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!