Times of crisis can often bring out the best in people and communities, and in some cases, completely transform entire industries. The upheaval the real estate and mortgage industries experienced during the global pandemic allowed the title industry to amplify its voice and elevate its presence in order to help keep an essential service humming. 

At Qualia’s 2022 Future of Real Estate Summit (FORES22), American Land Title Association (ALTA) CEO, Diane Tomb, sat down with Qualia VP of Customer Success, Brian Thome, to discuss the title industry’s recent evolution. “It became clear to partners in the industry how vital we were and how important we are in getting transactions done,” Tomb said. “Our industry is so amazing. People are so focused on doing the job and doing it well that they don’t talk about it…that’s an area where we can evolve.” 

At a time when the value of the closing and real estate “check out experience” is reaching new heights, the moment for title’s transformation couldn’t be better timed. Tomb discussed how ALTA is helping to pave the way for the title industry to further elevate its presence to help chart the real estate transaction experience of the future. 

Hiring for new perspectives (and retaining existing talent) to drive innovation  

“Outside of wire fraud, talent is one of the biggest things we’re thinking about in this industry,” Tomb said. A competitive hiring environment is not necessarily unique to the title industry right now. However, Tomb noted that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is something that’s top of mind for ALTA —especially in driving forward a more inclusive future for homeownership. 

“[We should be asking ourselves] do we look like the customers we are serving, and if not, how do we get there?” Tomb said. This vision for expanding the talent pool will enable the title industry to further embed itself in local communities while bringing forth more perspectives to drive solutions that help expand access to homeownership. 

ALTA is working on promoting the industry’s story to help more people (who are largely unfamiliar with the industry) identify title & escrow as a viable and exciting career path. For example, Tomb noted that ALTA is working with community colleges to promote its “Tell our Story” campaign, which highlights the possibilities of a successful and fruitful career in title without the need for a formal 4-year college degree. 

Telling the title industry’s story on Capitol Hill to help shape important legislation

The reputation of the title industry is largely “unknown” according to field research from ALTA among opinion leaders. Tomb noted that this blank slate is an opportunity for the title industry to chart its own path forward and to earn a positive reputation by participating in advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill and by offering thought leadership in partnership with others in the industry on pertinent topics and issues. 

During the pandemic, the title industry took incredible strides to elevate the title industry’s position and reputation at a local and national level. “We often punch above our weight class. We’re not the largest player, but we are the ones who take the initiative to convene and serve as a convener to solve issues,” Tomb said. “During the pandemic, it became clear that this was our role, and now we’re trying to capitalize on that.” 

To further elevate the presence of title professionals in local communities, ALTA also launched the ALTA Good Deeds Foundation. The foundation funds local nonprofits that title professionals are actively involved with across the country.  To date, the foundation has given out more than $500,000 dollars to 62 local nonprofits. Tomb noted that ALTA’s commitment to investing in local nonprofits helped put a magnifying glass on the work title professionals were already doing to uplift their communities. “We can tell folks on Capitol Hill what we’re doing in our own backyards…[which also] helps our advocacy efforts.” 

Keeping homebuyers safe through greater cybersecurity awareness and education 

While the pandemic accelerated some positive changes in the industry, it also put fuel on the fire of negative forces such as cybercrime and real estate wire fraud. Tomb noted that some businesses moved from a space of 30 cyber attack attempts per month to 30 times per day.

ALTA is actively examining wire fraud from a holistic perspective to bring everyone together for coordinated solutions. “Tackling this is multi-pronged,” Tomb said. ALTA is doing everything from creating a consumer-focused coalition to educate homebuyers on the possibility of real estate wire fraud to building resources for people in the industry to learn about the threat of cyberattacks in the industry and how to prevent them. 

“It’s incremental progress, but we’re staying vigilant,” Tomb said. “Even though the number of financial services have gone up, the amount of victims has gone down. I’m hopeful that [progress] is because we’ve become more vigilant.”