Over the last 40 years, technology has transformed the homebuying experience, helping people find their dream home faster, connecting consumers with the right real estate professionals, digitizing the mortgage application process, and now offering remote closing in the comfort and safety of home. Despite all of these leaps forward into the future of eClosings, automation and machine learning can’t solve every problem currently facing the title and real estate industry.
Release tracking is the search of the official records to confirm that documents, also called instruments, identified in the title commitment are properly released shortly after closing. If the required releases aren’t recorded, a title defect will impact the new homeowner.
Getting a mortgage lien release after closing is a vital part of preventative title work, but it can sometimes fall through the cracks as busy mortgage professionals may miss a request for drafting a release or assume the instruments are filed with the clerk by another party.
Solving problems in Silos
There are multiple players involved in the real estate transaction, from the settlement or title agent to the recorder to the lender. Each professional has their own set of priorities and objectives. As a result, each industry developed a system to track and share information and documentation on a property. While the public record serves as the source of truth regarding the chain of title, title companies deemed the grantor/grantee index system archaic and counterproductive to their search process. For instance, searching a property with an owner named John Smith would be tedious, so title companies created title plants to align an indexing system with the legal description, a far better point of reference for title searches than the name of the owner or parcel number.
The mortgage industry also abandoned the public record in favor of the Mortgage Electronic Registration System or MERS to better aid in registering and transferring promissory notes and mortgage assignments on the secondary mortgage market.
Both title plants and MERS act as duplicate systems, mirroring the public land record with an emphasis on improving the productivity of their respective professionals, but the disparate systems can sometimes yield contradictory information.
That’s why organizations like the Property Records Industry Association (PRIA) and tech companies like Ubitquity are looking to solve the problem through standardization and digitization of accurate and complete land records.
Release Tracking puts the pieces together
In the meantime, title professionals are left to time-consuming tasks of following up with the recorder and lender to ensure all the right instruments are filed. This task isn’t just a quick search of the public record either. The process often involves a lot more detective work and tenacity.
Ayla Pettyjohn is a Team Lead in the PropLogix Release Tracking and Curative department and knows what it takes to follow up with wayward lien releases. She explains, “Sure, it’s easy to do a 30-second county record search, but getting lenders to ensure that they follow through if they have not already completed it is a job in and of itself. We do that from start to finish to get it in the county records.”
Daniel Matute, another Property Analyst working on Release Tracking, shares one story of time and work involved in getting a release drafted and recorded, “Last year I had a lender who refused to get back to me. I emailed them and called them many times. It got to the point where I was calling them every day, then twice a day (even calling from my cell phone!) And this is a company, not a private person I was trying to reach. Then I got the idea to call their head office and ask for the supervisor of this individual. I told them what was going on and what I needed. Magically, an hour later, I get a phone call from this person who dodged me for months, and they did what I asked.”
He adds, “I don’t take ‘no’ for an answer when getting what our clients need.”
Building rapport with the professionals to execute a release isn’t something a computer algorithm can do.
What’s the difference between Release Tracking and Title Curative Services?
Because both release tracking and title curative services involve similar issues and steps, they’re easily confused. Here’s a breakdown of the differences:
Title Curative is done before the closing as part of pre-closing title work. After a title search is conducted on a property, the title agent will check to see if there are any clouds or defects and then start the process of clearing those defects. This must be done to issue a new title policy on behalf of a lender and new homeowner.
Release Tracking occurs as part of the post-closing process. Because the period of time it takes to record the lien releases and satisfactions can take up to 30-90 days, Title Agents will issue the title policy before the documents are officially recorded. When the appropriate time has elapsed, the agent checks the public record for any missing releases.
? Document Types
Title Curative may involve the resolution of various types of title defects. At PropLogix, our title curative specialists currently focus only on mortgage or deed of trust-related documents.
Release Tracking includes not just mortgage-related documents; we also track HELOCs, Judgments, Lis Pendens, and virtually any document that requires a subsequent release as outlined in the Title Commitment.
Title Curative typically requires a lot more detective work due to the age of the unreleased documents.
Release Tracking takes place soon after closing, making it much easier to track the correct parties to request the appropriate documents be filed with the recorder.
Release Tracking is a small flat fee for each title commitment, regardless of the number of instruments to be tracked. Resolution is also included in this fee.
Title Curative costs are much higher due to the complex nature of the work that requires extensive research and correspondence with various parties.
Working smarter with technology
Technology is simply a tool, not the solution itself. The results will differ depending on whether the hand that wields it is an adept professional or a novice. Leverage tools like the public record, MERS, and even search engines when looking for a missing instrument. Property analysts at PropLogix are trained to use these tools to aid in their searches. Still, it’s the work of building relationships with mortgage professionals that’s key to successfully tracking and releasing liens.