In the title insurance industry, we don’t like making predictions unless we have solid facts to back them up. If the pandemic has taught us anything since 2020, it’s that anything can happen at any moment. This truth doesn’t deter us from making predictions. If anything, it prompts us to look forward and consider possibilities more than ever before.
Last year provided us with solid clues about the future of the title insurance industry. This guide covers what we consider to be the most important likely challenges of the new year.
A Workforce Aging into Retirement
Title insurance usually doesn’t attract young talent. More than half of the agents in the title insurance industry are within a few years of retirement. The industry needs to replenish the ranks with tens of thousands of workers in the next decade to remain sustainable. The need for younger workers is especially important with an increased reliance on technology and data expected moving forward.
To meet this challenge, we predict that leaders, no matter the agency size, must interact with younger talent in high schools and colleges via career-day presentations, job-shadowing and externship opportunities, internship programs, and scholarship and student-loan repayment offers.
The Return of Attorney Opinion Letters
It’s not difficult to make predictions when history repeats itself. Government-Sponsored Enterprises are promoting Attorney Opinion Letters as an alternative to title insurance policies supposedly to help borrowers with low- and moderate-income reduce their closing costs. These letters were a historic necessity before the creation of title insurance. They were replaced for good reasons.
To meet this challenge, we predict that agency representatives must provide clear, line-by-line comparisons that show why AOLs are high-risk products (i.e. upfront savings offset by lower long-term coverage and protections). Agencies also need to lower their costs, which AOL supporters often use in their arguments, by investing in technologies that streamline processes. Although these technologies require a higher upfront investment, they bring down costs over time, which means agencies can competitively pass on savings.
A Cooling Housing Market
No one was able to successfully predict how quickly the housing market would cool in 2022. Although markets naturally cool over time after extremely hot periods, the market in 2021 experienced a rapid cooldown that we predict to continue through 2023. Buyers came out of the woodwork because of the pandemic, but that event caused higher home prices and associated rates and less inventory along with lower refinance requests. Home Equity Lines of Credit and commercial requests became more stable revenue sources.
To meet this challenge, we foresee product diversification as a key strategy. Agencies might see some positive results from sellers lowering prices and some consumers starting the new year with home-buying needs in Q1, but agencies need to prepare for an even cooler market as they transition into Q2 and beyond.
The Boldness of Modern Criminals
An uptick of attacks and wire fraud last year has made it clear that an increase in digital services in this market has opened a door for criminals. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received $2.4 billion in claim-based complaints in 2021 directly related to criminals using email to trick one or more parties in transactions via wire fraud. These losses eclipsed every other category.
To meet this challenge, title agencies need to educate their employees and consumers. They also need to communicate every step of the closing process, including secure communication and transfer steps, to everyone involved and use modern technologies with advanced security to protect against fraudsters.