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Education in the title industry- a sorely missing component
by CHARLENE PERRY | 2011/12/27 |

25+ years ago when I "fell into" the title industry things were so much different than they are now.  Some things I was glad to see change, others, not so much.


I not so fondly remember the days when all title commitments were actually typed on a typewriter, documents were delivered by courier and promisorry notes had to be done over and over again because of "lift off's"  Those are the things I don't miss. 

I love technology and the relative ease with which we are able to process our closing files now.  But with technology came what I consider to be the "dumming down" of the industry in general.

When I first came into the business, I knew nothing of the title business, but I knew how to type, so type I did, for hours on end day in and day out!.  Commitments, deeds, Notes, Deeds of Trust, letters, etc. And while I typed, a strange thing began to happen; I started to ask questions, I started to learn the "why's" of what I was typing, what it meant to "take exception" why exception was being taken, what did it matter how I typed the "vesting" in a deed as long as I had the names correct, and so on.  And from that point a seed was planted that made me want to learn more! I realized that I liked the puzzles, I liked to read the old handwritten deeds and mortgages, etc. It was almost like a history lesson being taught every day.  But, equally as important as my willingness to learn was the willingness of others to teach me!

Today, I still read all of the deeds and mortgages.  I read them still because I like the puzzles, and the history, but mostly I read them because I have to in order to do what is ultimately what I am paid to do, which is to offer a policy of title insurance to the purchaser and his/her lender, if applicable.

However, I am in the minority, I fear. Because of technology there is no longer a need for a "processor" to actually read anything!  Cut and paste are the rules of the day and even if a document is read it is only given a cursery glance to check the spelling of names at best, or so it seems.

Many of the licensend title agents who are active in today's market never had the opportunity I had to learn from masters of the real estate settlement industry and to learn the "why's" of what we do.  Now in order to acquire a license you are made to sit in pre-licensing classes with instructors who may or may not have ever been actively involved in the actual closing and settlement process; take and pass a test, get a bond and viola you are a licensed title agent!!  Actual working knowledge of the process is not a mandatory requirement for licensing.

I often relate our industry to that of an accountant or attorney, in that, we are professionals, and as such should be afforded the same respect as other professionals.  I cannot imagine asking my attorney or accountant to come to my home in the middle of their dinner hour to conduct a closing so that I would not be inconvenienced, but we title agents are asked to do that all the time.  (I personally don't do in home closings for a variety of reasons beside the lack of professionalism associated with that practice; in my humble opinion anyway) but many are asked and many do "conduct" closings in the client's home.

I recently had a discussion with an local icon of the title insurance industry and he and I were discussing the "dumbing down" of our industry and the lack of true education to those just starting out in our industry. We both agreed that it would not be a horrible idea to see educational requirements similar to those that are mandated for attorneys and accountants.  In particular, we discussed longer classroom hours, more in-depth study of the industry and title insurance generally, possibly requiring at at least an AA Degree in the field of real estate,  AND MOST IMPORTANTLY a requirement that a candidate for licensing be made to do an internership (paid or unpaid) under the supervision of a seasoned title agent before being allowed to go solo.

Today, because of technology, many title agents have never seen any of the documents commonly seen in a chain of title.  For that matter many title agents have never seen a chain of title.  They see the title commitment (maybe) which commitment was prepared by a ""processor" in India or China or Pakistan or maybe even here in the USA, with information gathered from a public web-site and relied upon as the title report.  That commitment may or may not actually reference any or all of the matters that are going to be excepted to in the final title policy; and, if the exceptions were listed, and if the title agent were to be asked to explain what a particular clause in a title commitment means, it is likely that the title agent would not be able to explain the particular clause because they have never read a title policy to see how it relates to the commitment, etc.

It is time for our industry to make change.  How can you expect to be treated as a professional if you don't take the time and the steps necessary to BECOME a professional?  How can you offer a policy of title insurance to the consumer if you can't explain with clarity the provisions of that policy?

