October 2008




TDI Rulemaking Hearing Recap

The Texas Department of Insurance held its Biennial Rulemaking Hearing on October 2. The agenda items and TLTA's positions can be found on the TLTA website. At this time, no decisions have been rendered and the Commissioner has chosen to leave the record open for comments until October 31, 2008.  TLTA will be filing comments on several agenda items.  We will notify you once comments have been filed so you may access them on our website.  We will continue to update you as information becomes available.  If you couldn't make the October 2 Rule Hearing at TDI -- Listen to the Webcast.

Ratemaking Pre-Hearing Conference Held at SOAH

The first pre-hearing conference for the Biennial Rate Hearing was held at the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) on Thursday, October 16, where parties to the hearing discussed scheduling issues and made arguments regarding when the hearing should held.  At the end of the hearing, the decision was made to set another pre-hearing conference for December 1, 2008.  SOAH hopes the additional time will provide an opportunity for the 2007 statistical data to be made available and for all parties to determine the best timing.  The hearing will definitely not be held in November as previously announced.  We will continue to update you as details develop.  If you have any questions, please contact Aaron Day, TLTA Director of Government Affairs.


Beat the Election Day Lines & Vote Early

Early voting began on Monday, October 20 and continues until Friday, October 31.  Below are several helpful links to make your election season a little easier.  Have questions regarding your rights as a voter?  Call 1.800.252.VOTE.
Do you know Who Represents You?
Information for Voters Displaced by Hurricane Ike
Find Your Polling Place
Can't make it to the polls?  Request a Ballot by Mail until October 28.
Preview Your Ballot

Texas Governor's Mansion Restoration Fund

First built in 1854, the Texas Governor's mansion is the oldest continuously inhabited house in Texas and the fourth oldest governor's mansion in the United States.  Unfortunately, on June 8, 2008 the mansion was heavily damaged by a fire.  In the days following the fire, now believed to be arson, several individuals and organizations banded together to form the Texas Governor's Mansion Restoration Fund.  If you would like to help, please call 1.800.771.5829 or visit www.TexasOnline.com.


Your Vote Benefits Your Association!

This year's TLTAbay Auction is just around the corner.  Place your bid anytime between Thursday, November 6 at 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 13 and win a new flat-screen TV, tickets to a Dallas Stars game, or a relaxing day at the spa.  Thanks to our members, the Annual TLTAbay Online Auction raised almost $20,000 last year.  Contact Tedrah Hutchins for more information.

Centennial Club Tops $100,000!

In celebration of 100 years of making history together, the TLTAPAC created the Centennial Club.  The Club recognizes those who have given $100 or more during our year of celebration, which ends December 2008, so contribute today!

As a Centennial Club member you will be included on a commemorative plaque displayed in the TLTA office and recognized with a special ribbon at TLTA events. Each member's contribution strengthens the voice of TLTA and the title industry.


RESPA Update

TLTA continues to engage the White House and Congress on the RESPA reform proposal put forth by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  The rule remains in the Office of Budget Management awaiting a final referral of the item back to HUD, who would then presumably publish the rule.  Earlier last week, the HUD Secretary told the Mortgage Bankers Convention they would issue a new RESPA rule this year.  This could happen in the next two or three weeks.  It is possible the published rule will address some of our concerns.  Unfortunately, there is no way to know until the rule is published. 

During the final days of the session, TLTA and ALTA worked to add a prohibition amendment to an appropriations or continuing resolution in Congress.  This provision would prohibit HUD from finalizing or implementing its current rule and instruct the Department to work with the Federal Reserve to jointly issue one standard set of Good Faith Estimate and HUD-1 forms. It also would require an additional public comment period on this amended proposal. Due to the attention the bailout bill required, Congressional leaders postponed action until Congress returns.  From the beginning, TLTA has worked to improve the RESPA reform proposal.  Our commitment to this issue remains resolute and we will continue working diligently.  TLTA will provide you updates as new details emerge.  Should you have any questions, please contact Aaron Day.

News to Know

Fannie, Freddie Reevaluating Fees
ALTA |October 21, 2008
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are shifting their emphasis from earning the maximum return for investors to pricing their loan guarantees to provide maximum liquidity to mortgage markets while still maintaining minimum safety and soundness standards.

Fannie, Freddie Getting Back to Basics as Aid Flows
Forbes | October 21 2008
With plans to drop some executive perks and trim the costs of home buying, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are quickly being transformed from profit-making companies into government-run entities with a single-minded mission to restore the ailing U.S. housing market.

Shell-shocked Mortgage Bankers Gather in S.F.
San Francisco Chronicle | October 21 2008
Mortgage bankers, the folks on the front line of making home loans, don't have much to celebrate these days. They're blamed for lax lending standards that led to the foreclosure crisis, their businesses are frozen in sync with the credit market, and their futures are uncertain.

Government Action Will Stabilize Banking, S&P Says
MarketWatch | October 21 2008
Government actions around the world should stabilize the banking industry and unfreeze debt markets, Standard & Poor's said Monday. However, the rating agency stressed that the moves will help steady the industry's day-to-day operating environment, and won't, by themselves, improve bank earnings and asset quality.

HUD Secretary: Bailout Effects Too Soon to Tell 
Seattle Post Intelligencer | October 20 2008
The events of recent weeks have made it harder to predict what will happen to the nation's housing markets in coming months, according to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

China to Create Market for Land Rights In Effort to Boost Farmers' Prosperity
Wall Street Journal | October 20, 2008
China's government said it would liberalize the exchange of land among the nation's farmers, in an effort to revitalize the rural economy at a time of increasing strains in food supply and slowing growth.

Mortgage Fraud: New and Improved
CNN Money | October 17 2008
Lenders have tightened standards, but scam artists have found new ways to beat the system.

Consumers' Mood Suffers Record Drop in October: Survey

Reuters | October 17 2008
Consumer confidence suffered its steepest monthly drop on record in October, a survey showed on Friday, as the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression sent shocks waves through the economy.

Bush Says Economy's Credit Freeze Will 'Take a While' to Thaw

Bloomberg | October 17 2008
President George W. Bush said the government's "extraordinary response" to the credit crisis eventually will revive the U.S. economy. "It took a while for the credit system to freeze up; it's going to take a while for the credit system to thaw," Bush said in a speech in Washington to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world's biggest business federation representing more than 3 million enterprises.

Economists Expect Further Declines in U.S. Housing Starts
Mortgage News Daily | October 17 2008
Economists say the rapid deterioration in U.S. housing starts in September means more bad news for the economy, especially as the survey didn't fully capture the impact from the financial turmoil late in the month, which suggests there will be further declines in the next report.

September Housing Starts Lowest Since 1991; Permits Worse

USA Today | October 17 2008
Construction of new homes fell to a 17-1/2 year low in September and the worsening housing slump and growing turmoil in financial markets helped pushed permits for new homes to a nearly 27-year low. 

You Can Still Get a Mortgage
Chicago Tribune | October 17 2008 
Credit squeeze, credit freeze, credit system seizures: Everybody knows how severe and painful the global financial breakdown has been--with banks unwilling to lend even to other banks. But what about mortgages and real estate? Can you still get a home loan with less than a 20 percent or 30 percent down payment? Or with a credit score below 720?