Embrace ALTA’s Best Practices


 BestPractices2Some real estate practitioners are furiously bringing themselves into compliance with ALTA’s Best Practices, while others are furiously ignoring the entire topic or, at best, waiting until they hear marching orders from lenders. I propose that we all step to the plate and embrace Best Practices.

Residential practitioners can and should use compliance as a marketing tool. Some commercial practitioners are assuming that when lenders become educated and begin demanding compliance from residential practitioners, they will naturally ask for the same or similar compliance from commercial practitioners. Striving for compliance is an opportunity for all practitioners to demonstrate to their clients, to real estate agents and to lenders their value in real estate transactions.

ALTA is now encouraging practitioners to conduct a self-assessment of their adoption of Best Practices by September of 2014. Time may be of the essence because a practitioner may first hear marching orders from a lender in connection with a specific real estate closing. If it is impossible to demonstrate compliance quickly, that closing will likely be lost to someone who is better prepared.Best-Practice-processes

I am convinced that the numbers of residential real estate practitioners in South Carolina will be drastically reduced in the next year or two. Attorneys approaching retirement age may decide to retire rather than to learn how to use the new forms. Large law firms  who handle commercial transactions may decide that residential transactions are no longer worth the effort. Left standing will be the practitioners who embrace this change and tackle it now. There is opportunity for growth for those who act wisely in the face of change.

Title insurance companies are willing and able to help and have resources that can ease the pain. But no outsider can do the actual work. Each pillar requires careful consideration from a management standpoint, and only the closing attorneys themselves can make the necessary decisions for implementation. Each pillar will require on-going demonstration of compliance. Files must be papered. Calendars must be tickled. Software and hardware must be kept current. Compliance will not be a matter of establishing written procedures and continuing business as usual. We should establish a culture of compliance and make it the responsibility of all employees.

I can’t say this strongly enough: At some point, practitioners will either have to embrace compliance or get out of the game. The time to act is now.

If you want to continue to handle residential real estate transactions, call your title insurance company today and ask for assistance in nailing down each pillar.

Tell it to Grandma!


DSC_1879aWhen my friend and mentor Chris Abbinante was President of American Land Title Association, he encouraged real estate professionals to explain what we do in terms our grandmothers can understand. He said when we can explain the value of our profession to our grandmothers; we will be able to be to enlighten our clients. Knowledgeable clients who recognize our value are more satisfied, more willing to pay our fees and more likely to return for future transactions.

  Our jobs are important and honorable! We assist consumers in realizing the American dream. We hold their hands during their most significant purchases. We examine the titles to identify and eliminate risks. We draft documents to protect their interests. We explain documents to confirm clients understand their obligations.

We are entrusted with and carefully handle closing funds. We vigilantly maintain our trust accounts so client funds will be safe. We protect our clients’ private, sensitive information. We are mortgage fraud watch dogs. We provide clients with the best title insurance products available so that the title to their investment will be protected from third parties by reputable and solvent companies. When they leave our offices, they hold keys to the home where their family will live. There is a reason we call the scheduled event a “closing”. It is the end, the culmination of the process of dreaming about, finding, and obtaining a home.

Commercial practitioners assist clients in procuring properties for their business activities or for investment purposes using the skills that no other professional can provide. We form their business entities. We assist with accumulating multiple properties for a single endeavor. We assist clients in satisfying the requirements of their lenders. We know when to call on other professionals…surveyors, inspectors, appraisers, environmental engineers, attorneys and bankruptcy attorneys. We protect clients’ equity and assist in their business pursuits. After their closings, they can begin to build their office buildings, shopping centers and residential subdivisions. Commercial practitioners also assist clients in achieving the American dream.

Learn to articulate your story. Own your story! Tell your story, like you would tell Grandma, to real estate agents, builders, lenders, developers, service organizations and others. This is Marketing for Dirt Lawyers 101. You will see results!