There is a great push for consumer education as it relates to the purchase of real estate.  There is the "Know Before you Owe" campaign and others that are specifically targeting the actual consumer, not the real estate agents or lenders.  If we are to stay viabile we too must have a campaign in place to educate the consuming public about our WORTH but first, we must demand that those in our industry have the proper education to enable them to be WORTHY of the respect we should all be demanding!


1413 words | 3141 views | 12 comments | log in or register to post a comment

I couldn't agree more!

I would go further with regard to abstractors, in particular.  I am often amazed by the lack of knowledge that a lot of abstractors have.  When I started in this business, most abstractors worked for title agents, or attorneys, who were ultimately liable for their work.  They made sure they were properly trained.  These days, abstractors don't really get that kind of training.

You really hit the nail on the head with the big question... "WHY?"  Too many title professionals do not understand "why" we show what we do on the searches and policies.  If you don't understand the "why" you are really not qualified to be doing this kind of work.  Sadly, too many people don't care about the "why" anymore.

The kind of education you speak of is sorely needed today.  As you point out, that is what makes us professionals.


by Robert Franco | 2011/12/28 | log in or register to post a reply


I agree to a point with your write up but you can not dismiss or stop technology advancements.  The fact that some underwriters and even large title companies use an outsourcing agent that may employ typists in Pakistan or India is not for you and I to argue with.  This is a pure business decision that these companies must live with and most likely move to in order to lower expenses and be more cost effective to their local clientele. 

The education aspect is something separate.  There is off shoring and the fact that many title companies and large search companies have begun to do so and then there is education.  Education when it comes to Title Clerks, processors, etc.. etc.. has gotten hurt for many different reasons, but it shouldn't be because their companies have elected to deploy an off shoring company to prepare title commitments.  I don't believe we can blame the large search companies for off shoring and creating the lack of education.  The consumer still deals directly with title closers and title companies.  That is where the education actually means something.  If the title clerk can't explain documents to a consumer or cant assist a consumer in clearing up a title defect then that lack of knowledge will be exposed at some point and this company will go under... 

Oh and a title agent that doesn't still review the raw data no matter where it is coming from is a title agent that won't be around for too long anyway....

Nice Blog Though.


by Marc Shaw | 2011/12/28 | log in or register to post a reply

thank you
I appreciate your reply. I agree with you that title clekrks and processors. I do absolutely agree with you. I am however a firm advocate of keeping real estate local whenever possible. Outsourcing to foreign countries does not save money ultimately.  
by CHARLENE PERRY | 2011/12/28 | log in or register to post a reply

When I worked for title companies in the past, I was always required to be licensed. When I became an independent abstractor, I was forced to give up that license, as you had to be appointed by an underwriter as a title agent to keep that license. I always enjoyed the continued education, which was mostly given by the Underwriters, but was also provided by other sources (such as The Koogler Group). I learned a lot of valuable information from these courses. I would love to see the State of Florida require abstractors to be licensed, if for the continued education requirements alone, but also to prevent the proliferation of out of state abstractors performing searches where they have no idea of local statutes or practices. My fear is that if licensing is required, the large title/vendor management companies will find some loophole to get around the requirements. In that case I will have spent valuable time and money getting a license; wasted effort if the law isn't rigorously enforced. 
by Mark Pierson | 2012/01/03 | log in or register to post a reply

I am an advocate of licensing...

I have long been a proponent of licensing for title abstractors.  I have always thought it very odd that every other professional involved has to be licensed, e.g. title agent, Realtor, mortgage broker, appraiser, surveyor, etc.  But, for some reason, abstractors are not required to be licensed.  The title search is the foundation for everything else, the vast majority of states do not regulate the industry.

If abstracting is a profession, abstractors should be required to show some level of qualification and they should be required to undergo continuing education.  I would welcome such a change, but I do not expect it to change anytime soon.

by Robert Franco | 2012/01/03 | log in or register to post a reply

Abstracting has suffered the same fate, I believe.

