Registration Open for NAILTA National Conference in April

The National Association of Land Title Agents (NAILTA) is accepting registrations for its annual conference to be held from Sunday April 10th to Tuesday April 12th at the Hyatt Regency Inner Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland.

Among the scheduled speakers are University of Utah Law Professor Christopher L. Peterson, a prominent critic of MERS who has conducted extensive legal research on MERS and testified before Congress on the foreclosure crisis and the problems posed by MERS in foreclosure. 

The keynote speaker will be Richard Gordon, a Maryland lawyer who is heavily involved in active RESPA Section 8 class action litigation and has taken on numerous alleged sham affiliated business arrangements.  Also scheduled to speak is Brett Woodburn, Associate Counsel for the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors, who will be speaking on the business outlook for title insurance and real estate from the perspective of outside settlement providers.  NAILTA President Charles W. Proctor III will give a “state of the independent title agent” address during opening remarks.

Two continuing education classes are scheduled to take place during the event.  A three hour mortgage fraud seminar featuring members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, independent title agents, and regional title underwriters will be held (CE credit for this seminar is pending approval in the states of NJ, NY, PA, OH, IN, MD, and VA).  Also there will be a one hour ethics seminar sponsored by General Title Insurance Company concerning the ethics of title insurance and title insurance agents (CE credit is pending approval in the states of NJ, PA, OH, IN and MD).

The conference is scheduled to include several breakout sessions, including “The Personality of Selling” led by Dave Dwyer, New Jersey Title Insurance Company;  “Regional Title Insurance Underwriters Q&A Session” with the New Jersey Title Insurance Company, General Title Insurance Company, Security Title & Guarantee of Baltimore, and several more; and “Making a Profitable Title Agency” led by Harvey Pollack, Land Title Services, Inc., Wauwatosa, WI.

Special events are scheduled to include an opening reception on Sunday, April 10, 2011 at the Pisces Rooftop, 15th floor (overlooking Baltimore Harbor) with live music from 7 PM until 10 PM; a free lunch at the Harborview Room of the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Monday, April 11, 2011; and a VIP Tour of Oriole Park at Camden Yards at 2:30 PM on Monday, April, 11, 2011.

Attendees can begin checking in after 2 PM on Sunday, April 10th.  The conference opens with the reception at 7 PM later that day, and scheduled activities run from 8 AM to 4 PM Monday and 8 AM to 12:30 PM Tuesday.

Registration for the event is scheduled to continue until April 3rd.  The registration fee for the event is $225, discounted to $175 for registrations received before February 14th. An additional fee of $50 applies to the continuing education classes.  For more information, visit the NAILTA website or view the current agenda, view other event details, and register here.  For additional information on the venue, visit the website of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Baltimore.

Posted via email from Title Insurance
Continuing Ed for Title Agents

NAR: Existing Home Sales Up Sharply Last Month

From Source of Title

Existing-home sales rose sharply in December, when sales increased for the fifth time in the past six months, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 12.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.28 million in December from an upwardly revised 4.70 million in November, but remain 2.9 percent below the 5.44 million pace in December 2009.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said sales are on an uptrend. “December was a good finish to 2010, when sales fluctuate more than normal. The pattern over the past six months is clearly showing a recovery,” he said. “The December pace is near the volume we’re expecting for 2011, so the market is getting much closer to an adequate, sustainable level. The recovery will likely continue as job growth gains momentum and rising rents encourage more renters into ownership while exceptional affordability conditions remain.”

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $168,800 in December, which is 1.0 percent below December 2009. Distressed homes rose to a 36 percent market share in December from 33 percent in November, and 32 percent in December 2009.

“The modest rise in distressed sales, which typically are discounted 10 to 15 percent relative to traditional homes, dampened the median price in December, but the flat price trend continues,” Yun explained.

Total housing inventory at the end of December fell 4.2 percent to 3.56 million existing homes available for sale, which represents an 8.1-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a 9.5-month supply in November.

NAR President Ron Phipps, broker-president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I., said buyers are responding to very good affordability conditions despite tight mortgage credit. “Historically low mortgage interest rates, stable home prices, and pent-up demand are drawing home buyers into the market,” Phipps said. “Recent home buyers have been successful with very low default rates, given the outstanding performance for loans originated in 2009 and 2010.”

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 4.71 percent in December from 4.30 percent in November; the rate was 4.93 percent in December 2009.

A parallel NAR practitioner survey shows first-time buyers purchased 33 percent of homes in December, up from 32 percent in November, but are below a 43 percent share in December 2009.

Investors accounted for 20 percent of transactions in December, up from 19 percent in November and 15 percent in December 2009; the balance of sales were to repeat buyers. All-cash sales were at 29 percent in December, compared with 31 percent in November, but up from 22 percent a year ago. “All-cash sales have been consistently high at about 30 percent of the market over the past six months,” Yun said.

Single-family home sales jumped 11.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.64 million in December from 4.15 million in November, but are 2.5 percent below the 4.76 million level in December 2009. The median existing single-family home price was $169,300 in December, down 0.2 percent from a year ago.

