Where can I get guidance on the written policies and procedures I need to have in place to be in compliance with ALTA’s Best Practices?
ALTA’s website (www.alta.org/bestpractices) has many resources. “Best Practices” actually refers to ALTA Best Practices Framework: Title Insurance and Settlement Companies Best Practices, version 2, published on July 19, 2013 which is available to the public through the website mentioned. Upon becoming a member of ALTA you will have access to many of ALTA’s resources developed specifically for title agents. The first step in preparing your written policies and procedures would be to download the Framework.
Under the “Get Started” tab on the ALTA website there are numerous categories to assist you in creating your written policies and procedures, including checklists and workbooks. The workbooks are very in-depth and address each of the seven pillars set out in the Best Practices. Additionally, most underwriters have devoted significant resources to developing templates for the Best Practices and, if possible, these should be referred to as well.
Your written policies and procedures should be tailored to reflect the specific circumstances and work flow present in your office. Ongoing associate training surrounding the Best Practices will ensure that your written policies and procedures match what is actually occurring.
How long does a certification take to complete?
The title company/law firm dictates the pace of the certification with Frazier & Deeter. Our firm will move as quickly or as slowly as you choose. Some title companies/law firms want to complete specific Pillars quickly but know they will not pass other pillars until later, so they request to delay the testing for a specific pillar. We have completed some certifications in as little as six weeks, while other title companies/law firms have requested more time to be able to meet the testing requirements.
What is the pricing for a certification?
Pricing is dependent upon the number of office locations, escrow accounts and average monthly closings performed by your title company/law firm. As an ALTA Elite Provider, we offer a 5% discount to all ALTA members for their first certification. When we quote a fee for your certification, we include pricing parameters that address re-testing of any failed pillars. No one wants a “surprise” bill halfway through the certification process. We are very transparent with our pricing and want the entire process to be pleasant for you.
Does your CPA firm have a practice group dedicated to ALTA Best Practices?
Our Best Practices group is led by Tracey Webb, who has 27 years of experience with Stewart Title, most recently as their SVP – Mid-Atlantic and Southeast Agency Manager. Ms. Webb’s sole practice area is ALTA Best Practices and her team includes principals, managers and compliance specialists who are dedicated to Best Practices certifications. We believe it is important to provide a team of knowledgeable professionals to conduct your certification in a manner where we are not asking you to educate us on the industry or your business. We have the experience to know the correct questions to ask and we understand the language of the closing and title industry.
What is an ALTA Elite Provider and how does that benefit me as a client of Frazier & Deeter?
The Elite Provider Program was designed by ALTA to identify service providers committed to offering comprehensive benefits to the title insurance and settlement services industry. Elite Providers promote the highest industry standards and provide effective solutions for ALTA members' critical needs. The Elite Provider Program involves an application process that requires applicants to submit a recent summary of financial information, multiples references, and a benefit/enhancement offered exclusively to ALTA members. Our firm has been vetted by ALTA to ensure we meet these requirements. We offer a 5% discount on first-time certifications for ALTA members. (www.alta.org/bestpractices)
To what title industry related organizations does Frazier & Deeter belong?
We are members of American Land Title Association, Florida Land Title Association, Palmetto Land Title Association, Dixie Land Title Association, Tennessee Land Title Association and Texas Land Title Association. Tracey Webb, our ALTA Best Practices practice group leader, is also a member of ALTA’s Best Practices Task Force, which meets throughout the year.
If I become certified, how do I know a lender will accept my certification?
If you have received a letter from a lender requesting third-party certification, our firm will contact the lender to ensure the certification meets their needs. Past conversations with compliance officers at lending institutions have revealed a very specific set of questions they tend to ask about the certification:
- What testing procedures are being used during the process?
Frazier & Deeter uses the ALTA Assessment Procedures, in accordance with ALTA and the AICPA guidelines.
- Will a physical inspection of the title company/law firm be conducted?
Yes, Frazier & Deeter performs an on-site visit as part of every certification.
- How long has your CPA firm been in existence?
Lenders typically ask this question because they want to know if a firm is a recent start-up in response to these new industry developments. Frazier & Deeter was established in 1981 and has office locations in three states. Our firm is ranked 56th in the nation.
In speaking with lenders, our firm has made the decision we will not offer a “review” product to title companies/law firms. The reasoning behind this is that the review is not comprehensive and does not include testing of transactional items, thus causing many lenders to not accept the review. We do not feel a review is a viable investment for your title company/law firm and want to make sure your money goes towards a product that will be accepted by lenders.