Dear ILTA Members,
Are you committed or interested? This was the theme of the 2017 Advocacy Summit in Washington, D.C., which was held the first week of May. I had the pleasure of attending this great event, along with fellow board members Cameron McFadden, John Holt and Quinn Stufflebeam. I can say that we left the event not just interested, but committed to the direction our industry is headed.
The Summit started off with several industry awards. Not to our surprise, our very own John Holt was recognized as Advocate of the Year. This is a great honor for John, and shows that if you are committed to something you can make a huge difference. Next time you see John, be sure to congratulate him and extend your appreciation for his continued commitment to our Association.
As the Summit continued, we had the pleasure of hearing from the prominent director of HUD, Dr. Ben Carson. Dr. Carson spoke about the need for affordable housing and making the American dream available to all citizens. He told a story about his childhood, which was plagued with misfortune, including losing his home to foreclosure. For many years he felt lost not having a place to call home. That sense of security, which we all seek, was restored when they were finally able to purchase a new home.
The rest of the conference was spent preparing for our day on Capitol Hill. We were edu-cated with everything we needed to talk directly to our representatives. Then we headed out to meet with our two members of the House and two Senators. Our main inquiries during the meetings involved Tax Reform and the CFPB. We lobbied our representatives to support not eliminating both the homeowner interest deduction and 1031 exchanges. These items have been introduced by the President as possible ways to make his tax plan work. As you all know this would cause a ripple effect for the real estate industry, which represents 13.1 percent of the GDP. We also asked them to urge the CFPB to give us clear and concise guidelines when it comes to TRID. Further, we reiterated the need for accurate disclosure of our fees. We left each of the meetings optimistic that our voice was heard and our Congressmen were on our side.
We sometimes think our voices our not heard on the national level being from little old Idaho. I can tell we are heard, and if you are committed to a cause your voice becomes even more powerful.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve as your President, and I promise you I am fully dedicated to making the ILTA the best Association in the nation. As always, don’t forget to have a little fun in this crazy industry, to which we are committed!
J.T. Jacobsen, ILTA President
ALTA Advocacy Summit
ALTA has done a great job providing value in membership. The conferences they hold to educate, promote and advance the title industry grows and improves each year. Their themes and messages are fresh and thought pro-voking, yet to the point. JT noted an Advocacy Summit theme of “are you committed or just interested?” and the Summit brought this into focus. The conference, held May 1-3, was formerly titled the Federal Conference and seem-ingly changed its name to emphasize a primary purpose and value in ALTA – advocacy. ALTA advocates for our in-dustry on issues impacting us at the federal level (i.e. CFPB, TRID, tax reform, GSE reform) as well as coordinates and advocates with the various states on issues common at the state level (i.e. flat recording fees, notary law and remote notary, authorization and allowance of fees for CPL’s). The Title Action Network (TAN) is the backbone for grass roots activation that is utilized at the federal and state levels. Advocacy is more effective when participants are com-mitted versus just interested and the Summit puts this into practice.
The Advocacy Summit is a two-and-a-half-day conference that is jam packed with speakers on timely issues; instruction on protocol and procedures in meeting with your federal legislators; review of our national issues and the message and points we want to make with our federal legislators; and, culminates with the intense one day lobbying effort of as many congressmen as possible. ALTA coordinated more than 200 meetings with congressmen this year. Idaho was represented by a group of four and we had meetings with all four of our congressmen in addition to a fund-raising lunch with Sen. Crapo. ALTA staff attended two of the meetings with us and the ALTA leadership and Board of Governors were in force at the fundraising lunch. The Advocacy Summit is a fast-paced full on working conference and one that many at ALTA express as their favorite conference because it is fast and furious but meaningful and ben-eficial.
The conference started off with US Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN). Rep. Hollingsworth is a freshman con-gressman that is a quick study of our industry and was an example of grass roots development. Advocates within our industry reached out to him to help educate about our industry and the issues we face. Hosting fundraisers for con-gressmen was another format discussed as a means to develop beneficial relationships. Our industry does not have the numbers or finances like the bankers and realtors but ALTA helps us sharpen what we have and the respect we have shows. However, we do share a number of issues in common with our larger business partners. We heard from speakers that included lobbyists from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and lobbying firms that lobby on tax issues. Tax reform and simplification, the mortgage interest deduction, 1031 exchanges, GSE reform, flood insurance, and wire fraud were discussed.
