Recruiting and training in the title industry is difficult for many title companies and law firms. The pool of talent is shallow, and growing concerns over the exodus of experienced title searchers and processors deemed the “silver tsunami” has many worried that a candidate pool–that resembles a kiddie pool–will turn into a puddle. After all, it’s not like many children say they want to grow up to be a title agent.
So what’s the industry to do? I spoke with Robin Morgan, Operations Manager and Closing Agent for Estes & Kennedy Law Offices, PLLC, about the struggles of finding, training, and retaining talent in the title industry.
With 27 years of experience as a title agent and instructor in real estate in Tennessee, she’s seen the booms and busts of the industry and seen the struggle of finding and keeping good talent. Here’s my interview with her.
ALTA Resources for Training Title Agents
The American Land Title Association (ALTA) provides educational and operational resources for professionals working in the title industry. ALTA members can access free training for new new employees here. These video modules help to explain the “nuts and bolts” of the industry.
The Why of Title Insurance
Anyone who works in the title industry knows that it’s difficult to explain the industry to outsiders. Most homeowners aren’t even sure what title insurance is after purchasing their home although they’re pretty sure they have it.
Veterans like Robin have had time to hone their skills and understanding of the complexity of the business, and she emphasizes that for new recruits, it can take more than a month or even a year before they have that “ah-ha” moment.
Unfortunately, she sees many young people become overwhelmed by the stress of the job and quit before they have a chance to reach that epiphany. A lot of the younger generation isn’t prepared for the stress of all the moving parts and personalities that they have to deal with.
Characteristics of successful candidates
For those interested in learning the ropes of the title business or for those looking to find the right person to hire as a processor and potentially mentor into a closing agent role, here are some characteristics to prioritize:
- High tolerance for stress
- Familiar with technology and processing platforms
- Ability to adapt
- Effective Communication
Additionally, setting expectations of what it’s like to be in the middle of the transaction and managing multiple parties is important to keep employees with great potential from leaving.
Age shouldn’t deter someone. Real estate agents looking for a career change often make for great recruits for the title industry because they already have a wealth of knowledge about real estate, so it won’t be like starting from scratch.
“You don’t learn the title industry just by pressing buttons.” – Robin Morgan, Operations Manager & Closing Agent at Estes & Kennedy Law Offices
The State of the Title Industry
Robin reached out to me after reading PropLogix’s State of the Title Industry Report. She mentioned that it confirmed for her what she felt to be true in her experience. While closing software makes learning the mechanics of title insurance easy, it doesn’t teach the why. Why this requirement is needed or why that exception is written in the policy or why title agents need a document from a client to cure title on their property before selling the home.
There are no shortcuts when it comes to keeping your employees properly trained. Time is the most vital ingredient, but there are other things to keep in mind as well.
How do we keep our team properly trained?
Here are some suggestions from Robin:
- There has to be oversight of the work
- When engaging new staff members they need to be mentored
- Encourage participation in webinars from ALTA or your underwriters
- Have employees attend seminars available at local land title associations
- Recruit seasoned employees to help with training
- Have attorneys or experienced closing agents review policies
Insurance is a risk-mitigating business. There no way to also reduce the potential of claims to 0%, but the goal is to get as close to zero as possible. For smaller companies, one claim could put them out of business, so taking the time to review the work of newer employees is imperative.
Robin notes that much of the training in the industry is cost-prohibited and puts a strain on smaller agencies and that adequate and accessible training as a whole is insufficient. This may prove to be detrimental to the industry when experienced workers retire and there are very few individuals to take their place as mentors while doing the work needed to issue title policies.
She also mentioned that the reliance on underwriters is something of a catch-22. Because title companies and law firms don’t have the necessary staff to produce work at the rate it’s needed, they get things like the title search report from their underwriter in order to produce title commitments. This means there are fewer and fewer internal resources who know how to do this work. The more companies outsource their title work to their underwriter, it begs the question, are the underwriters going to completely take over one day?
The Future of the Title Insurance Industry
Recruiting and training staff is one uncertainty in the title industry. There’s also a lot up in the air when it comes to the regulatory agency overseeing settlement agents and lenders. A case challenging the constitutionality of the CFPB will be going to the supreme court this summer. All of this will affect who and how the title industry trains its workers.
In my conversation with Robin, we spoke a bit about how regulations affect the real estate transaction and the quality of work produced. Like many in the industry, she believes some of the mistakes that companies make are a result of misinterpretation of information handed down by the CFPB.
“It was and has been an issue, especially for real estate agents to wrap their heads around why buyers and sellers are not allowed to be in the same closing room when loan documents are being discussed for buyers,” she says. “In our area, there was a group of agents that would have agencies draft letters to circumvent this requirement. This led to Realtors making statements such as they do not have to adhere to CFPB requirements.” This is one of many examples of how every party in the real estate transaction needs more education before enforcement of rules they don’t understand.
“We all need an understanding of how we transact real estate business today and going forward,” she explains.
We’ll all be watching this year to see what changes come to the CFPB and the rules it enforces. It the meantime, ALTA is hosting a Springboard event dedicated to company culture, recruiting and retention, leadership development, professional development, and succession planning for March 10-11 in Denver. If you’re interested in attending, register here.