The paper chase that accompanies virtually every home closing may itself be coming to an end. Mel Martinez, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, has been hinting at new regulations of The Real Estate Settlement and Procedures Act, or RESPA, for months. His plans were expected to be a major topic of discussion at the October convention of the Mortgage Bankers Association, based in San Diego.
The latest proposal would open the door for organizations, including builders, to create one-stop shopping packages of mortgage and settlement services and compete to offer the best combination of rates and fees. Services that today are quite distinct, such as title insurance, credit reports, and property appraisals, could be bundled and sold. This plan is backed by groups such as the Mortgage Bankers Association. The proposal is strongly opposed by the American Land Title Association, the Real Estate Settlement Providers Council, and the National Association of Realtors.
Opponents of the one-stop shop would like to see a two-package approach, in which builders and others would offer only settlement services -- basically mortgages and closing costs -- at a fixed price.
Builders should locate and start to prepare their "package partners" now, advises Tom Meyer of Home Builders Financial Network, in Miami Lakes, Fla. Though it is uncertain whether or when the rule will take effect, builders should find the best title insurers and real estate attorneys and start developing a relationship with them.