Two CFPB representatives spoke and were asked about our request for specific guidelines for TRID and accu-racy in rates. The CFPB representatives did not sugar coat their response but it was a bit startling to hear their arro-gance in stating rate accuracy is not an issue the CFPB will be looking at. They indicated they are only addressing poli-cy issues and rate accuracy is not a policy issue. They advised they will always listen but it is not something they will address. They were also asked why the CFPB does not address wire fraud if they are really a consumer advocacy bureau. They lamely advised they are aware of mounting wire fraud issues but stated this is not really their responsi-bility and that it takes a long time to look into things and determine the best way to address the issue. They frank-ly admitted this sounded like a bureaucratic response but it was the best response they could give. The ALTA po-sition with the CFPB is not for termination but to seek specific guidelines to comply and for amendment so accu-rate rates and information is disclosed to consumers. This made it more surprising to hear CFPB’s cavalier bu-reaucratic response on points that support and help consumers.
Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA) and Rep. Dave Trott (R-MI) had a spirited discussion of the issues from their respective political points of view. Both are friends of the industry. They generally agreed that land ownership is central to growth and a robust economy. A problem in this equation is that consumers in general do not under-stand what the title industry provides and the need for our products.
One of the more interesting speakers, from my perspective, was from NAR who expressed that technolo-gy is making things move faster. The NAR representative spoke as part of a panel of the title “Can you Evolve and Thrive Like Amazon?” The premise was that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is often asked what’s going to change in 10 years. Bezos says the more important question to ask is “What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?” Bezos says consumers want fast delivery and vast selection. Building a business strategy around things that are stable over time is the goal. While NAR acknowledges that technology is advancing they believe there will always be the human touch. The value proposition they are facing is how does the realtor stay relevant with technology in mind. Technology is impacting closings with e-closings and signings but also on the bad side with respect to escrow fraud. The NAR representative even touched on biometric encrypted email through facial identification as a means to combat fraud.
Artificial intelligence will be the next wave together with an onslaught of data. Receiv-ing data is one thing but analytics of the data is more important to show the value in how to use the data. Rede-fining the realtor’s value proposition and integrating technology coupled with keeping the human touch and other-wise redefining the realtor’s value to their clients is a primary goal of the NAR. This concern with staying relevant and keeping control seems evident in the mass national advertising campaign the realtors have implemented. Hearing from NAR and understanding that realtors are concerned with their relevance moving forward was an interesting proposition in the rapidly changing evolution of the title and real estate industries.
As JT described we also heard from Dr. Carson. Supplementing JT’s comments, Dr. Carson talked about getting back to basics of the American Dream – home ownership. This should be coupled with education on basic finances like balancing a check book and knowledge of formulas for income balanced to the value of a home you can afford. Dr. Carson stressed the education side needs to be developed and reinvigorated. Dr. Carson stat-ed that Americans own things and care about things. If you’re looking out for property rights you’re looking out for other rights. Our business of protecting property rights is an important foundation of our economy. America is great because America is good.
Another theme ALTA is advancing is core values for the title industry. Values drive a company’s success. Values allow us to play offense. Principles, best practices, compliance are defensive measures. As protectors of property rights this is something ALTA is working on from an industry perspective but one that every company should review and develop and one that dovetails with commitment versus interest.
The finale to the Advocacy Summit is meeting with your congressmen. We actually met with the staff from all four congressmen but also met personally with Rep. Simpson (briefly) and with Sen. Risch and Sen. Crapo. We met with Sen. Crapo twice – once at lunch and again at our scheduled meeting later that afternoon. ALTA had a video summary that we presented as an introduction of ALTA and our issues. We were organized, prepared, had state of the art technology as part of our presentation, and the support from ALTA in our lobbying. As JT reported, all our congressmen expressed support to all our expressed issues regarding CFPB and accuracy in rates; tax reform with emphasis to protect the mortgage interest deduction and 1031 exchanges and GSE reform. It was a great feeling to be active, to be committed, to be heard, and to be part of the process in protecting and promoting our industry and sharing with our congressmen that we are the protectors of property rights. In other words—being an Advocate. I encourage everyone to attend the ALTA Advocacy Summit, the ALTA One con-ference (annual convention) and the other ATLA conferences as well as our state education seminar, Liaison meetings, and Pacific NW regional Land Title Convention. Please see the following page for registration infor-mation on the upcoming Pacific NW Convention in Suncadia, Washington.
Be committed and not just interested. Participate and be an Advocate.