Three to four generations ago George C. Parker, the famous New York city con man, exploited many by selling the Brooklyn Bridge several times over.
Would-be bridge owners, with deed in hand, actually got arrested for setting up toll booths as if they truly owned it. Think about how far we have come in preventing fraud and safeguarding the land records.
The perception to the outsider, however, is that the title insurance industry has never changed. Certainly the industry lacked fundamental tech savviness and avoided major transformation. However, the last fifteen years have brought rapid change.
Since the adoption of ALTAs (American Land Title Association) Best Practices the majority of title providers have become paperless, now reconciling their escrow accounts daily and electronically recording their documents almost instantaneously. In fact, change in the industry has hit such an increased pace over the last couple years that every title insurer now constantly examines their technological capabilities to maintain their competitive advantage. Automation, artificial intelligence and better task management systems have finally been embraced by the industry, leading to increased data controls and privacy protection as well as dual authentication procedures and safeguards in order to protect from wire fraud.
Many think the next big disruption is blockchain. Will blockchain make the land records more efficient, secure and easy to obtain? Absolutely.
However, the argument that the advent of the blockchain will displace the title agent is sorely misguided. Providing title insurance is more than just reviewing land documents. If the potential marketability risk was only located in the recorder of deeds office, then yes, systematically improving the land records system and putting them on the blockchain would certainly spell doomsday for the title industry. But title agents understand how to navigate all of the complexities of providing good title beyond the actual land record database or a future global distributed land ledger. Think about divorce, child support, civil judgments, local utilities, municipal fines and violations, refuse, undisclosed heirs, corporate franchise certs or good standing letters and all other localized lien rights.
Title is not a straight line; it is an industry of zig zags. We are the experts that understand how to make our way through this jagged puzzle in order to declare a property insurable. And this is precisely what those tech wizards that declare blockchain as the big disruptor do not quite understand.
But just because the industry is immune to extinction does not mean that it is free from risks. A multi-state agents biggest concerns are licensing and compliance with each state separate rules and regulations, not to mention all of the different nuances of title in each specific state be it examination, lien statutes, estates, corporations, recordation, funding or simply who can practice. Together these factors ultimately determine the insurability of a piece of property.
Learning these nuances is only half the battle. A multi-state agents requirements for licensing, auditing, annual reports and surcharges are numerous and ever-changing. The first and only person to create a state-by-state manual to help multi-state agents simplify this complex licensing landscape was the author of this manual, Allen Solomon. The book is called The First Title Agent Licensing Manual and it has proved to be the missing tool and critical addition to many a title company library.
Mr. Solomon has now prepared a step-by-step guide called The Ultimate Real Estate Transaction Compliance Manual that will prove essential for multi-state agents and nationally aspiring title insurance companies learning how to examine, clear and close title in territories with which theyare unfamiliar.
The zig zags of our industry are extremely daunting and being able to navigate multiple databases and county/city departments as well as understanding localized complex estate law is at times an insurmountable task.
The goal was to provide a clear view of each states recording laws, property tax structure, how title is vested, who can legally close or disburse a transaction, foreclosure law and statute of limitations laws. This goal was met with this concise, effectively-segmented manual that will help guide you in expanding your business.
Whether you are looking for a better understanding of the way a particular state works, looking to increase your footprint or simply want to have a great resource in your agency’s library, this manual serves those purposes and more. Technology has made expansion easier, but do not fall into one of the many traps in each state. Good luck in your expanding footprint!
Marc E. Shaw, Esq.
President of World Wide Land Transfer, Inc.