One of the first projects I worked on when I started as the editor of The Title Report last year was the Voice of the Title Agent report, our annual survey of those who work in the title space. I find it an invaluable resource as it is full of real-time data from the boots on the ground, providing a detailed look at the industry through the eyes of those working in it.
I recently finished compiling this year’s report, our 12th, after going through every answer and comment from the more than 250 people who filled out the survey. It’s a comprehensive questionnaire, asking about things like how their business was over the past year and what they expect in the coming year, where their best opportunities for business are and what their chief concerns are, what kind of technology they can’t live without or can’t wait to get their hands on, what kinds of working relationships they have with industry partners like Realtors, lenders and underwriters, what their security and wire fraud protocols are like, and their thoughts on compliance and regulation.
The survey results show regulatory oversight is something that is top of mind regarding industry concerns, especially in light of the newly appointed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Rohit Chopra. This year, we asked title agents whether they expected increased regulatory scrutiny. The answer was a resounding yes, with about half saying they expect more scrutiny from both the CFPB and state regulators, 27 percent from the CFPB and 14 percent from the state.
All the data from survey answers and comments that respondents add not only paints a picture of what is happening in the title industry right now, it also points to trends and advances in the space when compared with results from previous years. Take eClosings, for example. We asked respondents if they are prepared to handle eClosings. Between 2017 and 2019, only around 15 percent of those surveyed said they were already doing eClosings. This year, that number jumped to nearly half (47 percent.) No doubt the pandemic had a lot to do with that.
It’s important to keep things in context, though, because while more title agencies became capable of doing eClosings after the extraordinary situations caused by pandemic shutdowns, it doesn’t mean they are actually doing them. Several respondents told us that other partners in real estate transactions are holding them up, including lenders, and some state or county regulations don’t allow for them. The same thing goes for remote online notarization (RON). Since there is no universal avenue for approval or national regulations regarding it, RON is not something that can happen all at once industrywide.
This is just the tip of the iceberg as to the information gathered from the 2022 Voice of the Title Agent survey. I invite everyone to page through the special report by downloading a free copy. And make a note to visit thetitlereport.com next February to take part in the 2023 survey.
About the Author
Erica Peterson is editor of The Title Report, an October Research publication with up-to-the-minute, nationwide reporting on the title insurance and settlement services industry. Peterson started her position in March 2021 and has close to 30 years of experience in print and digital journalism, as a reporter, editor, and executive editor of a newspaper chain.