Existing condominium and co-op sales surged 16.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 640,000 in December from 550,000 in November, but remain 5.2 percent below the 675,000-unit pace one year ago. The median existing condo price was $165,000 in December, which is 7.4 percent below December 2009.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast jumped 13.0 percent to an annual pace of 870,000 in December but are 5.4 percent below December 2009. The median price in the Northeast was $237,300, which is 1.4 percent below a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest rose 11.0 percent in December to a level of 1.11 million but are 4.3 percent below a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $139,700, up 3.3 percent from December 2009.

In the South, existing-home sales increased 10.1 percent to an annual pace of 1.97 million in December but are 2.5 percent below December 2009. The median price in the South was $148,400, unchanged from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West surged 16.7 percent to an annual level of 1.33 million in December but remain 1.5 percent below December 2009. The median price in the West was $204,000, down 5.6 percent from a year ago.

Posted via email from Title Insurance
Continuing Ed for Title Agents

Big Lenders May Lose With Simpler Mortgage Disclosure – Bloomberg

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said it will soon begin writing and testing a simplified mortgage-disclosure form aimed at making it easier for borrowers to compare deals from different lenders.

The bureau expects to award a contract to develop the form by the end of the month, making it one of the first projects of the new agency, according to a bidding document given to vendors in November and reviewed by Bloomberg News.

More concise disclosure is one of the main stated goals of Elizabeth Warren, the Obama administration adviser charged with setting up the agency established by the Dodd-Frank Act. Simpler forms that can be directly compared may make the market less lucrative for lenders such as Bank of America Corporation, Wells Fargo & Company, JP Morgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc.

“If buyers are better informed and understand the financial commitments they are entering into, they will be better able to make comparisons among lenders and the market will be more competitive,” said Alex Pollock, a former banker who is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. “In competitive markets, profit margins are — and should be — driven down to the level of the cost of capital.”

Academic studies have shown that comparison shopping aided by the emergence of the Internet helped cut prices for consumer products including term life insurance in the 1990s. That squeezed profits, said Edward Graves, an associate professor of insurance at The American College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

Lost Margins

“When you see what’s gone on in terms of prices, the insurers have lost a lot of margin in this product,” Graves said in an interview.

Bob Davis, an executive vice president at the American Bankers Association, said short disclosure forms might not simplify the process as much as Warren suggests, because of the “interconnected requirements” imposed by federal law.

“It’s not so simple as creating two pieces of paper,” Davis said in an interview. Bankers agree with Warren’s “starting point,” he said.

Warren has said she would like to see a standard document of one or two pages to replace about 80 percent of the mortgage disclosures mandated by the Truth In Lending Act and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. The current “pile of papers” confuses consumers and is costly to business, Warren has said.

Smaller community banks might become more competitive with Wall Street if new regulations succeed in reducing costs, Davis added. “The compliance process lends itself to certain scale and big technology solutions,” Davis said.

Mortgage Unit Head

Along with the credit-card division, the new bureau’s mortgage unit may have the most immediate impact on consumer financial services. A candidate to run the mortgage section is Patricia McCoy, a University of Connecticut law professor who has been working with Warren part-time, according to a person briefed on the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter isn’t public.

McCoy, 56, is a former corporate litigator who was a partner at Mayer, Brown & Platt during the savings and loan crisis in the early 1990s. Based in Washington, she represented bank auditors and examined residential loans and underwriting standards. She co-wrote a book published this month on the subprime lending crash.

The contract to create a new disclosure form was advertised to selected vendors in November by the Bureau of Public Debt at the Treasury Department, where the consumer bureau is housed until it becomes an independent entity in July. It calls for firms to bid on providing “support services to assist with the design of a model disclosure form, including assessment of the form through consumer testing and revisions to the form resulting from the testing and public comments,” according to the copy obtained by Bloomberg News.

January Contract

Bids had to be in by Dec. 14, and the contract will be awarded before the end of January, according to the proposal document. The vendor must complete the work by Jan. 15, 2012 or a year after the contract is awarded, whichever is earlier.

Dodd-Frank requires the bureau to propose regulations on mortgage disclosures for public comment by July 21, 2012. The bidding document indicates that the bureau intends to move more quickly, saying its goal is to issue proposed regulations “as soon after” July 21, 2011, “as possible.”

The bid request also emphasizes the role of field tests in the bureau’s decision-making, a point Warren raised at a Dec. 6 symposium at Treasury, according to one attendee, Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.

Warren told the audience that “we’re going to be data- driven. We’re going to test things, and figure out what people respond to,” Rheingold said in an interview.

‘Asking a Lot’

Not everyone studying the mortgage industry believes that simpler forms will translate into more comparison shopping by borrowers.

“It’s asking a lot for a piece of paper to change actual consumer behavior,” John Kozup, an associate professor of marketing at Villanova University and director of the Villanova Center for Marketing and Public Policy Research, said in an interview. “It could be a decision aid but that is it.”

Kozup, who also attended the Dec. 6 symposium, said that by the time applicants get a mortgage pre-approval and find a house, they “have a psychological commitment to a certain bank or broker, and no kind of disclosure is going to change that.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Carter Dougherty in Washington at cdougherty6@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lawrence Roberts at lroberts13@bloomberg.net.

Posted via email from Title Insurance
Continuing Ed for Title Agents