In October an independent opinion poll was conducted by American Money Services of NY seeking public input on issues surrounding mortgage closings. The results were nothing less than fascinating, and should serve as a wake-up call for the settlement industry.
An overwhelming majority of respondents believe that only attorneys should be permitted to act as settlement agents. That the attorneys should be more carefully regulated, that providing for their independent certification based on criteria including experience, is essential to establishing public faith in the process. Furthermore, 79% indicated that they were unaware settlement agents are not all required to have E&O coverage when handling their real estate matters, 92% believe that settlement agents should meet minimum uniform standards or experience and skill besides being licensed, 93% believe that banks need programs to better identify people who may commit fraud in mortgage closing transactions, 97% believe banks need policies and procedures to ensure that whoever handles the closing funds and documents is trustworthy, 44% believe banks giving mortgage loans are doing enough to protect consumers from losses for fraud, while 56% say they are NOT doing enough.
Interestingly, in contrast to public positions taken by some agent groups, 93% of the public polled in the survey stated that they would feel more comfortable at a closing with someone who had an independent, vetted designation. Finally, 70% of those polled believe that with improvements such as additional protections from fraud at closing, lenders can rebuild the public’s trust in financial industry without government intervention.