I have been doing titles for over 30 yrs now and the way we did them back then is no where near the way they are done now. I attribute a lot of this to the " short" title forms also- no need to actually know that there are exceptions to the title. The legal descriptions also tell a story about what was done-, when I see a resub and no resubdivision reference or an "and being" that does not work I am led to believe that a current owner search is all that was performed, even on foreclosure cases where they are being paid tremendous fees($200-300). I have stopped doing foreclosure cases because of the way the settlement companies want to undercut the title fees.
It is a sad day that has arrived for title a current owner search and charge for a full title.Hopefully there will come a day when accuracy and detail will once again prevail in the settlement process.
Steve Meinecke
Doing titles in No Virginia since 1976


by STEVE MEINECKE | 2012/01/03 | log in or register to post a reply

Could not agree more!

The title industry as a whole has become sloppy and lazy!

Those of us who strive to do things the right way are in the super minority. 

I do a lot of REO work and I use the services of seasoned title attorneys to search and abstract those titles.  Sadly, the work that goes into these files vs. the fees we can charge for the superior services provided are never in sync. 

We need a call for change in the industry. Is it too late?  Probably.  Laziness and sloppiness are the new normal and we may be facing the uphill battle, but it's a battle I will continue to fight

by CHARLENE PERRY | 2012/01/03 | log in or register to post a reply

There's only one way to abstract

First of all as an old timer in this industry, I have seen a lot of changes. One thing that does not change is the way we do titles. 

We do it the right way, the only way, we read and report everything, including open ends, assignments and bad releases, even typo errors.  READ, READ READ, is what I was told, so that's what we do as abstractors.  There are Fly by nights who have come and gone, I'm still here.  Quality not Quantity has helped us get thru more than one market slump.  We do not skip over Equity suits, or fail to report them. We don't do vendor work because it does not comply with our standards, We help our clients reduce their fees by providing a complete Title.. 60 years, We do limited searches for those who only want 40 yrs or less.  A rundown still requires you check the previous owner for open trust. 

We are not sloppy or lazy! 


by J Fandel | 2012/01/05 | log in or register to post a reply

Mark M.

Lack of knowledge or not, their E&O is the ultimate insurer. I shudder when I think of  all those claims against those now defunct "fly by night" abstractors that blew through here in '08 through '10. Required education really has no place; Darwinism is the key. Attrition and survival of the fittest will return "best" to our profession.

by Mark Mauldin | 2012/01/08 | log in or register to post a reply

Only one way to abstract

I wholeheartedly agree!!  Those abstractors like yoursel who still CARE about the quality of their work product are still around and I wish that our industry would REQUIRE that abstracts be done in this fashion.

Fly by nights as you say have come and gone and those like you others are left still standing to clean up their mess!! 

by CHARLENE PERRY | 2012/01/10 | log in or register to post a reply

Customer has changed the process also
I believe the vendor management companies, in order to save time and costs, have brought upon themselves a lot of the blame for insufficient titles.  They have relied on the "purchase money mortgage" as a cure all for any pre-existing title defects which may be in the record and ultimately a source of claims against the new lender.  This type of search is relatively easy but as stated before can be a problem if the searcher lacks the training or understanding to recognize defects in title. The increased flow of information afforded by technology puts so much time demands on the searcher, that they are not afforded the necessary time to deliver a quality product.   I always emphasized the quality consideration as the most important, but it seems that the current state of the business only considers it after a problem exists.  
by James Newberry | 2012/01/23 | log in or register to post a reply

There are so many people out there who do not take the time to do quality work. All they are interested in is getting the job heck with is it right or wrong. It seems they have a "lets worry about that if it happens" approach to it. Sad. Very sad. 
by Penny Bettorf | 2012/02/29 | log in or register to post a reply



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