivery of the closing documents. These lenders are requesting that title providers and settlement agents register with RealEC™ in order to access the Closing Insight technology for loans affected by the rule. It sounds complicated, but it’ll just take a little time. Registering is easy. Review our recent Hot Topic post (updated 9/10/15), Complete Your Registration Now: Meet TRID Obligations, Communicate and Collaborate with Lenders through Closing Insight for detailed information.

Frequently Asked Questions about Closing Insight™ Registration 

Should I register for Closing Insight™ if ATG handles my closings?

Several members have contacted us to ask that question, and the answer is Yes. It is important to understand that if you don’t register, you may lose out on the potential to receive lender-directed title orders. Chicago-area member agents who are reluctant should know that they may not need access to Closing Insight for settlement (as long as the lender knows far enough in advance that ATG is the settlement provider) but lenders also use this system to place title orders. If a member chooses not to register, lenders using Closing Insight can’t direct orders to them.

Is there a fee to register for Closing Insight™?

When completing the registration, you can add your credit card information and the promo code ClsInstWEB and there will be no upfront charge. Note that transactional fees apply only to lender-directed title orders. If you don't want to provide a credit card, don't enter the promo code and select Manual Billing. There is a $50 set-up fee if you select Manual Billing

3. Pardon the Intrusion

You may have noticed that we are asking more of you during audits and in conversations with staff. And you might hear us say, “I know we haven’t asked for this before…but.…” ATG is unique in that we do business almost exclusively through our member attorneys and other agents. Many of you run small practices and have to operate efficiently to survive. Today, because of market and regulatory demands, you need to make a bigger investment in your practices. We recognize that does not come easily. But issues like identity theft and cyber crime pose very serious risks. And lenders, under increasing regulatory pressure and liability for protection of customers’ sensitive information, are requiring that settlement service providers guarantee that sensitive information will be handled in a manner they proscribe and that escrow accounts be reconciled on a regular basis. Our task is to walk the line between minimal disruption of your business and honoring our obligations to lenders and clients we serve. Check out the ATG Best Practices Information Center for guidance or contact Mary Ellen Galvan in the ATG Audit Department for assistance.

Your clients deserve the best representation and service available in the industry. We remain committed, as we have for 51 years, to giving you the tools you need to compete and flourish in this exciting, challenging, and rewarding business.

[Originally posted 9-4-15; Last update: 9-11-15]

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